After a long wait, and a hectic first round of picks, the 2022 NHL Draft has come to a close. The Buffalo Sabres retained all of their picks as they were, and were not able to move up or down at all. While at least one deal was in place with the Ottawa Senators before the draft began, general manager Kevyn Adams went in with a plan.
The name of the game this year was scoring, and Adams made sure there was a lot of scoring talent added to the prospect pool, as all three first-round picks were forwards, and they only took one goalie along with two defenders in the later rounds. With all of the picks made, many of them will be invited to the Sabres rookie camp this month to get in touch with the coaches and other top prospects in the system.
Many of these players have extremely high upside, so Buffalo was clearly going for talent. Factoring in the skill, placement of the pick, and the position of the player chosen, the Sabres added some big new pieces for the current rebuild.
Sabres’ First Round Picks Focused on Scoring
When the Sabres walked up to the podium to select at the 9th overall spot, there were a number of big-name players available. They set their sights on, and selected offensive dynamo, Matthew Savoie from the Winnipeg ICE. He may be on the small side, but his production, speed, and hockey IQ are to be lauded. He can play both the center and wing positions and has some of the highest skills in the entire draft class. The lack of size will be his struggle, and as the Sabres are continuing on their slow development path process, he likely will not be in the NHL for the upcoming season.
The Sabres’ second first-round pick was Swedish forward Noah Ostlund. A mid-sized playmaking forward, Ostlund has some very slick skating and puck handling skills. He, like Savoie, can also play both the center and wing positions, so his versatility will allow him to slot in where needed in the future. This pick is the most recent piece from the Jack Eichel trade, so the pressure is likely weighing heavily on him to become everything the Sabres need him to be.
The 28th overall selection was a big one when the Sabres had Jiri Kulich fall into their lap, as he was ranked as a mid-first-round pick. This kid can shoot. He can shoot from in tight, far out, along the boards, or anywhere else honestly. His one-timer is heavy and lethal, so he could serve as a potential depth scoring option and power-play specialist in the future. The rest of his game is well-rounded to make him a reliable player in every situation. Having this type of skill at his disposal is going to make coach Don Granato a very happy man in a couple of years.
Sabres’ 2nd-4th Rounds Build More Depth For Prospect Pool
The Sabres did something that most people would not have expected with their second-round pick when they chose a goaltender. Buffalo has a few top prospects already in Devon Levi and Erik Portillo, but it appears Adams wanted another big Finnish goalie to add to the group. Topias Leinonan stands at 6-foot-5 so they continue their trend of drafting taller goalies, but he was not the best available goalie at this selection. The pick was a little bit off the board, but Adams still added a solid goaltender with good upside. The best part is, that there is still plenty of time to develop him, so they will not have to rush anything along.
The Sabres went back to the forward position in the third round when they selected Russian sniper Viktor Neuchev. The Russian factor may have caused him to drop in value a little bit, but they picked up a big goal-scoring winger who loves to find the back of the net. Sometimes his gameplay can appear a little selfish and he may try to do too much, however, his finishing ability will be a welcomed commodity on a future Sabres roster.
The fourth round saw Buffalo taking a defenseman in Mats Lindgren. An offensive-leaning defender, he has some top-tier skating ability to go along with his puck-moving skills. Where he lacks most is in his consistency, so his road to the NHL will take a few years. He was the first of two defenders taken by Buffalo, but his addition will help the blue line depth in around 3-4 years.
Sabres’ 5th-7th Round Picks Have a Lot of Work to Do
The Sabres selected Vsevolod Komarov with their fifth-round selection and added yet another Russian prospect to their group. Komarov is a defenseman with good skating ability with a desire to jump up into the rush. As a right-handed shooting defender, they have filled a need on their current roster with his selection. As such, he will have an opportunity for key NHL playing time in a couple of years.
The Sabres had two picks in the sixth round of the draft where they selected Jake Richard and Gustav Karlsson. Richard plays a power-forward scoring game but still has a lot to work on. His hands are probably his best asset, but he needs to work on his physicality, shooting, and speed before he makes a run at the NHL. Karlsson has a decent shot to go along with his skating ability, but he lacks awareness on the ice and the ability to read any play other than his own. His finishing ability is good, but he needs to work on elevating his game to a level that will allow him to compete with men.
In the seventh round of any draft, players selected have a very low chance of making it anywhere near the NHL, but the Sabres chose a couple of good ones to at least round out their future minor league roster. They selected Swedish forwards Joel Ratkovic Berndtsso and Linus Sjodin. Both show some offensive upside to their game, but Berndtsso has the edge in skill between the two of them. Sjodin scored 11 points in 49 games playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), and while his numbers weren’t anything amazing, he still managed to score a solid number of points while playing low-end minutes. Both of them are likely destined for the grind in Rochester, but if they develop correctly, the Sabres could have another two good scoring depth forwards for their future roster.
Sabres Final Draft Grade
The Sabres needed to replenish everything possible in this draft and they held on to every pick to do just that. The waiting game is the new way of development for the franchise, and by taking a number of scoring prospects, it will be a massive competition between all of them to see who can grab the spotlight. Some will take longer than others, but it is always better to have too many good prospects than too few.
Buffalo deserves a resounding grade of an “A” for their overall selections. The future of this team looks bright from all of the red lights that will be flashing behind opposing goaltenders. If only a handful of these players develop to their potential or better, they will be poised for some deep playoff runs in the future. Now is the time to develop them, and mould these young talents into the ideal Sabres teammate. The future has a new look in Buffalo, and Adams has built it all from the bottom. Sabres fans should be excited, as the road to the playoffs may have just gotten that much shorter.
I have been a hockey and Buffalo Sabres fan since I was in middle school. Through the good times and the very long bad times, I have stuck by this team with the hope that one day we would become a powerhouse in the NHL. Now I join The Hockey Writers as I hope to talk about this Buffalo Sabres team on an upswing. I love this team with all my heart, and I take pride in my ability to know players, prospects, and so much more. As a hockey fan I have a particular taste for young players and prospects; doing mock drafts, looking up stats, guessing potential, doing player comparisons, all of it. The idea of the future skill in the NHL is one of my favorite things to think about, write about, and talk about. I am also an avid NHL gamer with a top ranked team in the “Threes Eliminator” mode.
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