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The Buffalo Sabres have remained at or near the bottom of the NHL for years. They have not been to the playoffs since the 2010-11 season.
They had the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL draft and selected Jack Eichel after the Edmonton Oilers picked Connor McDavid. The Sabres have the No. 1 pick this year, and that means they have the opportunity to take No. 1 prospect Rasmus Dahlin, an 18-year-old defenseman from Sweden.
Dahlin is one of the highest-rated defensemen to come along in the draft for many years, and he’s further along than Nicklas Lidstrom, Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson were at a similar age.
Does that mean Dahlin will surpass those three Swedish defensemen in terms of overall career achievements? No, but he is at an excellent starting point.
He will almost certainly be the No. 1 draft pick, and it seems quite likely he will be wearing a Buffalo uniform, and it is quite unlikely the Sabres will trade the pick.
Here’s our mock draft before the NHL conducts the actual selection meeting at American Airlines Arena in Dallas on Friday.
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1. Buffalo Sabres: D Rasmus Dahlin, Frolunda (Sweden)
2. Carolina Hurricanes: RW Andrei Svechnikov, Barrie (OHL)
3. Montreal Canadiens: RW Filip Zadina, Halifax (QMJHL)
4. Ottawa Senators (optional to COL): D Noah Dobson, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
5. Arizona Coyotes: LW Brady Tkachuk, Boston University (NCAA)
6. Detroit Red Wings: D Quinn Hughes, Michigan (NCAA)
7. Vancouver Canucks: C Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Assat, Liga (Finland)
8. Chicago Blackhawks: D Evan Bouchard, London (OHL)
9. NY Rangers: RW Oliver Wahlstrom, U.S. National Development Team
10. Edmonton Oilers: D Adam Boqvist, SuperElit (Sweden)
11. NY Islanders: RW Vitaly Kravtsov, Chelyabninsk (KHL)
12. NY Islanders (from CGY): C Barrett Hayton, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
13. Dallas Stars: LW Joel Farabee, U.S. National Development Team
14. Philadelphia Flyers (from STL): LW Grigori Denisenko, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
15. Florida Panthers: RW Martin Kaut, HC Dynamo Parduce (Czech)
16. Colorado Avalanche: D Ty Smith, Spokane (WHL)
17. New Jersey Devils: C Joseph Veleno, Drummondville (QMJHL)
18. Columbus Blue Jackets: LW K’Andre Miller, U.S. National Development Team
19. Philadelphia Flyers: C Rasmus Kupari, Karpat (Finland)
20. Los Angeles Kings: D Rasmus Sandin, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
21. San Jose Sharks: C-LW Liam Foudy, London, (OHL)
22. Ottawa Senators (from PIT): RW Serron Noel, Oshawa (OHL)
23. Anaheim Ducks: C-RW Akil Thomas, Niagara (OHL)
24. Minnesota Wild: C Jacob Olofsson, Timra IK (Sweden)
25. Toronto Maple Leafs: D Mattias Samuelsson, U.S. National Development Team
26. NY Rangers (from BOS): C Ryan McLeod, Mississauga (OHL)
27. Chicago Blackhawks (from NSH): RW Dominik Bokk, Vaxjo (Sweden, Junior)
28. NY Rangers (from TBL): D Alexander Alexeyev, Red Deer (WHL)
29. St. Louis Blues (from WPG): C Isac Lundestrom, Drummondville (QMJHL)
30. Detroit Red Wings (from VGK): D Jared McIsaac, Halifax (QMJHL)
31. Washington Capitals: D Bode Wilde, U.S. National Team Development
RW Andrei Svechnikov
While there is no doubt Dahlin is the best player in the draft, Andrei Svechnikov’s status has improved dramatically in recent months, and there is probably a bigger gap between No. 3 choice Filip Zadina and Svechnikov than there is between Svechnickov and Dahlin, according to NHL insider and scouting analyst Bob McKenzie of TSN.
#CHL’s top ranked @ASvechnikov14 of @OHLBarrieColts and @filip_zadina of @HFXMooseheads giving teams plenty to think about.
READ: https://t.co/yVaXPWx8Co https://t.co/x0jBqt3Kzx
Svechnikov is an offensive force who has size, skating ability and a nose for scoring goals. He can score off the rush, go to the net, make creative plays and display a relentlessness when he smells an opportunity to score goals.
He scored 40 goals and added 32 assists for Barrie, and he should be ready to contribute at the NHL level right away.
RW Filip Zadina
Zadina is a highly skilled performer who will play a 200-foot game and deliver in big matchups. He is a natural goal scorer and also has the mentality to look for his shot whenever he has the puck in the offensive zone.
Zadina scored 44 goals in 467 games for the Halifax Mooseheads, and he also handed out 38 assists. He has more than enough size at 6’1″ and 192 pounds to hold his own down low and not get knocked out of the picture. He will battle and score goals.
LW Brady Tkachuk
The younger brother of the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk, Brady will go to the net and establish position even if he has to eat a few elbows along the way.
Some experts think Brady Tkachuk can be even better than his brother Matthew in the NHL.
Tkachuk has the size at 6’3″ and 196 pounds to engage bigger forwards and defensemen and still find a way to win the battle.
Tkachuk plays with a mean streak and will help the team that drafts him play with a physical edge. He may be difficult to keep off an NHL roster since he is so hungry to contribute on an every-game basis.
D Noah Dobson
The Senators need help everywhere, and if they make a move with Karlsson at the draft, the need on the blue line will be extreme.
Noah Dobson’s path to the #NHLDraft2018 is unusual for a top prospect. But it put the P.E.I.-born defenceman in position to be the first Canadian off the board.
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They need help in that area any way, and Noah Dobson is a solid all-around defenseman who is going to do an excellent job in his own zone, and he can also move the puck quite well and create offense.
The 6’3″, 179-pound Dobson is not in Karlsson’s class when it comes to creating offense, but he may be stronger in his own zone.
He has excellent all-around skills and should be a talented player in the NHL for years.
All stats, heights and weights courtesy of Elite Prospects.