Berkly Catton (72) waits for fitness testing behind Michael Hage at the NHL Scouting Combine on June 8 in LECOM Harborcenter. ©2024, Micheline Veluvou

If Sabres don’t trade 11th pick, Berkly Catton could be strong draft choice

BUFFALO – Last year, Berkly Catton felt bored, so he got creative. The 2024 NHL Draft prospect found some wood and grabbed his old street hockey equipment to construct a rudimentary goalie in his backyard.

Catton, 18, placed it in front of a net and spent hours and hours honing his shot by pummeling the wonky creation – “It looks pretty real, actually,” he said – with pucks.

The Spokane Chiefs star said “it’s probably not made very well, but it’s held together.”

“I just genuinely enjoy being back there and working on my craft,” he said June 8 following fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in LECOM Harborcenter.

Catton’s offseason work paid off. The genesis of his breakout 2023-24 junior season – the center compiled a whopping 54 goals and 116 points in just 68 games – can be traced to the thousands of shots he took at home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

After his 23-goal, 55-point rookie campaign in 2022-23, he knew he could be a more prolific scorer.

“I had a decent season, but I wasn’t scoring as much as I would like, and I think that was maybe due to my shot maybe (not) being where it should be,” he said. “So I knew I had to work on that in the summer.”

Catton’s backyard also served as his training ground growing up. On the outdoor rink his father built each winter, he said he developed the edge work that has become a key component to his game.

“I’ve kind of just lived back there,” he said. “I think that’s where I mastered those little skills, and, obviously, I think it’s translated well into these past years.”

Those “little” skills that complement his high hockey IQ have helped the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Catton develop into a coveted prospect. NHL Central Scouting ranks him eighth among North American skaters for the draft on June 28 in Las Vegas.

If the Sabres keep the 11th overall pick – there’s a belief they might trade it for immediate help – he would be an intriguing option if he’s available.

Catton said he “had a really good chat” with the Sabres’ brass at the combine. During their conversation, they talked about forwards Zach Benson and Matt Savoie, two former Western Hockey League stars they drafted in the first round.

“Similar to myself, I think, in lots of ways,” Catton said.

While Catton possesses a terrific shot and edges, his ability to think the game makes him one of hockey’s elite teenage talents.

When Dan Marr, the director of Central Scouting, watched him up close twice in 2023-24, he wanted to see to see the youngster put on a show.

“I wanted him to be the first star,” he said. “I wanted him to make all these great plays. Like, I just wanted him to pop, and none of that happened. But he had four points on the score sheet. …

“He’s just one of those cerebral players that doesn’t come with a lot flash or bang, but he gets results. Like, he’s just a very smart, smart player.”

Marr believes as Catton matures and plays alongside better players on stronger teams, he will showcase “more flash and bang.”

“He could be a Joe Pavelski type down the road,” he said.

That, of course, is high praise. Pavelski, 39, has amassed 476 goals and 1,068 points during his 18-year career.

“With Berkly, his hockey IQ is what carries the day with him, just his vision, the way he sees the ice,” Marr said. “Because at the end of the day, he doesn’t bring that highlight reel, the big flashy rush or anything like that.”

He added: “I would tell you don’t ever write Berkly Catton off, all right, because he’ll burn you.”

2 thoughts on “If Sabres don’t trade 11th pick, Berkly Catton could be strong draft choice”

  1. No thank you! Too many small forwards already on the team and in the prospect pipeline. Time to draft big, rugged players for the bottom 6.

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