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Sabres Hang on to Number Seven, Select Goalie
"With pick number seven the Buffalo Sabres are proud to select, from Zurich, Switzerland, Gillian Fischer."
Second year GM Azi Ali, who has faced intense backlash from fans and team owner Terry Pegula in his first year attempting to right the ship in Buffalo, announced the Sabres' first round selection after it had appeared to be going elsewhere. Media witnessed the general managers of Carolina, San Jose, and Pittsburgh approach the Buffalo table for short talks., as well as a phone call suspected to be from Detroit A much longer conversation happened between Ali and William Karlsson over at the Columbus camp, which ended with Ali heading up to the stage.
Fischer is an 18 year old Swiss goalie playing for Zurich in the Swiss National League. He posted a .908 Sv% in 15 games for the Lions for an 8-4-1 record in the regular season, as well as a .902 as they lost the first round of the playoffs to HC Fribourg in 5 games. Prior to this season, Fischer played for the Lions' Second League team going 5-0-3 with a .926 and being called up going 7-1-0 with a .931.
"What we see in Gillian is a kid who can hang with the men. As a 17 year old he dominated both Swiss leagues. We are very happy that he was not selected before pick #7 - we would have taken him in the top 3 if we had been there." Asked if he saw any flaws to Fischer's game, Ali replied "None." then joked "Unless his glove-hand does the talking, he's gonna have to learn some English. We've got a Lithuanian-born, Swiss-National, German-speaking 18 year old that wants to play professional north american hockey."
The selection of Fischer comes on the heels of the 2023 draft where Buffalo selected German goalie Hendrick Dietzsch in the second round. The Kolner B Jrs prospect was highly touted at the beginning of the season, but many speculate that he may have fallen out of favor after playing only 2 games this season. "Look, it's no secret that we're struggling in net," Azi Ali spoke candidly to the media. "As a team, we need to be better at stopping pucks. Hendrick is a great young goalie that is going to do very well in our organization in the future. What we saw this year was a very large dropoff between goalies in the draft. Beyond Gillian, there isn't much that we liked. If Dietzsch takes a bit longer to develop, we're going to need someone who is ready to go in a year or two."
Fans were hoping to see a LW being selected to join the ranks in Buffalo after the reported deadline deal with Winnipeg fell through. That deal saw Elias Pettersson and Krystof Petrovka being sent for Kyle Connor and some additional draft picks, but was ultimately squashed by the League. At the time, the Sabres GM was "shocked and disappointed" to the media but soon signed Petrovka for a total of $4.5million over three years. The winger finished out the season on the top line with Eichel and Nylander and putting up 39 goals, second on the team. Additionally, reports leading up to the draft indicated that Sami Vatanen might have been coming to Buffalo from Dallas in a deal involving pick #7. That rumor was denied by Sabres management citing cap concerns.
There is still a need in Buffalo for NHL defensemen and a top goaltender (though that may be on the horizon in either Dietzsch or Fischer), and Ali acknowledges there's work to be done. "We've only just started the draft, fellas. We've got New Jersey's pick later in the round and our phone is ringing non-stop. Stay tuned!"
The Atlantic division housed some of the weakest competition in the NHL this year as well as the cup runner-up. Toronto made the playoffs be the grace of being "4th worst" in the division, both Eastern Wildcards went to metro teams. Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, Detroit, and Tampa Bay all finished in the bottom half of the standings - let's see how their drafts turned out!
Boston Bruins – Draft Grade: F
146) 113 Hammarstrand, Mikael
176) 150 Busch, Marcus
206) 178 Gavrilov, Alexander
It’s unlikely that back-to-back Cup champion Bruins will see any of their three late draft picks crack an NHL lineup. I doubt they are too torn up about it though… They’ll find a way to compete year to year after they’ve paid the price for success.
Buffalo Sabres – Draft Grade: B-
7) 9 Fischer, Gillian
17) 25 Atkinson, Ray
33) 43 Yeryomenko, Rafik
76) 50 Sidorenko, Sergey
79) 103 McMaster, Jean-Philippe
81) 136 Fraser, Colby
116) UNR Marc-Andre Baazzi, LD Sherbrook QMJHL
126) 100 Bozon, Aymeric
156) 162 Claireux, Ilan
186) 175 Skoda, Libor
201) 172 Tomayev, Alexander
After drafting the only highly-touted goalie of the draft at #7, the Sabres loaded up on skilled defensemen. Atkinson, Yeryomenko, Fraser, and even Baazzi could see an NHL roster some day. Their forwards, while skilled, are less likely to pan out. Sidorenko might be a steal at #76 and is projected for the 1st line, but will most likely settle into the bottom 9. McMaster will have to prove his worth with the UMass Minutemen. Buffalo did a poor job of recovering their C depth, but added late round Cs and something worth watching at every other position.
Detroit Red Wings – Draft Grade C+
1) 1 Toews, Frederic
44) 63 Cormier, Nicholas
67) 35 DePasquale, Torren
72) 40 Hudon, Braydyn
127) 91 McGrath, Donald
157) 127 Adams, Brad
187) 158 Woger, Fredy
The unlikely winners of the Freddy Toews lottery, Detroit added something at each position. Toews may need some seasoning, but the young C will be a star someday and he is already signed to Detroit’s roster. Nicholas Cormier is a skilled piece that projects to crack the NHL. The Wings then went all bruiser until their 7th round pick of Fredy Woger. The Austria U20 starting goalie may be the only piece outside of the first two rounds that will see NHL time.
Florida Panthers – Draft Grade: B+
27) 77 McGillis, Vincent
29) 4 Grinbergs, Ricards
54) 32 Gilpin, Madison
57) 34 Morissette, Luca
74) 42 Filin, Andrei
114) 82 Jenacek, Ludek
144) 110 Krupka, Tomas
145) 112 Rioux, Nicholas
174) 148 Griffin, Terrence
204) 177 Maylan, Nolan
What do you call a team that wins the president's trophy, trades their star goaltender, ends up with 10 draft picks but maintains their competitiveness from year to year, and ultimately ends up as the Cup runner up? Answer: Florida Panthers. Time will tell if those 10 picks will have any impact, but the assets immediately become the top end of their depleted prospect pool. Florida managed to nab ISS-4 at #29, but failed to address their lack of G depth.
Montreal Canadiens – Draft Grade: A-
4) 11 Boucher, Matt
32) 15. Offret, Benoit
62) 24 Brubacher, Stefano
92) 54 Cronehag, Niclas
96) 57 Boucher, Tristen
122) 87 Tornqvist, Johan
152)121 Samoilov, Amir
182) 156 Ignatenko, Yuri
Undoubtedly one of the winners of the 2024 draft, Montreal made the most of their 8 picks. Their first 5 picks all project to break into the NHL within a year or two. Montreal did little to address their need for C, but with the young core at the position it wasn’t a top need. The Canadiens will be filled with top young talent for years to come – we’ll see if they are ready to step it immediately up as they enter the NHL.
Ottawa Senators – Draft Grade: D
13) 2 Jorgenson, McKenzie
43) 37 Lappalainen, Erno
102) 59 Jonsson, Linus
133) 94 Zharkov, Nikolai
163) 132 Hascak, Stefan
193) 161 Hojing, Lennon
The Sentors won the Sadness Lottery in 2024 – they were one of the teams to both miss the playoffs and picked outside of the top 10. Luckily, ISS-2 McKenzie Jorgenson dropped to them at #13. Jorgenson will make the NHL as a physical force, but outside of that one pick it is unlikely we’ll ever see any of their others. Lappalinen might make an impact with proper development.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Draft Grade: C
39) 48 Longo, Richard
69) 70 Domnich, Anton
97) 68 Nosek, Andrej
99) 101 Laiho, Aimo
129) 114 Hamel, Callum
159) UNR Salo, Siim G Finland
189) 198 Boivin, Loeden
After well-documented lament that previous management lost pick #14, GM Jeff Roukema went out and found some money in Longo, Hamel, and Boivin. Relative to their projections, those three could be good pickups for the Lightning – especially Longo, who looks to someday become a middle-6 guy. Unfortunately, the other picks don’t seem to have turned out as fortunate.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Draft Grade: F-
139) 107 Megna, Daniel
169) 139 Gelinas, Linden
199) 169 Hovinen, Hannu
Similar to the Bruins, Toronto gave up all but their last three draft picks in 2024, and all 3 will probably never go pro. The difference is: Bruins are recent back-to-back champions, and Maple Leafs got bounced in the first round this year.
The Metropolitan was one of two divisions to send 5 teams to the playoffs. Despite this, a few teams were able to use their picks wisely and come away some interesting pieces. Surprisingly, the best draft of 2024 was found in this division.
Carolina Hurricanes – Draft Grade: D+
14) 7 Sestak, Patrik
104) 60 Toews, Myles
134) 96 McColgan, Dajon
164) 133 Luongo, Tommy
194) 163 Polyakov, Andrei
The Hurricanes were lucky to grab Patrik Sestak with #7 as they didn’t make another pick for 90 places. He immediately jumps to the top of their prospect pool, and will look to break into the NHL within a couple of years. There was speculation that Sestak fell to #14 for a reason, but he has already signed with the Hurricanes for some seasoning. The Hurricanes have some work to do to rebuild their dwindling prospect pool – none of their other 4 picks will help that much.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Draft Grade: B-
18) 33 Churchill, Bryton
49) 38 Milette, Bradley
77) 81 Sinclair, Vern
80) 67 Chugunkov, Yegor
89) 72 Reynolds, Grayson
137) 116 Burrows, Blake
167) 173 Lamboley, Raphael
197) 193 Jaaskelainen, Siim
The Blue Jackets went defense and center heavy in 2024, opting to take 3 offensive defensemen with promising upside over the riskier winger options. Churchill, Milette, and Chugunkov could all crack the NHL in 3+ years. The rest of their picks get buried under talent from recent drafts, and they did little to address shallow G and winger pools.
New Jersey Devils – C-
106) 71 Young, Blake
136) 99 Zakharov, Vitaly
166) 137 Kulmala, Lauri
196) 167 Thompson, Mathieu
The New Jersey Devils paid a 1st and a 3rd in the off-season for Rasmus Dahlin, who looked good for them enough to earn a playoff spot. That left the Devils with little draft stock, however, and they used what they had to take a few picks that might surprise people. Young, Zakharov, and Thompson all received solid ISS reports and, relative to their draft position, look like valuable additions to Albany and, maybe, New Jersey.
New York Islanders – Draft Grade: D
75) 79 Hill, Brett
83) 102 Krajicek, Bohuslav
113) 126 Engh, Rene
143) 109 Ruzicka, Bohumill
154) 123 Robbins, Jared
173) 147 Gorbernko, Andrei
203) 176 Kudashev, Denis
The Islanders’ draft strategy may come under scrutiny after their failed bid at the cup. They paid a hefty price to acquire Malcolm Subban in the offseason and have seemingly squandered their picks in this draft. It is difficult to predict Goalie growth, so Brett Hill is a risky selection as their first pick of the draft in the third round. More than likely, Hill will live in the AHL. Outside of the third round, the Islanders selected a bunch of fringe talent to fill out their prospect pools, but have precisely 0 center prospects.
New York Rangers – Draft Grade: C
11) 12 Carroll, Ian
41) 106 McMillan, Kael
71)192 Shea, Brannon
101) 128 Creel, Anthony
107) 73 Mugnier, Yvan
112) 80 Turcotte, Dale
131) 124 Korytar, Matej
161) 141 Lappin, Nate
191) UNR Clayton, Alex - LW - Providence – HE
202) 174 Schwarz, Jeremy
The Rangers were the big winners of the Sadness Lottery – pick #11 fell to them. With that, they chose to reach and grab #12 Ian Carroll, a promising playmaking RW and maybe the last of the promising wingers of the draft, who now sits near the top of their prospect pool. They added another good RW piece in Lappin and a defensemen in Turcotte. There were many other choices on the board when the Rangers made their selections, but they chose to reach with all 4 of their first picks. Time will tell if the blueshirts will regret that.
Philadelphia Flyers – Draft Grade: F
115) 97 Ronnild, Svein Erik
132) 135 Liljewall, Fredrik
162) 189 Mikula, Stanislav
175) 149 Prokop, Ales
192) 190 Pucher, Luka
205) UNR Griffin, Frankie RW Rouyn-Noranda
The Flyers had 6 picks starting with the 4th round and they managed to miss on all of them. They have not addressed their overall lack of prospect depth, and still have no prospects at all in G and D outside of their roster.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Draft Grade: A
6) 13 Madden, Kent
9) 16 Kowal, Oren
16) 44 Driscoll, Jerad
34) 144 Zidek, Andre
63) 30 Melancon, Jock
64) 56 Karlsson, Arne
109) 170 Mikhailov, Yury
124) 146 Muller, Bastien
The Penguins are the undisputed winner of the 2024 entry draft.
Every single one of their 8 draft picks has a good shot at making the NHL. Madden, Kowal, Driscoll, and Melancon all look like they could be top 6 forwards in the Pens system. The Pens didn’t always aim for offensive talent, and there were some ups and downs in their draft strategy. Picks #6, #16, and #34 were all big reaches, but they were reaches for players with solid projections. Their 3rd and 4th round makes up for those big reaches, however: Melancon and Karlsson could both make middle 6 impact from the 3rd round, and 4th round pick Muller has AHL starter written all over him.
Washington Capitals – Draft Grade: C+
25) 26 Dusseau, Geoffroy
58) 88 Folin, Torsten
84) 131 Bjugstad, Lester
88) UNR Richardson, Matteo LW Rimouski QMJHL
118) 83 Witschi, Michel
148) 145 Ricard, Gael-Mukeba
178) UNR Billins, Gino RW/C/LW USA No team
208) UNR Béland, Marlon C Neepawa MJHL
There are probably a lot of teams kicking themselves right now for letting Geoffory Dusseau fall to #25. The ISS-26 ranking belies what could be an eventual 1st line goal scoring winger. The Caps selected an interesting pair at 84 and 88 who could become bottom-9 NHL playmakers with the right development. Michel Witschi is a good 4th round pickup for the Caps D pool. Unfortunately, most of these picks are buried on the depth chart under talent from previous years.
The Central Division featured the weakest drafting out of all 4, in part thanks to being home of the Stanley Cup Champions and some other big contenders. There's no explanation for the stinkers, though. What happened?
Colorado Avalanche – Draft Grade: C-
15) 31 Gagnon, Yan
102) 58 Jutras, Vincent
105) 64 Safaraleyev, Nail
135) 98 Linbro, Glenn
165) 134 Mielonen, Oskari
195) 165 Keller, Hagen
The Avs got a good defensemen with some super upside in Yan Gagnon at #15, but this selection was immediately prior to the selections of Atkinson and Churchill, who both have more favorable scouting reports. If Gagnon can even out his physical attributes, he may turn into 1LD, but most likely will see the bottom half of a roster. Jutras and Linbro might turn into a depth NHLers and the rest looks to be a miss. Avs could’ve used a RW or two to round out their prospect pool, but they look to have a solution at every position.
Chicago Blackhawks – Draft Grade: A--
2) 10 McDonald, Norm
24) 23 Cey, Tate
31) 20 Ivanchenko, Anatoly
35) UNR Handley, Paddy RW/C Kitchner Rangers WHL
37) 62 Bowen, Russ
46) 166 Lewis, Bryce
60) 78 Ellis, Barry
61) 55 Millerioux, Daniel
66) UNR Tetrault, Donn C Oshawa Generals OHL
73) 41 Hamilton, Dallas
91) 53 Clark, Bron
121) 86 Buyanov, Boris
151) 119 Alba, Arvid
181) 155 Dupuis, Cale
Editor’s Note: By volume alone, drafting a Franchise Defensemen and 3 other 1st line potential players, Blackhawks had a good draft. The number of NHL players drafted is a good way to grade teams. I awarded them the “A--“ because the 2023 season was a historically awful one in Chicago, brought about by cheap “strategy” of ransoming cap space against other teams. I do not condone this approach to team management despite the score awarded. It is an ugly practice that is untrue to any league in the real world. I understand the predicament of having Toews and Kane expiring, and needing to rebuild- there are plenty of legitimate ways of doing so. Chicago’s results in this draft are the product of intentional tanking, and I hope their poor drafting percentage will eventually serve as a cautionary tale for managers considering the same.
Blackhawks may’ve been gifted the best player to come out of the 2024 draft in McDonald. It was anyone’s guess who went first between him and Freddy Toews, but those were the consensus top 2. Tate Cey, Anatoly Ivanchenko, and Barry Ellis (there were definitely worse centers selected before #60) will be on the top half of a lineup someday. All the rest have a shot at the NHL as depth guys and definitely will be in Rockford eventually, excluded Dupuis.
However, if the Hawks were graded on their ability to meet expectations: they’d probably only come away with a B--. They had twice as many draft picks as they started with for 2024 and still only hit on what might be 4 prospects. It’s doubtful that this is the rebuild they were aiming for, so stay tuned to how many more historically awful seasons they’ll have before it gets turned around in Chicago.
Dallas Stars – Draft Grade: C-
5) 3 Toropchenko, Mikhail
45) 52 Foote, Massimo
93) 65 Barbero, Remi
153) 181 Huttunen, Vesa
183) UNR Hyvärinen, Risto (LD) Erie Otters (OHL)
The jury will be out on Dallas’ draft day decisions. Depending on Toropchenko’s continued meteoric rise (he moved from ISS-40s to ISS-3) the Stars could be seen as a genius or a bust – either way, they’re a bit of a gambler. Massimo Foote looks like he has some good upside, and the other three picks could make the NHL as depth.
Minnesota Wild – Draft Grade: C-
3) 6 Park, Benoit
21) 29 Carpentier, Sylvain
26) 8 Goncharov, Mark
65) UNR Darian Fowler No team/Nation USA RD
123) 89 Lane, Lawton
155) 125 Ferguson, Deron
172) 143 Orekhov, Alexei
185) 157 Jean, Miguel
Wild drafted to a position of need with Park, who looks to be the best RW of 2024. He’ll be in Minnesota within 2 years, perhaps even on the top line. After grabbing him at #3 the Wild decided that was enough offense, though. Not another prospect selected has much skill. It would’ve been a better strategy to grab some more scoring options with their other two 1st rounders, despite ISS-8 Goncharov being a good grab at #26. Jean could be an AHL goalie after he finishes up at Colgate, but don’t hold your breath.
Nashville Predators – Draft Grade: D
30) 17 Blanchette, Ken
90) 51 Brault, Trey
20)85 Mescheryakov, Valentin
150)118, Idiatullin ,Georgi
180) 154 Johnson, Tommaso
210) 182 Courtney, Shane
Congratulations Nashville on your 2024 Stanley Cup success! As they say: what goes up must come down, and the champions found themselves “down” at the draft. ISS-17 Blanchette may’ve been the best winger on the board at #30, but there were more promising prospects out there. Idiatullin is doubtful to make the leap to pro, but the rest could find themselves in Milwaukee in a few years.
St Louis Blues – Draft Grade: F
119) 84 Nass, Justin
149) 117 Kovacs, Kelvin
179)153 Mattson, Vance
209) 180 Lawr, Carl
Shady GM Nine-O-Mite! Swung for the fences and left himself little to work with in 2024. Coming up WAY short in the playoffs, Blues made the most out of what they had. Turns out that’s not a lot. They continue their all-in pursuit of the Cup in 2025, where maybe they have a pick in the first three rounds.
Winnipeg Jets – Draft Grade: D-
51) 28 Allen, Gaelan
111) 76 Hamel, Loui
125) 90 Poirier, Aidan
171) 142 Jakobsons, Dmitrijs
Maybe GM Darren Clarke should save some of his assets to trade for an alarm clock – news crews picked up the Jets boss asleep at the draft table. ISS-28 Allen is a slam dunk bottom-9 NHLer at #51, but the Jets saw 50 picks of talent go by before selecting him in the second and another 60 picks go before Hamel in the 4th. Hopefully nobody approaches Winnipeg with a franchise goaltender and he’ll get to make some picks in 2025.
All the Pacific Division teams kept pace with each other in 2024. Not a single team scored below a C- in this draft. Each team managed to nab at least one future NHL player and a cast of supporters.
Anaheim Ducks – Draft Grade: C-
20) 21 Nolan, D-Jay
50) 27 Lirette, Leon
110) 75 DeSousa, Mirco
140) 108 Dolgov, Yuri
170) 140 Kuosmanen, Ville-Veikko
200) 171 Ostlund, Osmo
Apparently Anaheim likes high upside defensive players. Nolan will be dynamite whether he plays top 6 or bottom 6. Lirette is a very solid blueliner, and DeSousa might end up as depth. Dolgov and Ostlund are doses of offense, but more likely than not will just be AHL talent. Would have liked to see Ducks grab a goalie – they seem to have good judgment when selecting those, if their current crop is any indication.
Arizona Coyotes – Draft Grade: C-
28) 36 Peterson, Pat
87) 105 Persson, Thor
117) UNR Larose Marc-Eduouard C Niagara OHL
147) 115 Nedobitko, Samat
177) 152 Brennan, Wyatt
207) 179 Ramirez, Jeremy
If the Yotes have a 1st round pick, do they ever miss? Scouting reports once again indicate that, even at #28, Arizona will come away with a potential 1st line player. If only their later rounds were as promising – probably a result of waiting 60 picks after round 2.
Calgary Flames – Draft Grade: C+
19) 19 Deschamps, Karls
48) 18 Swirtz, Willem
56) 22 Ruokonen, Tomi
78) 46 Scrivens, Daun
86) 47 Gonye, Jason
108) 74 Lyons, Timothy
138) 104 Livingston, Dave
168) 138 Westlund, Leonard
198) 168 Hofmann, Simon
Calgary made the most of their first rounder with Deschamps – he might be the best LW in the 2024 draft. Beyond that pick it’s all safe choices for Calgary, who grabbed just about any player who fell beyond their ISS round. All their picks but Westlund and Hofmann will find their way to the AHL. Gonye has the look of an NHL backup and maybe more if he grows well.
Edmonton Oilers – Draft Grade: B-
8) 14 Turnbull, Erick
38) 49 Park, Caleb
68) 120 Finnerty, Spencer
94) UNR Gorowsky, Eriah G Michigan Tech USA
98) UNR Miika Kettunen RD IFK Helsinki Finnish Liga
128) 92 Dallaire, Ashton
158) 129 Golovin, Gadel
188) 159 Alexeyev, Alexander
ISS-14 Turnbull at #8 had one rival GM claim that the Oilers got “the steal of the draft”. The Missouri-born winger had 66 points in 50 games for Mercer of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League and signed immediately following the draft with Edmonton. The fastest player in the draft, Turnbull had a good camp and scored in his first professional game against the Canucks. Following that pick were centers Park and Finnerty, who look like they could become middle-6 guys. Third round and beyond are big risks for the Oil, and look like they may not be good ones.
Los Angeles Kings – Draft Grade: C+
22) 39 Lintulaakso, Jusso
36) 95 Ayotte, Andy
82) UNR Abols, Alberts, LW, London, GOJHL
95) UNR Brashear, Stu, LW/C, Northern Michigan, WCHA
141) UNR Alberga, Derick, LW/C, Harvard, ECAC
142) 164 Wiseman, Paddy
M. Kuula reached deep for his first pick of 2024 and pulled out a winner. Lintulaakso would have been a steal if he had fallen to his ISS-39 ranking. Ayotte has some good upside and favorable reports. Kings’ best pick might be Wiseman, though, who projects to be a middle-6 guy from the 5th round.
San Jose Sharks – Draft Grade: C+
10) 5 Brake, Keltie
23) 66 Durette, Willie
40) 61 Haltigin, Josh
55) 151 Fitzgerald, Kenneth
70) UNR Zankovets, Vadim C/LW Dinamo Minsk KHL
100) UNR Jorgensen, Tyler (G) Northern Michigan Wildcats
130) 93 Ehrhardt, Joseph
160) 130 Rice, Billy
190) 160 Hopp, Jannis
Keltie Brake fell out of the top 5 and almost out of the top 10 on draft day. He was the last skilled natural RW of the draft with first line potential, and the Sharks did good to grab him. Durette seems like a gamble for pick #23, but he’s been strong at North Bay in the OHL. The reach for Fitzgerald could pay dividends, but there might have been more options at #55. Jorgensen was a very smart choice at #100 after backstopping Northern Michigan to the NCAA title, he immediately stepped into San Jose’s AHL lineup. San Jose will need Jorgenson soon while Durette develops and Grubauer ages below .900.
Vancouver Canucks – B?
12) UNR Dmitri Doherty C/LW No Team USA
42) 45 Richardson, Marc-Andre
47) UNR Wilcox Max LD/RD No Team USA
52) 69 Khasanov, Fyodor
53) 122 Verbik, Zbynek
59) 111 Potter, Noah
85) UNR Ivan Safronov LW/C Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast KHL
183)UNR Nemecek Julijan RD Jesenice AHL
Does Vic Aussie know something that we don’t? Does his scouting reports come from ISS or do they come from WikiLeaks? Four of Vancouver’s eight picks were unranked players, including their first pick of the day at #12. Doherty jumps to the very top of Vancouver’s prospect pool and is currently playing 1C in Utica as an 18 year old. Likewise, Richardson, Khasanov, and Potter can be found at the top of their prospect pool by position. Canucks did a great job fulfilling needs. Wilcox, Safronov, and Nemecek will probably never see the NHL. The draft grade question is: does this wild strategy pay off for Vic Aussie, or will he find himself down under the wildcard cutoffs again?
The Buffalo Sabres had a busy trade deadline, as they once again sit in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference and look in on the playoffs. Many expiring assets were sold for future talent, with alternate captain Roman Josi the biggest name shipped out. Here is a breakdown of the deals made leading up to February 23:
Roman Josi (Hurricanes) and Filip Berglund (Wild)
Brain Dumoulin (Hurricanes), Calvin De Haan (Wild), Nate Schmidt (Predators), Brian Marino (Hurricanes)
Berglund (45 gp 1g 7a 6.73) hadn’t played for the Sabres in weeks, being a healthy scratch for most of the season and making room for rookie Jonathon Kennedy on the second pairing. Berglund was shipped to Minnesota along with the Wild’s on 4th rounder for Calvin De Haan (3gp, 0g 3a 8.67), who has added some stability to the second pairing with Makar Khabarov. Buffalo is reportedly in talks with De Haan over a contract extension.
Nate Schmidt (3gp, 0g 0a 7.00) was acquired in a package that had Marcus Johansson heading to Nashville. He has replaced Nicholas Hague on the bottom pairing with Josh Manson.
Buffalo bids farewell to their franchise defenseman Roman Josi (42 gp, 3g 18a, 7.64) in a blockbuster deal that brought Brian Dumoulin (20 gp 0g 11a 7.35) and Brian Marino (0gp) in from Carolina. Josi was a leader and an every-situation defenseman, but his large expiring contract was the most valuable trade asset the Sabres possessed. Dumoulin, who signed a 1 year extension at 2.6mil, has settled in nicely with Ryan Ellis on the top pairing, and Brian Marino is a young guy who could make the step up in case of an injury.
Marcus Johansson (Predators)
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (Predators)
Johansson (49 gp, 16g 14a 7.35) is an expiring 3rd liner for the Sabres, who did not have the cap space to re-sign the winger despite his popularity with the fans. In exchange they acquired Nashville’s 2nd, previously mentioned D Schmidt, and LW Jakob-Forsbacka Karlsson (3gp 2g 2a 8.00). JFK is in his prime with 2 years remaining after the current season and will round out the 3rd or 4th line, where he’s already showed some chemistry with Carl Jakobsson and BO Groulx.
Rasmus Asplund (Rangers), Isac Lundestrom (Red Wings)
Tyler Popwich (Red Wings), Michael Pezzetta (Rangers), Benoit-Olivier Groulx (Hurricanes)
The Sabres completely retooled below Eichel down the middle of the lineup. Lundestrom (22gp 2g 5a 6.45) struggled in the Sabres’ system, showing little chemistry with anyone in the lineup. When the Red Wings approached with a 1-1 swap for Tyler Popwich (10gp 4g 10a 7.10), who had been struggling in Detroit’s lineup, there were hardly any expectations for either team. The swap has seemed to reignite both players’ play, however, and Popowich instantly fit in between Elias Pettersson and Sam Reinhart at even strength and on the power play. The 24-year old center sustained a season ending shin injury, but will look to continue his success in 2025-26.
Defensive center Rasmus Asplund (57gp, 9g 15a 6.49) was another struggling asset with the Sabres offensive-minded system. A promising draft pick of the Sabres, Asplund has already shown his capabilities in New York, where he was sent along with the 3rd rounder acquired in the Josi trade for Michael Pezzetta (5gp 1g 1a 6.60). Pezzetta has been slotted into the 3rd line, where he’ll most likely play with Matthew Strome in 2025-26. Pezzetta quickly signed a 4 year, 1.9mil extension upon arriving in Buffalo.
The last piece of the Josi deal was BO Groulx (18gp 2g 1a, 6.50). Groulx has bounced around the lineup and found little chemistry with any linemates, but has become a crucial presence on the Buffalo penalty kill, which has run at 44/55 (80%) since he was acquired and 16/16 (100%) over the last 4 games.
Draft picks out:
2025 3rd (Hurricanes)
2025 4th (Wild)
2026 2nd (Sabres)
Draft picks in:
2025 2nd (Predators)
2025 3rd (Sabres)
2025 3rd (Maple Leafs)
2025 4th (Sabres)
2025 4th (Flyers)
2027 2nd (Hurricanes)
2027 3rd (Flyers)
The Sabres made out like bandits with draft picks for this year and 2027 in exchange for a single pick in 2026. For 2025’s draft they shipped out a 3rd and 4th while bringing in a 2nd, two 3rds, and two 4ths. The 2026 2nd rounder was lost, but in 2027 both a 2nd and 3rd were acquired.
With some good scouting and some luck, the Sabres have a nice future ahead of them. Their 2026 roster is just about set and their special teams are improving. Finally with some cap space to make an acquisition or two in free agency, the Sabres may be a surprise in 2026 - as long as rookie goalie G. Fischer continues to improve.
Buffalo Sabres 2025 Off-Season Report
The Sabres are nearing the end of their climb out of cap hell, chipping away at forming a competitive roster - GM Jack Eichel's first off-season was a busy one that has the Sabres in a position to challenge for an Eastern Conference wildcard spot. Most of Eichel's damage was done during the 2024-25 season at the deadline and Draft, but there are significant additions and subtractions to the club in the aftermath of the Josi trade last February. Eichel beefed up the weak spots in the Sabres' prospect system at the draft, added a key veteran from free agency, and expects continued growth from last years' young stars. The Sabres' 1st line center/team captain/General Manager was pleased with 2025's shallow draft, coming out of it with some players that have high boom or bust potential.
Here is a rundown of the Sabres' 2025 Entry Draft:
Round 1, #8 – C Michel Bolduc – a Canadian playmaking forward, compared to Claude Giroux and Nic Petan
Round 2, #38 – C Cyril Malek - a Czech playmaking forward, compared to Matt Filipe
Round 2, #54 – RD/LD Ethen Krug – an American pointman, compared to Owen Grant
Round 3, #68 – RW/LW Dante Belliveau – a Canadian power forward, compared to Josh Bailey
Round 3, #73 – LW/C Devin Smith – a Canadian checking forward, compared to Kristian Vesalainen
Round 4, #98 - C Oleg Ognev - a Russian offensive playmaking forward, compared to Yegor Zudilov
Round 4, #107 - LD/RD Adamu Murdoch, a Canadian pointman, compared to Owen Grant
Round 5, #128 - C Mats Ekelund, a Swedish checking forward, compared to Joseph Gareffa
Round 6, #158 - LW/RW Igor Kopecky - a Slovakian goal-scoring forward, compared to David Ojamae
Round 7, #188 - RW Adam Hiadlovskiy - a Slovakian two-way forward, compared to Sven Andrighetto
Buffalo's reserve list became significantly shorter after almost all of the AHL Rochester veterans left for Free Agency. The aging, underproductive elements of Buffalo's system were replenished by young talent mostly coming in from overseas. 2-year Sabre Riley Tufte was pushed out of the lineup, Johansson-trade acquisition Nate Schmidt failed to secure an extension, and RFA Nicholas Hague held out and was eventually traded. The Sabres only made one Free Agent acquisition, but the splash was Buffalo-sized: legendary veteran goaltender Tuukka Rask joins the Sabres on a 2-year contract worth 5mil AAV. The 38 year old former Vezina champion will add some stability in net, aiming to take the bulk of the starts as prospects Gilian Fischer and Hendrik Dietzsch continue to grow. The only question remaining is: what happens to third-year backup Jesper Eriksson? Former GM Azi Ali was very high on the Swedish netminder, who has been the subject of barrages on the ice and in the media.
The Sabres continue to be one of the most trigger-happy teams in the league, though this summer has been quieter than previous ones. After a flurry of activity during the trade deadline - unforgettably the deal that sent Franchise Defensemen Roman Josi to Carolina - GM Eichel refrained from making any waves at the Draft and working on 2 deals over the summer. Some speculate there may be more to come, and there's a sense that Buffalo is happy to strike a deal at any point during the year.
6/22/25: Buffalo sends C Benoit-Olivier Groulx to San Jose for RD Ryan Pulock - With depth down the middle and on the left wing, Groulx became the odd man out in Buffalo. Showing flashes of offensive brilliance at times, the centerman was relegated to the 4th line for the Sabres. In San Jose, who surprisingly brought in world-class, cup-winning General Manager Michal, Groulx will have the opportunity to play higher up on the depth chart. In exchange, the Sabres acquire a puck-moving right-handed defensivemen for the second pairing - a glaring weak spot moving into last season.
7/16/25: Buffalo sends the RFA rights to Nicholas Hague to Vancouver for RW Spencer Herrington - Hague was a holdout throughout the 2024-25 season, refusing to negotiate with GM Eichel until well after the season had ended. Reports surfaced that once a qualifying offer had been tendered and rejected, no further negotiations occurred. It was only a matter of time before Hague was dealt, and in return Buffalo picks up a speedy young RW who will mostly serve as a core member of Rochester and occasional NHL call-up on the depleted right side.
The 2025-26 starts with much optimism in Buffalo. It will be the first season since 2020 without a Franchise blueliner, but the Sabres possess more depth on the backend than they have in years. The forward group, assembled at last year's deadline and sparking life below the top two lines, are ready from the onset to show their belief in the blue and yellow. Eichel, Nylander, and Petrovka still combine to create one of the best lines in hockey. Gilian Fischer has shown flashes of what it takes to be a regular in the lineup, and now with Tuukka Rask guiding the Lithuanian-born Swiss youngster, fans of the Sabres are expecting an appearance in April from their club.
Sabres Projected Opening Night Lineup:
K. Petrovka - J. Eichel - A. Nylander
E. Pettersson - T. Popowich - S. Reinhart
M. Strome - M. Pezzetta - C. Jakobsson
J. Forsbacka-Karlsson - R. Spooner - R. May
B. Dumoulin - R. Ellis
C. De Haan - R. Pulock
M. Khabarov - J. Manson