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The Buffalo Sabres began the draft with 11 draft picks; they ended up using 10 of those draft picks to keep filling the prospect cupboard. They swapped second round draft picks with the Florida Panthers to move up five positions. The entire deal included Buffalo giving up a second round (39th overall), a third round (89th) and Mark Pysyk and in return the Sabres received Dmitry Kulikov and a second round (33rd). Sabres stayed quiet the rest of the draft taking long term talent with some potential NHLers to stock the cupboard.
Alexander Nylander, 8th overall
Mock drafts had the Sabres drafting of the high-end defensemen with their 8th overall selection. Buffalo ended up selecting Mississauga Steelheads (CHL) winger, Alex Nylander, brother of Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander and son of former NHL star Michael Nylander. Alex is the recipient of the CCM Rookie of the Year Award in the entire CHL. Nylander has an advantage over most of the other NHL draftees; he is able to play in the AHL this coming season if he doesn’t make the Sabres. Nylander is likely going to get a long look in training camp, but will likely head to Rochester to develop his professional game with the Amerks. Alex will be a top-six winger who has the chance to play alongside Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart and the other young forwards already playing for the Sabres. Put Nylander’s name at the top of the Sabres prospect left winger depth chart.
Rasmus Asplund, 33rd overall
Buffalo traded up five spots to select Swedish pivot Asplund. Rasmus is a two-way centre, weighing in at 176 lbs with a 5’11” frame. He will need to bulk up a bit more to compete in the NHL, but he also brings a great work ethic who is capable of winning puck battles with a strong forecheck. Asplund also has a great set of hands that should translate to the NHL as a second or third line centre who is capable of playing on the wing. Having the versatile centre/winger will help Asplund transition to the North American style of hockey. He will be playing the 2016-17campaign in the SHL with Farjestad BK, which will be his third season in the SHL. Playing against older men, Asplund isn’t intimidated of being one of the smaller guys on the ice and shouldn’t have a problem in the NHL. He is still one or two years away from playing in the NHL.
Cliff Pu, 69th overall
I was very excited when Cliff Pu was drafted by the Sabres. Pu is a very energetic player with loads of charisma. Pu is several years from a roster spot with the Sabres, but with the Sabres adding Nylander and the depth of prospect wingers, the Sabres will be patient with Pu’s growth. Cliff will be headed back to the OHL to help the defending Memorial Cup champs next season. Cliff is a great character guy who will play a third line or fourth line role with the ability to chip in scoring every once and a while.
Casey Fitzgerald, 86th overall
Finally GM Tim Murray pulls the trigger on a defenseman, selecting Fitzgerald with his other third round pick, acquired from Dallas in February 2015. Tim Murray goes with another son of a former NHLer, Casey is Tom Fitzgerald’s son. Casey will begin his sophomore season with Boston College this fall. Casey scored 27 points (4-23) in 39 games; Fitzgerald isn’t going to be the biggest guy out on the ice, standing 5’11” and 185 lbs. He has a great breakout pass and contributes on the powerplay with three of his four goals on the powerplay. Fitzgerald led all BC defensemen in scoring as a freshman. He will most likely complete his four years in the NCAA and will be a depth second or third pairing defensemen with the Sabres, practice patience with Fitzgerald, he is a few years away from being even close to fantasy relevant.
Brett Murray, 99th overall
Left winger from the Carleton Place Canadians (Canadian Junior Hockey League or CJHL), Murray who is 6’5” and 215 lbs. He is a long-term project for the Sabres, but they have to be excited about his size, you can teach NHL skills but you can’t teach NHL size. Murray definitely has the size to eventually compete in the NHL, as far as skill and ability, we will have to wait and see. He is many years away from competing, and if/when he does get the chance, he will likely be a bottom-six player. Brett uses his reach and size to his advantage with the puck, but he needs to learn to use his size when he doesn’t have the puck. His game is a bit soft at this point.
Philip Nyberg, 129th overall
The Buffalo Sabres selected Swede defenseman Philip Nyberg in the fifth round, standing at 6’3”, 192 lbs developing his game for Linkoping HC, progressing his way through the age ranks, starting at U15 moving all the way up to J20 in the SuperElit league. Nyberg is committed to the University of Wisconsin and will join them this fall for his freshman year. Buffalo grabbed this right-handed defenseman to continue to build their depth on the back end on the right hand side. No rush for Nyberg to become a Sabre anytime soon. Nyberg will learn under the Wisconsin Badgers new head coach Tony Granato, who knows what it takes to cracking an NHL roster. Philip’s game will grow immensely playing for Granato for the next four years.
Vojtech Budik, 130th overall
With back-to-back selections in the fifth round, the Sabres selected another defenseman. Buffalo must have had plenty of chances to scout Budik, with 2015 Sabres draftee Brendan Guhle being a Prince Albert Raider teammate. Budik will continue is WHL career this coming fall and should get even more playing time as a drafted NHL player on the Raiders club. Vojtech needs to calm himself down when handling the puck; he tends to over handle and turnover pucks on a consistent basis.
Brandon Hagel, 159th overall
A 6’0”, 165 lbs right winger will need to bulk up quite a bit to have a chance to play in the NHL. Hagel’s first full season in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels was a success, scoring 13-34-47 in 72 games and 1-9-10 in 17 games in the playoffs. Hagel was ranked 104th by the NHL Central Scouting, Buffalo selected him at 159. That’s pretty good value in the sixth round. Hagel is likely headed for a bottom-six role if he ever makes it to the NHL. However his skill should not be overlooked.
Austin Osmanski, 189th overall
Hometown Osmanski was delighted to be selected by his childhood team, the Buffalo Sabres. Osmanski is a pretty mobile defenseman at 6’3”, 194 lbs. Austin needs to work on his defensive positioning, but the Sabres will be in no rush and will let him develop in the OHL with the Mississauga Steelheads. Osmanski is likely on the path of a stay-at-home defenseman and won’t put up much offense.*
Vasily Glotov, 190th overall
Glotov is a wild card selection that could end up being a very good seventh round pick for the Sabres. Glotov played in St. Petersburg in the MHL in Russia. Glotov is a small centreman, who is also able to play on the left side. Glotov was selected in the 2016 CHL Import Draft this year by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, who selected him at number 36.
A couple of players who stood out at Sabres Development Camp were a couple of veteran guys who have been in the system for a year or two and also a few of the newly drafted young guys. Eric Cornel proved to the coaches that his work ethic isn't a fluke both on and off the ice he shows his leadership and hard work. Nicholas Baptiste continued to show he is ready for the next step. Judd Peterson set up Baptiste to score the first goal of the scrimmage and then Baptiste returned the favour and setup Peterson on the very next goal. Team Blue took an early 2-0 lead.
Cal Petersen looked fantastic all camp, proving he is continuing to be on track to be a great NHL goaltender. The Sabres are in no rush for him to make the jump and he also has two more years of collegiate hockey before he graduates.
Giorgio Estephan finally put one past Petersen to get Team Gold on the board, now trailing 3-1. Petersen stopped 10 of the 11 shots he faced playing in just under half the scrimmage.
Eighth overall Alexander Nylander was a highlight reel all weekend. Scoring three shootout goals. Instead of awarding powerplays, the team had a shootout attempt when a penalty was called. Nylander has some slick hands and he showed them off in the scrimmage. Below are the three quick highlights.
Vasily Glotov was a fan favourite by the end of development camp, showing his great personality and enthusiasm for the game with a smile on his face no matter where he was. All along Glotov was meant to be drafted by the Sabres.
In the 3-on-3 challenge, the teams are divided into seven teams, below are the entire rosters. Who do you think won the small tournament?
Looking over the rosters, I would have thought Team Gray had a pretty strong team. But when all was said and done, Team Teal took home the French Connection Cup. It helped half way through the short tournament, Victor Olofsson was hurt with an injury and Fasching was added to Team Teal. Immediately that made them the favourite the rest of the way. Also Nicholas Baptiste did not take part in the 3-on-3 challenge.
Full recap of the tournament can be found on the Sabres website.
Buffalo landed the second biggest ‘fish’ on the market, Kyle Okposo was signed to a seven year contract worth $42M, annual cap hit of $6M. The signing of Okposo slows down the push for Hudson Fasching, Justin Bailey and Nicholas Baptiste to move up to the top-six. One of them could have a chance to break into the top-six, below is a really quick projection of line combos I expect at the beginning of training camp, but that could change very quickly with who shows up ready to compete for one of the final spots in the top-six.
The Sabres made a smaller signing, Justin Falk, signed a one-year contract worth $650K. Falk brings a little bit up depth, but is likely a healthy scratch number seven defenseman or an injury fill in when needed.
On July 2nd, Buffalo traded for a backup goaltender, Anders Nilsson was traded for a fifth round pick in 2017 from the St. Louis Blues. Nilsson will likely be the backup to Robin Lehner to begin the year, which gives Linus Ullmark the starting job in Rochester this year.
Buffalo’s roster is shaping up pretty early in the off-season, they could make a few depth moves throughout the summer, but the big signing of Okposo shows that GM Tim Murray is expecting to be much more competitive, he has a few RFA’s still to worry about, his main focus should be on Rasmus Ristolainen. The Rochester roster is pretty short on players to dress a full lineup, but they have a plethora of right wingers and forwards who could move from the right side to the fill the void on the left side. They also have to find a bottom pairing for their defensemen in Rochester. So Buffalo isn’t quite done for the summer.
PROJECTED BUFFALO SABRES LINE COMBOS:
Kane – Eichel – Okposo
Ennis – O’Reilly – Reinhart
Moulson – Girgensons (RFA) – Foligno
Deslauriers – Larsson – Gionta
Ristolainen (RFA) – Gorges
McCabe – Bogosian
Kulikov – Franson
PROJECTED ROCHESTER AMERICANS LINE COMBOS:
Bailey – C.O’Reilly – Fasching
Nylander – Cornel – Baptiste
Carrier – McCormick – Schneider
Rodrigues – Grant – Catenacci
Martin – Nelson
Austin – Fedun
? – ?
I hope this article was helpful in knowing what Buffalo drafted this year and also a few notes as to what the Buffalo Sabres line combos could look like next year. If you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments below or contact me on twitter (@zwambag).
Feel free to leave comments, questions or concerns below, have fun playing the game of Fantasy Hockey.