To say it was a crazy two days for the Buffalo Sabres would be an understatement. With the Sabres holding 11 picks in the 2021 NHL draft, including the No. 1 overall pick, GM Kevin Adams made two trades, sending former first-round pick Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Philadelphia’s first-round pick (14) in the 2021 Draft, a 2022 second-round pick and defenseman Robert Hagg. The second trade the Sabres made was with the Florida Panthers, acquiring a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft (Top 10 Lottery Protected), and goalie prospect Devon Levi in exchange for Sam Reinhart, a former second overall pick.
How Adams got more for Ristolainen than Reinhart is beyond me and pretty much everyone else that follows the Sabres. Clearly, Buffalo is looking towards the future with this draft and the trades and picks they’re making. Here are the Sabres 11 picks in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Round 1 – Pick 1: Owen Power – Defenseman – Michigan Wolverines – (NCAA)
Power was the consensus No. 1 player in this draft given his size and skill. Power is a 6’6, 213 pound defenseman who recorded three goals and 13 assists for 16 points in 26 games as a freshman. His size alone as an 18-year-old is impressive and he could easily step in and play in the NHL this year. Although Power is leaning towards returning to college this year and may have the chance to play in the World Juniors in Canada, Power is projected as a No. 1 defenseman in the league due to his size, skill, hockey IQ and overall play.
Round 1 – Pick 14 (Trade with Flyers): Isak Rosen – Forward – Leksands IF (SHL)
Rosen is a speedy forward who appeared in 22 games for Leksands IF and has a unique goal scoring ability, which made him an intriguing choice for the Sabres here. During the 2021 U-18 World Championship, Rosen scored seven goals and added two assists in seven games for nine points. This helped Sweden en route to a bronze medal. A great shot and a unique skating ability is what drew the Sabres to Rosen, who are looking to get faster in the league.
Round 2 – Pick 21 – Prokhor Poltapov – (MHL)
Poltapov is a Russian born forward who played in the KHL with CSKA Moskva and ranked sixth in Russia’s MHL with 25 goals during the 2020-21 season. During the U-18 Worlds, Poltapov tallied two goals and had seven points in seven games, helping Russia to a silver medal run. Poltapov brings a high hockey IQ and sense to his game, pairing that with a high work ethic that helps him outwork opponents. Scoring 61 points in his Russian Junior League debut season, he led his team in points and will most likely play a season in the KHL before possibly making the trip over to North America in the next year or two.
Round 2 – Pick 21 – Aleksander Kisakov – LW – (MHL)
With another Russian player the Sabres were interested in, Kisakov scored 36 goals and added 37 assists for 73 points in Russia’s Junior Hockey League, which ranked second across the board. In Kisakov is a gritty power forward who looks for goals in the dirty areas and loves to get physical. In the playoffs, Kisakov scored five goals and tallied 10 points, which helped lead his team, the MHK Dynamo Moskava, en route to the league championship.
Round 3 – Pick 24 – Stiven Sardarian – RW
With the third Russian player taken by Buffalo, Sardarian scored nine goals and had 30 points in 50 games with fellow Sabres draft pick Prokhor Poltapov. Looking to develop his game over in North America, Sardarian is attending the University of New Hampshire and looks to play meaningful hockey games before making his mark with in the organization.
Round 3 – Pick 31 – Josh Bloom – LW Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Bloom will look to continue his OHL career after missing the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19. During the 2019-20 season, Bloom racked up six goals and 14 points in 54 games.
Round 4 – Pick 1 – Oliver Nadeau – RW – Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Nadeau is a scoring winger who adds an element of speed to his game, having scored 13 goals and 45 points in 34 games last season. Most likely to return to Shawinigan in the QMJHL, Nadeau looks to bring skill and speed to the Sabres lineup, while having time to develop in the juniors.
Round 5 – Pick 31 – Vilami Marjala – LW – Quebec Ramparts (QMJHL)
Marjala, a Finland native, scored five goals and had 22 points with the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts in his first North American season.
Round 6 – Pick 1 – William von Barnekow-Lofberg – LW – (SHL)
First of all, have fun with that name, Sabres equipment managers. Secondly, Lofberg is a big bodied winger who scored 43 points while splitting time between Malmo’s J20 team and Tyringe SoSS of HockeyEtten. His ability to score goals and battle for the puck was enough for Buffalo to select him and let him develop over in Sweden.
Round 6 – Pick 28 – Nikita Novikov – LHD – (MHL)
With just the second defenseman selected by the Sabres, and another Russian, Kovikov tallied five assists in seven games for Russia, helping them win the silver medal in the U-18 World Championship. He also added four goals and 14 points in 52 games with MHK Dynamo Moskva. Novikov will likely need time over in Russia to develop and grow his game before coming over.
Round 7 – Pick 1 – Tyson Kozak – C – (WHL)
In a shortened season for the Portland Winterhawks, Kozek, in 18 games, scored three goals and eight assists before having his season cut short. Like many other WHL players, Kozak will likely have to play a few more junior seasons and possibly play overseas in order to develop his game enough to play professionally in North America.
Overall, the Sabres drafted mainly offence, with the exception of the No. 1 pick Owen Power and Russian defenseman Nikita Novikov in the seventh round. The trades of Ristolainen and Reinhart were expected, and GM Kevyn Adams acquired what he set out to get, which is future assets. The next thing Buffalo is looking at is the start of free agency. But first, they have to decide what to do with Captain Jack Eichel. Eichel is clearly frustrated and he and the team are currently looking for a trade. The asking price is very high for the American centreman, but that is the way it should be. Unless you’re offering your first round pick(s), a grade A prospect and a solid NHL ready player, there is no reason to trade him. The next few weeks could and most likely will get very interesting for the Sabres and the rest of the league, as we usher into the start of free agency.