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dudacek

POLL: Who are the Sabres best prospects?

Prospects  

50 members have voted

  1. 1. Which of these players will have the best NHL career?

    • Will Borgen
      0
    • Dylan Cozens
    • Henri Jokiharju
    • Casey Mittelstadt
    • Victor Olofsson
    • Lawrence Pilut
      0
    • Tage Thompson
      0


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With @Hoss apparently on another hiatus, I’ve decided to relieve some of the summer hockey news lull by moving ahead with his idea of a prospect poll.

After reading through the debate I’m going to open the net as widely as possible for the poll. Basically, the fascination with prospects comes from the hope that some of them will develop enough to elevate our team, so I decided that the poll should include any Sabre who has yet to arrive as a fully-formed NHLer. I think it will make for the best conversation.

I used two guidelines I’ve frequently seen quoted: “you need 200 games to see what a player is at the NHL level” and “you can’t judge a draft for at least five years.” So our poll is open to players drafted or acquired since 2014 who have yet to play more than 200 NHL games.

Of course that makes holding what should have been the first poll redundant because we all know who the winner will be.

THE SABRESPACE TOP 10

1. Rasmus Dahlin

2. Ukko Pekka Luukkonnen

3. 

Edited by dudacek

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Here are your first choices. 

 

Dylan Cozens is: a 6’3, 185-pound, 18-year-old, left-shot Canadian centre picked 7th in the 2019 draft. He put up 68/34/50/84/30/+32 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes as the highest-scoring draft-eligible player in the Western Hockey League.

What he’s shown scouts: Skating is the essence of Cozens’ game. He has good acceleration and power, with the skill and the will to take the puck wide and hard to the net. He is also legitimately fast, among the fastest in his draft class. More importantly, he plays fast, constantly pushing the pace. When people say he lacks elite hockey sense, they mean his game lacks guile - he’s not one for many slick dekes or jaw-dropping passes. But his reads are good; he gets himself and the puck to the right spots. He is conscientious and competitive without the puck and will stick is nose in. He has a good shot and can finish. He played on the first line and was among the top producers for Canada this spring at the U18 worlds and is expected to be a serious candidate for its U20 WJC team.

He might fail to fulfill his potential if: his brain and his hands can’t handle the creative demands placed on a second-line NHL centre. Few would be shocked if he topped out as a Chris Kreider. He’s a relatively safe bet as an NHL player, but there is a scenario where that NHLer is Benoit Pouliot.

But if everything goes as hoped, the Sabres might get: a 70-point two-way power centre. Two players he gets compared to are Jeff Carter for his offensive tools and Ryan Kesler for the power, speed and relentlessness.

 

Henri Jokiharju is: a 6’0, 192-pound, 20-year-old, right-shot Finnish defenceman picked 29th in the 2017 draft. He put up 38/0/12/12/16/-7 last year as an NHL rookie with Chicago, and 30/2/15/17/14/+7 as an AHL rookie with their minor league team.

What he’s shown scouts: He won a world championship with Finland’s U18 team. Two years later he won another with its U20 team as one of its key players. And a few months after that he was celebrating his 3rd world title with the men’s national team. He is a good skater who can lug the puck, avoid checks, hit both the quick exit and long bomb passes, and quarterback a power play. He put up more than a point per game in his D1 season in WHL Portland. He’s smart, confident and decisive at both ends of the ice. He steps up aggressively defending the rush with a quick stick. If the stick doesn’t work, he’s going to lose more than he wins physically. He’s not big or mean and his game along the wall and in front of his net will leave some coaches wanting. But he’s solid for his size and not afraid to engage. He raised eyebrows with the trust he earned from Joel Quenneville as a 19-year-old rookie. And he furrowed brows as it became clear Quenneville’s replacement Jeremy Colliton did not share that trust.

He might fail to fulfill his potential if: he is already at it. The Hawks were always very careful to not criticize him as he faded from their lineup, but reading between the lines there was a sense that they had doubts he had much room to grow beyond his current frame and game. The fear is he could settle into that relatively skilled but not reliable 3rd pairing guy that teams are always trying to replace, like a Michael Del Zotto.

But if everything goes as hoped, the Sabres might get: another Brian Campbell - a smooth, borderline first-pairing guy whose smarts and puck moving skills far outweigh any perceived shortcomings in strength and edge. He’s got a lot in common with the Sabres’ other two recent RD acquisitions, Miller and Montour. He is better at this point of his career than either of them were at the same age.

 

Ukko Pekka Luukkonnen is: a 6’4, 195-pound, 20-year-old, left-catching Finnish goalie picked 54th in the 2017 draft. He went 38/11/2/2.50/.920 last year and was the OHL’s player of the year with the Sudbury Wolves. He will play in Rochester this year.

What he’s shown scouts: Instead of sharing the crease with a veteran in the Finnish men’s league, Luukkonnen took the Sabres’ advice and headed to the CHL in a bid to get more work while adjusting to North American arenas and schedules. The move paid off as he thrust himself into the conversation about the best goaltending prospect in the world, with a superb season. He carried a weak Sudbury team into the playoffs and led Finland to gold at the World Juniors. The size and athleticism that got UPL drafted was seasoned this year by great strides in focus and positioning. He showed he could both elevate a mediocre team in Sudbury, and take the heat of backstopping an elite team in a championship game with Finland. 

He might fail to fulfill his potential if: he is expected to do too much too soon. There is a certain portion of the fan base who hopes he can step into the breach if the Ullmark/Hutton duo falters as they did last year. As the cliche goes, goalies are voodoo and the league is littered with hulking Euro netminders who didn’t quite make it. Tim Murray used most of them to seal the tank.

But if everything goes as hoped, the Sabres might get: a legitimate long-term upper-echelon number one stopper. He has all the tools and is the best goalie prospect the team has had since Ryan Miller. Ideally he does for this blue and gold team what Pekka Rinne did for Nashville.

 

Casey Mittelstadt is: a 6’1, 203-pound, 20-year-old, left-shot American centre picked 8th in the 2017 draft. He put up 77/12/13/25/10/-19 last year as a rookie with the Sabres.

What he’s shown scouts: After a D1 season featuring a MVP performance at the WJC and a lot of hype as the best prospect outside the NHL, Mittelstadt’s rookie NHL season was a mild disappointment. When he got time and space he showed his gifted hands, but he struggled to find separation at the NHL level and often looked frustrated. Against his peers he can freeze opponents with a dizzying array of moves and ambush them with surprising pace with or without the puck. He is extraordinarily creative and relentless, his feet and hands constantly moving and his mind churning three plays ahead. He is a born competitor, a chirper who lives for big moments.

He might fail to fulfill his potential if: he can’t push past the increased across-the-board strength and athleticism of NHL opponents. Casey appeared to lack the strength and fitness he needed last year to utilize his considerable skill. If he doesn’t dedicate himself off the ice, he could end up as a Sam Gagner-esque power play specialist.

But if everything goes as hoped, the Sabres might get: a creative, offence-driving first-line NHL centre hated in rinks across the Northeast. He doesn’t play exactly the same style, or at the same level, but there are some elements of Dale Hawerchuk to his game. It faded last year, but there remains hope he can be to Eichel what Dale was to Lafontaine. Or at least a Derek Roy.

 

And just for the sake of completeness:

Rasmus Dahlin is: a 6’3, 190-pound, 19-year-old, left-shot Swedish defenceman picked 1st in the 2018 draft. He put up 82/9/35/44/34/-13 last year as a rookie with the Sabres (among the three highest-scoring seasons by an 18-year-old defenceman in NHL history) and finished 3rd in NHL rookie of the year balloting.

What he’s shown scouts: The money quote attached to Dahlin pre-NHL is that he attacks like Karlsson and defends like Lidstrom. He showed signs of both while jumping directly into the fire in a top-four NHL role. His lateral mobility, stickhandling, passing and creativity are elite. His ability to protect both bluelines and power the transition game is already at an upper-echelon NHL level. He needs to develop man-strength in his battles and on his shot, and get a better feel for own-zone coverage and what constitutes a high-risk play. He is highly coachable and dedicated to his craft. His character, competitiveness and work ethic are stellar.

He might fail to fulfill his potential if: he gets hit by a bus? If his game fails to mentally or physically mature one iota from what it is now, he would bottom out as a high-risk, high-reward Tyson Barrie-type 2/3.

But if everything goes as hoped, the Sabres might get: a Norris trophy-winning Hall Of Fame defenceman

Edited by dudacek
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Got to go with 6K.  While I think the others will have solid careers, the fact that he's a goalie puts him in a position to be noticed more and have  a bigger impact from game to game.

Edited by Tondas

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Extraordinary work.  Ah, SabreSpace ....

I went with Casey.  How could I not, after a Dale Hawerchuk reference.  Oh, what a hockey player.

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He didn’t look like anything to be excited about last year in Buffalo, but against his peers, Casey showed me more dominance and more determination than the other two skaters and I hesitate to anoint a goalie, especially at a young age.

So it remains Mittelstadt after Dahlin for me, although it’s a precarious position.

Edited by dudacek
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I picked Jokiharu.   I see some Brian Campbell in him.

UPL is intriguing, but goalies are unpredictable, and hip issues already?  Huge red flag.

Unfortunately, Mittlestadt's nicotine fueled marathon Fortnite sessions will be his undoing.  I had high hopes for him when he was drafted, see a lot of Phil Kessel in him, minus the wrist shot.

Cozens vision and awareness are a concern.   Very good prospect tho, plus skater, but low ceiling.   He was a safe pick.   

Edited by pi2000
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I really think it'll be the goalie. His development curve is way ahead of what you'd have expected. I truly believe he will be an elite goalie. All 4 have potential however. 

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I think it's pretty hard to distinguish between those guys. I voted for Henri on accident, but I think Mittelstadt makes the most sense for reasons dudacek listed. 

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9 hours ago, pi2000 said:

Ufortunately, Mittlestadt's nicotine fueled marathon Fortnite sessions will be his undoing.  I had high hopes for him when he was drafted, see a lot of Phil Kessel in him, minus the wrist shot.

Are you calling Casey fat?

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14 hours ago, Neo said:

Extraordinary work.  Ah, SabreSpace ....

I went with Casey.  How could I not, after a Dale Hawerchuk reference.  Oh, what a hockey player.

 

11 hours ago, dudacek said:

He didn’t look like anything to be excited about last year in Buffalo, but against his peers, Casey showed me more dominance and more determination than the other two skaters and I hesitate to anoint a goalie, especially at a young age.

So it remains Mittelstadt after Dahlin for me, although it’s a precarious position.

 

19 minutes ago, Randall Flagg said:

I think it's pretty hard to distinguish between those guys. I voted for Henri on accident, but I think Mittelstadt makes the most sense for reasons dudacek listed. 

I'm surprised how many posters are picking Casey.  I've read the posts about his metrics looking fine despite what seemed like a down season for him. Until I see something more from him on the ice, I'll remain cautiously pessimistic in regards to his future. The kid from Chicago seemed to fare quite well in his half season last year. That's why I picked him. 

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I chose UPL because I want him to become the next Ryan Miller. He has been dominant against his peers so far.

A franchise goalie would go a long way for the Sabres, the other pieces are coming together.

He has the potential to reach that level, just needs to get better every year, how development is supposed to work.

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20 minutes ago, inkman said:

 

 

I'm surprised how many posters are picking Casey.  I've read the posts about his metrics looking fine despite what seemed like a down season for him. Until I see something more from him on the ice, I'll remain cautiously pessimistic in regards to his future. The kid from Chicago seemed to fare quite well in his half season last year. That's why I picked him. 

I think his metrics are actually pretty bad. 

But he's the only one aside from Joki who has played in the NHL, and I've seen about five seconds of Joki's play in my entire life, so I found it tough to vote for him on purpose (but not on accident)

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30 minutes ago, inkman said:

I'm surprised how many posters are picking Casey. 

I suspect many people are factoring in that he is much closer to reaching his potential than the others on this list.  He has NHL experience; now it's to the point of seeing his ceiling.  The others are truly prospects who haven't seen much NHL ice.  He's basically a year ahead of the others.

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I've got Cozens, mostly because I love the potential story of the kid from the territories coming down like Tormund Giantsbane, not being afraid of anything and attacking like a mighty warrior, relentlessly and at high speed.

Also because Dahlin isn't in the competition, Mitts is starting to feel more like Renly Baratheon than Jaime Lannister, goalies are too hard to predict, and we got Joker for Nylander so he can't be that good.

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1 hour ago, dudacek said:

Very close start here.

We’ve yet to see many of our closest prospect-watchers weigh in like @LGR4GM, @GASabresIUFAN @Crusader1969 @rakish

Unfortunately that would just be my opinion and as I have been informed when it comes to prospects, if it was worth any value I would be paid professionally to give it. I don't want to be accused of not providing enough information on prospects but instead just flaunting my own fake ratings either. So I cannot comment. 

 

10 minutes ago, nfreeman said:

I've got Cozens, mostly because I love the potential story of the kid from the territories coming down like Tormund Giantsbane, not being afraid of anything and attacking like a mighty warrior, relentlessly and at high speed.

Also because Dahlin isn't in the competition, Mitts is starting to feel more like Renly Baratheon than Jaime Lannister, goalies are too hard to predict, and we got Joker for Nylander so he can't be that good.

game of thrones sigh GIF

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11 minutes ago, nfreeman said:

Also because Dahlin isn't in the competition, Mitts is starting to feel more like Renly Baratheon than Jaime Lannister, goalies are too hard to predict, and we got Joker for Nylander so he can't be that good.

Absolutely bananas statement

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23 minutes ago, nfreeman said:

I've got Cozens, mostly because I love the potential story of the kid from the territories coming down like Tormund Giantsbane, not being afraid of anything and attacking like a mighty warrior, relentlessly and at high speed.

It wasn’t that long ago we were feeling the same vibe about Gigensons.

 

At this point I think UPL is the most likely to hit his ceiling.

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Obviously Dahlin is our top guy, even ahead of Jack.  While Jack and Sam are nearly fully realized players, they are still from the 2015 and 2014 drafts respectively.

Based on age and upside, realized or still potential; I’d list our guys as follows

1) Dahlin

2) Jack

3) UPL

4) Reinhart

5) Cozens

6) Mittelstadt

7) Jokiharju

8.) Laaksonen

9) Johnson

10) Asplund

If I making a list of guys under 200 games and likelihood of reaching their full potential, the list is different

1) Dahlin

2) Cozens

3) Jokiharju

4) Mittelstadt

5) UPL

6) Johnson

7) Asplund - His 2nd half in Roch convinced me there is something good here long-term.

8.) Laaksonen 

 

So why the difference?  Let’s start with UPL.  I think this kid has the potential to be Ryan Miller +++.  Maybe even a Lundqvist quality goalie.  They problem he already has hip issues and the development curve for goalies is notoriously un-predictable.  For every Carter Hart and Hellybuck there is a Tim Thomas, or a DePeitro.  So who knows what we’ll get and when.

Cozens vs Mittelstadt.  This is a very tough call; very.  These guys, although their games are different, their results and development curves seem very similar.  Both guys scored 4g 5a for 9 pts in their U18 WJC appearance.  Both were thought of as top 5 guys but slipped to us at 8 (Mitts) and 7 (Cozens).  I’d describe Mitts as Jack lite, and Cozens maybe faster bigger Reinhart in terms of how he’ll be used by the Sabres.

I love Mitts and his ability to channel offense up the middle of the ice.  I think as he figures out the NHL he’ll get better and better.  I see an eventual good 2nd line center who puts up 60 pts each year and sometimes look brilliant doing it.  My problem is that often his skill leads to highlights not points.  He was a pt a game player in the USHL and almost that in his one year in college.  Leagues he should have dominated. (Jack had 45 pts in the USHL and then 71 at BC). I think it could be another 2-3 years before he fully breaks out.  I also don’t like that he has essentially lost 1 development year because he is a Nov 98 birthday (Cut off for his draft year was 9/1999).  

Cozens on the other hand is a straight ahead size with speed player.  I see him as Jack’s eventual RW.  He is a guy who will battle in the corners to get a puck or blow by someone on the rush.  He’ll score 30 playing with Jack.  He is a Feb 2001.  I think he plays one more year in the WHL and then jumps right into the NHL in 2020-21 as Jack’s RW.  I think he has 70-80 pt potential.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he 50 pts as a rookie on Jack wing.

Jokiharju and Johnson vs Laaksonen.  Jokiharju and Johnson look like what we hoped Guhle would develop into; smart, good skating 2 way D.  Both will contribute offensively but are they 20 pt guys, 30 pt guys or even 40 pt guys?  I’m thinking around 25-30 at their peeks.  However I think Jokiharju has the potential to be a great partner for Dahlin.  If he ends up playing 1st line minutes for 5-7 years for us, are we really going to complain about 25-30 pts?  Johnson, I see as a slightly lesser Jokiharju.  Likely McCabe eventual replacement.  The wild card is Laaksonen.  He has the gifts to be a 40 plus pt D.  The question is his defense.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a race between these 3 (and Dahlin) in camp. 

Edited by GASabresIUFAN
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32 minutes ago, WildCard said:

Absolutely bananas statement

Well, I was kinda joking about Joker, but not so much about Mitts.

Are you confident that Mitts is going to live up to expectations?  As @GASabresIUFAN points out, he hasn't set the world on fire at the sub-NHL levels, and as I and others have stated previously, he did not seem able last year to keep possession and make plays against NHL defenders.  That isn't a "he needs to hit the gym so he can win more battles" problem.  It's a "he might not be able to handle the speed of the NHL game" problem.

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1 hour ago, LGR4GM said:

 

Unfortunately that would just be my opinion and as I have been informed when it comes to prospects, if it was worth any value I would be paid professionally to give it. I don't want to be accused of not providing enough information on prospects but instead just flaunting my own fake ratings either. So I cannot comment. 

I think you know your prospect knowledge is highly valued around here, regardless of whatever poster made that ***** take.

1 hour ago, RVJ said:

1a    Matej Pekar            Reminds me a little of Mike Pecca

 

Was planning add prospects in groups of four:

The “close”: Thompson, Olofsson, Borgen, Pilut (can finish as high as 3rd)

The “high 2nds”: Johnson, Samuelsson, Davidsson, Asplund (as high as 4th)

The “sleepers”: Laaksonen, Pekar, Ruotsalainen, Smith (as high as 5th)

Hoping to establish a consensus Sabrespace top 10 for sure, may go deeper if the interest is there.

Probably keep each poll open for about 48 hours, but will play that by ear.

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41 minutes ago, nfreeman said:

Well, I was kinda joking about Joker, but not so much about Mitts.

Are you confident that Mitts is going to live up to expectations?  As @GASabresIUFAN points out, he hasn't set the world on fire at the sub-NHL levels, and as I and others have stated previously, he did not seem able last year to keep possession and make plays against NHL defenders.  That isn't a "he needs to hit the gym so he can win more battles" problem.  It's a "he might not be able to handle the speed of the NHL game" problem.

Eh.  Reino looked pretty lost at the start too.  And in the end, hitting the gym helped him.  I think it might work for Mitts too.

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3 hours ago, inkman said:

I'm surprised how many posters are picking Casey.  I've read the posts about his metrics looking fine despite what seemed like a down season for him. Until I see something more from him on the ice, I'll remain cautiously pessimistic in regards to his future. The kid from Chicago seemed to fare quite well in his half season last year. That's why I picked him. 

Only a dozen or so things will keep Casey from being a star IMO, starting with....

 

 

casey.jpg

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4 hours ago, inkman said:

Are you calling Casey fat?

Lazy.  He doesn't appear to have much interest in fitness.   25 years ago, no big deal.  Today, major concern.

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