CHICAGO – Forget about the quick fix. The Buffalo Sabres left the NHL Draft festivities with six prospects and nothing else.
As trade activity engulfed the NHL over the past few days, new Sabres general manager Jason Botterill stayed quiet, choosing to take the patient approach.
Botterill, the hockey world learned, will remake the Sabres, a team six years removed from its last playoff appearance, at his own speed. Outside expectations won’t influence the 41-year-old, who was hired May 11.
“If you ever get in a rush, that’s when you make mistakes, and the bottom line is you do have to be patient,” Botterill said Saturday following his first draft as a GM. “I know (new coach) Phil Housley’s competitive. I know myself is competitive. We want to be competitive, we want to make changes, we want to be more successful right off the bat here.”
But, Botterill said, he wants “to balance things out.” So rather than selling off assets for, say, a puck-moving defenseman, Buffalo’s biggest need, he simply used all his picks at the United Center.
“You’re trying to make improvements,” Botterill said. “You’re trying to bring people in and players in to our organization right away. But you always have to have a little look long term. We can’t be sacrificing good players, we can’t be sacrificing draft picks for a short-term fix.”
The picks the Sabres made this weekend, even eighth overall selection Casey Mittelstadt, won’t provide any impact in the near future.
“I felt we got a good balance,” Botterill said of the picks.
Here’s more on Buffalo’s selections Saturday:
Center Marcus Davidsson, second round, 37th overall
The 6-foot, 191-pound Davidsson had five goals and nine points last season with Djurgårdens of the Swedish Hockey League. The 18-year-old also played with Djurgårdens’ under-20 team in 2016-17, scoring six goals and 10 points in nine outings.
“(He) certainly can be a guy that can contribute offensively but can also play a good, solid defensive game, too, and a player that just plays with pace, will get in the forecheck, will get after pucks,” Botterill said.
Sabres amateur scouting director Jeff Crisp said Davidsson possesses “a nice mature, two-way game that coaches will love.”
“He’s a 200-foot player that plays center and wing, and he played in the highest division in Sweden,” he said.
Davidsson is NHL Central Scouting’s 12th-ranked European skater.
Goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, second round, 54th overall
Defenseman Oskari Laaksonen, third round, 89th overall
The 17-year-old Laaksonen’s selection raised some eyebrows, as little information is available on him. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound Finn isn’t ranked by Central Scouting or other notable scouting services.
Picks like that are usually reserved for the later rounds.
“He’s a player that’s going to take some time to develop but certainly has the skills offensively, has the ability to skate,” Botterill said.
Laaksonen spent most of last season with Ilves under-20 junior team in SM-liiga, compiling six goals and nine points in 27 games.
“He’s a good defenseman that’s very mobile, likes to pass the puck,” Crisp said. “He’s a late-bloomer that’s coming along nice. Our scouts tracked him for the last two years, so we know him well. He’s a good player we trust will develop over the next two years into a puck-moving defenseman.”
Botterill said the Sabres’ European scouts “want to stand up and get players in the organization.”
“We felt they sort of won us over from the standpoint of, ‘Hey, this is a player that we need to step up and select,’” Botterill said of Laaksonen. “Yeah, he’s a player that’s going to take some time to develop but certainly has the skills offensively, has the ability to skate.”
Defenseman Jack Bryson, fourth round, 99th overall
The 19-year-old Bryson had three goals and 20 points in 39 games as a freshman last season at Providence College.
“Sometimes we undervalue players that step into college early, and we know it’s a big adjustment sometimes playing against 23-, 24-year-olds,” Botterill said. “He stepped into a very good program at Providence and did very well. (He has) puck-moving ability.”
Bryson isn’t ranked by Central Scouting and at 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds is undersized for a defenseman.
Winger Linus Weissbach, seventh round, 192nd overall
The 5-foot-8, 161-pound Weissbach had 19 goals and 47 points in 49 games last season with United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm. The 19-year-old will play at the University of Wisconsin next season.
Botterill said the Swede possesses “offensive flair.”
Weissbach is ranked 139th among North American skaters by Central Scouting.