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With The 16th Pick In The 2011 Draft, Black & Blue & Gold Selects…

06/19/11
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Hockey dads all over the world live for the day that their sons get selected by an NHL team at the draft, so it’s fitting that on Father’s Day I’d write about who I’d like to see the Sabres take with the 16th overall pick in the 2011 entry draft this upcoming Friday.

After the jump, you’ll see my personal preference as well as Kris Baker’s expert opinion. (If you don’t follow Kris or read his work, you’re sorely missing out)


First, Black & Blue & Gold’s pick: Alexander Khokhlachev, LC, Windsor Spitfires
A former teammate of graduated Sabres prospect Zack Kassian, Alexander Khokhlachev is a flashy pivot that spent his rookie season with the Spits recording better than point-per-game numbers in both the regular season and playoffs.

The upside to drafting Khokhlachev is that he’s a scoring center and a power play presence, two things any NHL team always needs. He also already has chemistry with Kassian during their time as linemates and on the same PP unit, in case they both make it to the Sabres. The downside to drafting “Koko” is that he’s smaller (5’10″, 172lbs) than the Sabres have been selecting (avg 6’0″, 183lbs at center) and that he may suffer from the semi-famous Russian disconnect without any other countrymen as teammates. A big part of that disconnect is a poor grasp of the English language but in conversation with Kris, he told me Koko has a pretty strong hold on the language.

I know that suggesting a flashy European player seems to go against both of the Sabres’ current drafting M.O.’s (draft big and mean, draft North American), but by selecting Koko the Sabres would address two problem areas. The first is that they would help take care of their paltry center depth. The second is that they would help balance out all the recent drafted grit by drafting flash. The best teams know how to balance and when players such as Roy are on the decline, the young Russian would be able to fill that role.

One thing I will note is that NHL Central Scouting has him sitting 29th overall among North American skaters, so while I could see the Sabres taking him pretty high at 16, I definitely see the Sabres taking him if the trade down past 20.

UPDATE: Here is a nice write-up on Koko by NHL.com staff writer Sergei J. Feldman.

Next, Sabres Prospects’ pick: Mark Scheifele, RC, Barrie Colts
To quote Kris’ take on Scheifele…

A complete player who kept improving as the year progressed, the Barrie Colts forward is in my opinion among the top-12 North American prospects lined up for the draft. The fact that he is right-handed makes him even more attractive at #16.

After de-committing from a scholarship to Cornell, the 6’2, 183-pounder entered the OHL with a bang in 2010-11 under the guidance of former Sabre Dale Hawerchuk. It was a muddy track all year for the Colts, winning just once every four times out, but Scheifele kept his head above water with 22 goals and 75 points against a steady diet of top defensive units. His consistency continued into the U18s, where he shined as Canada’s best forward with six goals and two assists in the tourney’s seven games.

The big-bodied pivot is rich in natural offensive talent. He’s a powerful skater, seems to always know where his line mates are, and uncorks a heavy finishing shot. He’s also proven solid in his own zone, with much of his two-way aptitude credited to him playing on the blueline up through bantam. He simply needs to add strength and become more explosive for his scoring line potential to be achieved.

I confidently take Scheifele at #16 and watch him get bigger and better over the next two seasons. My greatest fear is that he’ll be picked before the Sabres are able to get to him, so I’m hoping the scouting Viagra from the U18′s wears off by the time the first round gets under way.

Mark Scheifele isn’t the only prospect that Bakes has pegged as a potential draft target for the Sabres, but he’s at the top of the list and for good reason. The kid sounds like he has the tools to be one talented pain in the ass for the opposition.

So there you have it, true believers. I like the zippy scorer and Bakes likes the complete player. Will the Sabres take either of them? A completely different player? (Two NHL draft experts have the Sabres taking Scheifele, while one has them taking giant defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, and one has them taking Zack Phillips) We’ll find out when the hockey world tunes into Versus and TSN at 7PM EST to see which kids go where.

If you’re a draft-minded Sabres fan, it’s likely that you’ve got Sabres Prospects either bookmarked or sitting in your RSS reader and you’ve probably already read Kris’ draft preview. If you haven’t, I ardently recommend you check it out now to get primed for the events starting this Friday evening.

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