2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

Continuing with Part 2 of the Sabres Draft Recap article, this section looks at the eight prospects drafted in rounds 2-7. As was the case with Part 1, I give insight on what type of player each is, what they do well, where they need improvement, and what they ultimately project to be in the NHL.

While Round 1 saw some very well-known talent get taken, Round 2 was a different story. With a mix of Russians, Swedes, and even a goalie, Adams and his staff were really busy getting prospects from all over the globe.

Of note, Jerry Forton’s emotional response to a question by The Athletic’s Matthew Fairburn shows just how much has changed since Kevyn Adams has come on board. It’s great to see how the vibes on the ice are proliferating throughout the organization off-ice as well. It’s clear that Adams has put together a strong team that communicates well and functions on the foundation of mutual respect amongst one another.

The Draftees: Part 2

2nd Round (41) – Topias Leinonen

G | 6’5” | 234 lbs | 1/25/2004 | Catches:  Left
JYP (Liiga):  4 GP | 0 W | 1 L | 2 OTL | 5.02 GAA | 0.825 SV %
JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja):  21 GP | 9 W | 10 L | 0 OTL | 2.28 GAA | 0.916 SV %

TCB Reaction: “In a weak goalie class there was no reason to take a swing on a goalie this high. Most goalies taken in the 2nd round and beyond are projects anyways and there was so much talent available at forward and especially right shot defense that make this pick perplexing. I’m not ashamed to say that I hate this and that there was 3-4 RHD with Top 4 potential available here who were much better choices. Leinonen is going to need a lot of time and learn how to not rely on his frame to make saves if he’s going to develop into something.” – Curtis Schwartzkopf (@CurtisNHLDraft)

Leinonen is a massive goalie with the prototypical size you want to see in a developing prospect. With Leinonen, his frame enables him to make saves with his body even if he is slightly out of position or in an awkward stance. Considered one of the better goalies available in this class, Leinonen uses his height to see above screens and track the puck well. One thing Leinonen seems to do well is predict when passes are going cross-ice, something that helps him compensate for his lack of quickness moving laterally in his crease.

As a long goalie, Leinonen actually covers the bottom of the net well and is strong at making saves on shots that are at or just above ice level. One area that Leinonen could improve on is his rebound control, which can be very erratic and dangerous at times. Leinonen can struggle to use his reflexes to make saves and rely too much on his frame to do that for him. This will become less effective as the shooters he faces become better at higher levels of competition.

Leinonen 1 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7
Leinonen 2 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

(InStat Hockey Goal Map – Leinonen’s SV% at Various Shot Locations)

With Leinonen, he has the athleticism to drop down quickly when needed and then stay in the butterfly position because of how much net he covers even on his knees. Learning how to be a bit calmer in net, especially when under duress, is going to be huge in determining how far Leinonen can go in his career. There wasn’t a dire need to take Leinonen in this spot and the grade reflects how much high-end talent got passed on for a position that is the hardest to project.

Pick Grade: D
My Pick: Gleb Trikozov (60th – Carolina)

Projection – Leinonen has the size to be a starting goalie in the NHL but he has a long way to go before reaching that status. He’s a project who will need to show he can handle shooters in Liiga before even getting an ELC and a chance in North America. Time to NHL: 2025-26

3rd Round (74) – Viktor Neuchev

LW | 6’2” | 165 lbs | 10/25/2003 | Shoots:  Left
Avto Yekaterinburg (MHL):  61 GP | 40 G | 27 A | 67 PTS

TCB Reaction: “Very fun player on a very bad MHL team, so it’s a bit difficult to parse out whether his individualistic game is purely environment based. The lack of dynamic skating pushed this creative playmaker to the 3rd round, but there’s a lot of intriguing tools here. Creativity is through the roof. He’s a slick puck handler and passer with a plus shot to boot.” – Walt Zurowski (@Sabremetrix)

Neuchev is a pure sniper and goal-scoring machine, putting up 40 goals in just 61 games at the MHL level this past season. As a volume shooter, Neuchev will rip his shot from anywhere on the ice and can get a ton of velocity on it regardless of his body position. Whether it’s using his accuracy and quick release to pick a corner or pure velocity to blow the puck through a goalie, Neuchev’s shot is dangerous and makes him a threat to score any time he’s on the ice.

Neuchev loves having the puck on his stick and does well when attacking defenders with speed, keeping the puck out of harms way while driving towards the net with speed. While Neuchev will never be mistaken to be a playmaker, his ability to get off dangerous chances leads to a lot of rebounds in front of the net that turn into more shot attempts. As Neuchev can get a bit of tunnel vision with the puck, learning how to process the situation around him and identify passing lanes is something he needs to develop to be less predictable.

Neuchev 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

While Neuchev has decent top-end speed, he lacks the acceleration needed to create separation at higher levels of competition. What he does now is sufficient for the junior level but as space gets taken away from him in the future, Neuchev will need to adapt his play a bit. Neuchev is also very raw in the defensive zone, showing little awareness about how to suppress shot attempts or keep play to the outside. Neuchev is a bit of a project in this regard but will have ample time to develop this particular aspect of his game.

Pick Grade: B+
My Pick: Kasper Kulonummi (130th – Anaheim)

Projection – Neuchev has the goal-scoring ability to maybe earn a bottom-6 role in the NHL. His offensive skill is undeniable and he would be a valuable asset on the powerplay as a play who can act as a trigger man. There’s some uncertainty about how long it could take Neuchev to earn an ELC and make his way over to North America so his projection to the NHL is TBD at the moment. Time to NHL: TBD

4th Round (106) – Mats Lindgren

LD | 6’0” | 176 lbs | 8/26/2004 | Shoots: Left
Kamloops (WHL): 68 GP | 5 G | 39 A | 44 PTS

TCB Reaction: “Skilled, offensive defenseman who needs to get better in his own zone, but with the late birthday and toolkit, is well worth the draft slot”Austin Garret (@BMaster716)

As an agile puck-moving defender, Lindgren thrives when on offense and attacking. With how confident Lindgren can play on the blue line, he is able to extend controlled zone time on offense as he will sneak down into the faceoff circle and middle of the ice to create scoring chances. It’s Lindgren’s agility that really shines in these instances as he’s able to evade contact when carrying the puck because his feet move so well.

Lindgren’s transition game is also benefited from his agility, showing the ability to turn up ice quickly and into opponent territory. With how well Lindgren sees the ice, he is able to anticipate plays and force turnovers in the neutral zone. This breaks up zone entries against and stifles any attack being carried out against his team.

Lindgren 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

While Lindgren’s agility is good, his top-end speed and quickness leave room for improvement. Having a less than ideal posture limits what Lindgren can do as a skater right now so he will need to work with a skating coach to reach his true speed potential. Defensively, Lindgren can be a bit too passive at times, preferring to stay in a zone and not apply pressure to a puck carrier. Lindgren will need to learn how to better process these types of plays and engage physically when appropriate. This will help increase Lindgren’s impacts in his own end in a positive way.

Pick Grade: A
My Pick: Tucker Robertson (123rd – Seattle)

Projection – This was a tremendous value pick by the Sabres as Lindgren has a very nice set of skills that could see him crack the 3rd pair at worst. With a promising offensive game and play in transition, Lindgren provides organizational depth on the left side. There’s a chance Lindgren can evolve into a top-4 defenseman who contributes on the powerplay but he will need to really improve defensively to get there. Time to NHL: 2025-26

5th Round (134) – Vsevolod Komarov

RD | 6’2” | 183 lbs | 1/11/2004 | Shoots:  Right
Quebec (QMJHL):  60 GP | 2 G | 17 A | 19 PTS

TCB Reaction: “It is great to see them address the right side of their defensive group a bit but still much later than I would have liked. I’m guessing they must have liked Komarov from keeping tabs on Marjala this season. Definitely a project but Komarov has NHL size, which should allow him to thrive at the junior level.” – Curtis Schwartzkopf (@CurtisNHLDraft)

Komarov is a large right-shot defenseman who played in the QMJHL with fellow Sabres prospect Viljami Marjala. In the 5th round, it’s clear that Komarov is a swing on upside as he has the package and some habits indicative of an NHL defenseman. What sticks out with Komarov is how willing he is to creep down from the point into the high slot. Komarov is pretty good at timing these plays without taking himself out of position but his puck skills will need improvement if he’s going to be more impactful at generating scoring chances.

There is also a clear desire in Komarov’s game to drive transition via controlled zone exits and entries. Komarov’s habits to make long passes in the neutral zone as well as skating it himself are great tools in his game that are still a bit unrefined. Komarov’s skating is really what prevents him from taking a leap into a high-end mobile defenseman. There’s a need to clean up Komarov’s mechanics as he loses a lot of efficiency and has wasted energy when moving his feet. By making some adjustments to his stride, Komarov will see improvements to his acceleration, agility, and speed, making him much more impactful in those areas he’s not afraid to skate through.

Komarov 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

It’s going to take some time for Komarov to improve on some of issues in his game but that’s why you take a player like him in the 5th round. There’s a lot to work with in Komarov who is about as raw as they come but with the help of some NHL-level guidance in his development, Komarov could feasibly take a big leap in his game this upcoming season.

Pick Grade: C+
My Pick: Brandon Lisowsky (218th – Toronto)

Projection – In a perfect world, Komarov has the size and base set of skills to be a 3rd pair defender in the NHL if all goes well. There’s a lot of potential in Komarov’s game but he will need to put in a lot of work to improve his abilities to reach this level of play. It would be ideal if Komarov could find a way to harness his offensive skills and better use his long legs to be a stronger skater. Only time will tell but he’s an interesting prospect to monitor given the lack of competition at the RHD position in the Sabres pipeline. Time to NHL: 2025-26 (if he can improve skating and decision making)

6th Round (170) – Jake Richard

RW | 6’1” | 171 lbs | 8/15/2004 | Shoots:  Right
Muskegon (USHL):  56 GP | 18 G | 30 A | 48 PTS

TCB Reaction: “I watched a lot of Muskegon games, typically to watch someone other than Richard but he usually caught my eye. He’s got loads of scoring potential and I really think he has a shot to be an impactful NHLer in a few seasons. – Austin Broad (@Austin_Broad)

NOTE: For the analysis below, I reached out to Austin Broad to provide some further insight into Richard’s game as he followed the USHL very closely as head USA Scout for FCHockey.

Richard is a winger who steadily got better as the season went on for Muskegon. The offensive instincts are very solid for Richard who has shown the ability to be a dual-threat goal scorer and playmaker. This versatility in Richard’s game make him challenging to defend as he can make defenders at the junior level pay for solely taking away a shooting or passing lane.

Richard is on the younger side of this year’s draft class with his August birthday but still has a very solid frame with room to add muscle. This will further enhance Richard’s ability to play a power forward style game. As evidenced by his shot map at even strength from the past season, Richard takes the majority of his shots very close to the front of the net, which is where most of his goals came from.

Richard 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

A UConn commit in the NCAA, Richard has a long way to go before possibly getting a crack at the NHL. Seeing how Richard builds off of his strong season with Muskegon by using his size and sneaky offensive prowess will be an interesting situation to monitor in 2022-23.

Pick Grade: B
My Pick: Servac Petrovsky (185th – Minnesota)

Projection – Richard has the makings of a 4th line role player in the NHL and one who will use his size to generate offense. It’s going to take a lot of time for him to get there and playing in the NCAA will only help hone Richard into a solid 2-way player. Time to NHL: 2026-27

6th Round (187) – Gustav Karlsson

C | 6’1” | 165 lbs | 10/31/2003 | Shoots:  Left
Örebro HK J20 (J20 Nationell):  41 GP | 31 G | 17 A | 48 PTS

TCB Reaction: “Now this is a fun pick in the 6th round! Karlsson has a terrific set of tools and dominated at the J20 level. He’s great at finding ways to score and is more center depth in the organization.” – Curtis Schwartzkopf (@CurtisNHLDraft)

Karlsson is a goal scorer plain and simple. At the J20 level, Karlsson is able to find open ice with ease in the offensive zone and ensure he is always in a shooting position. Karlsson is not solely good at getting to the front of the net though as he has shown high-end abilities to lead the rush with possession and attack the offensive zone with speed. Karlsson’s shot is so effective because of how quickly he can get it off from just about anywhere on the ice, giving goalies minimal reaction time.

With Karlsson, there’s a lot of effort in his defensive play but it can be inconsistent as well as ineffective. By over pursuing the puck, Karlsson really opens up ice behind him and leaves his team vulnerable to odd-man opportunities. Playing a more patient and mature style in his own end will come from experience and mask some of the current flaws in Karlsson’s defensive game.

Karlsson 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

It’s easy to see why Karlsson drew the attention of Sabres scouts as he has the shooting talent and offensive mindset that they clearly value. With the versatility to play both wing and center, Karlsson is in for the long development path and will be someone to monitor as he ascends in the Swedish ranks.

Pick Grade: B+
My Pick: Matthew Ward (Undrafted)

Projection – There is a scenario where Karlsson can figure out his defensive issues and continue to be impactful on offense. In this case, Karlsson could certainly boast a bottom 6 potential in the NHL because he does have the size and talent to play in that type of capacity. Time to NHL: 2025-26

7th Round (202) – Joel Ratkovic Berndtsson

RW | 6’0” | 179 lbs | 10/18/2003 | Shoots:  Left
Frölunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell):  47 GP | 22 G | 27 A | 49 PTS

TCB Reaction: “Challenger to Prince William von Barnekow for best name in the pipeline. I’ll be honest, this is one prospect who I was not familiar with and had to get more up to speed on to write on my analysis below. Having said that, even in the 7th round it would have been more exciting had they went with one of the TCB targets from the Draft Guide.” – Curtis Schwartzkopf (@CurtisNHLDraft)

I’m going to defer to FCHockey’s 2022 Draft Guide for the analysis in this section as Berndtsson was not on my radar at all this year. Berndtsson has a great shot and knows how to put the puck into the net, finding shooting lanes as he enters the zone. With a strong release, Berndtsson’s shot can be tricky to handle and will lead to rebounds in the high-danger area of the ice.

Berndtsson 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

Berndtsson’s biggest liability at the moment is his defensive game as he has a tendency to be a puck watcher at times. This lack of awareness causes Berndtsson to get lost in position and be a bystander who cannot help out in getting possession of the puck back. Berndtsson’s skating is also a work in progress and improvements in this area will only aid in making him more effective on offense than he already is.

Pick Grade: C
My Pick: Hugo Havelid (Undrafted)

Projection – Berndtsson has the skill and goal-scoring ability to perhaps carve out a role on the 4th line or be a mainstay in the AHL. It’s not going to be easy and will require patience and resiliency from Berndtsson to take the time to develop his overall game. Time to NHL: 2025-26

7th Round (211) – Linus Sjödin

C/RW | 6’0” | 168 lbs | 10/2/2002 | Shoots:  Left
Rögle BK (SHL):  49 GP | 5 G | 6 A | 11 PTS

TCB Reaction: “Sjödin is an overager who was a bit underwhelming to me. He’s got some professional experience at the SHL level and has progressed from where he was last year. Hard to complain about a 7th round pick at the end of the day though, especially after Tyson Kozak surprised me last season.” – Curtis Schwartzkopf (@CurtisNHLDraft)

Sjödin didn’t garner as much attention as his teammate Marco Kasper did this year but the overager definitely showed some signs of improvement in his DY+1 after going undrafted in 2021. Attacking the middle of the ice with more confidence, Sjödin was able to generate more offense on his own. Last year Sjödin was pretty ineffective in this aspect of his game at both the J20 and SHL level so it was nice to see him develop a bit.

Sjodin 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7

Sjödin is a very lanky player still even though he did grow a bit in height over the past year. Without the strength to engage in physical battles and win them, Sjödin is going to be limited in what he can do at the SHL level. There’s definitely some offensive skills in Sjödin’s game, especially from a puck handling perspective that give some hope he could turn into something useful in the organization.

Pick Grade: C
My Pick: Joshua Fahrni (Undrafted)

Projection – Sjödin is AHL depth even at his ceiling as he lacks dynamic ability and a defensive game to warrant a chance at the NHL. It’s unlikely Sjödin will earn an ELC but given the fact that he is a Swedish prospect, he will be given a long timeline to see if he can develop into an NHL player. Time to NHL: 2025-26 (if ever)

Final Verdict: A-

Overall, this Sabres draft class will be headlined by the 1st round which was an absolute home run. From both a talent and value perspective, adding Savoie, Ostlund, and Kulich is a massive upgrade to an already strong group of prospects. Each of these prospects represents the potential to play in a top 6 role someday, with Savoie possibly having 1st line upside. It’s these picks in the first round that carry the grade for this draft class.

There were two glaring needs in the organization that the Sabres did address in some capacity but not how many expected. With many high-quality right-shot defenders available at 41, the Sabres surprised many by taking Finnish goaltender Topias Leinonen. Having 11 picks at their disposal afforded them an opportunity to take a swing on goalie, albeit in a down year for the position.

The Sabres waited until the 5th round to address their other need in right-shot defenders, taking Vsevolod Komarov. There’s a lot of work for Komarov to do but he will be given a huge chance to make a name for himself.

Rounding things out with several more forwards with offensive skills, Adams and his staff did an excellent job as they turn their sights on development camp coming up.

With 11 total prospects added to the Sabres organization, the upcoming season is going to be a lot of fun to track the development of these players. Stay tuned for more Sabres prospect coverage throughout the year from the TCB Prospect Team.

My Final Team

As I have used this Draft Recap article to track who I would have selected instead of who the Sabres did, I will populate my draft classes here and will continue to do so for future drafts. My preferences can be found as far back as the 2019 Draft and as such, here is my prospect system were I drafting instead of Buffalo GM’s.

Note that these selections were also based off of my published rankings and recap articles where I take the best player available on my board at each spot.

image 2022 Sabres Draft Recap: Rounds 2-7


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