Draft Preview | Potential options with the 9th-overall pick

Cutter Gauthier – LW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Gauthier is the third-ranked North American prospect according to NHL Central Scouting Services, making him a candidate to be selected before the Sabers are on the clock. His stock rose during a season in which he tallied 53 goals in 76 games with the US National Team Development Program.

If he is available, Gauthier offers a blend of size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and skill that could make him an effective complement on the wing to the Sabers’ talented stable of centermen, TSN director of scouting Craig Button told Sabers.com.

Button likened Gauthier to Vegas Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty with an NHL-ready shot.

“The one thing about Cutter that I think is really impressive, he can score in so many different ways,” Button said. “He can score from the right side, the left side, the middle. He can score from distance, he can score on the drive. He can score with that big shot.”

Fast fact: Gauthier was raised in Scottsdale, Arizona but was born in Sweden. His father, Sean, was a ninth-round draft pick by the Winnipeg Jets in 1991 and finished his career playing goal in Skelleftea, Cutter’s birthplace.

What he’s saying: While he is listed by most draft analysts on the wing, Gauthier said he plans to begin his NCAA career playing center at Boston College.

“Next year I’m set to play center and that’s something I’m really looking forward to at Boston College,” he said. “I was pretty dominant over the last few years when I was at the center position, controlling the pace of play defensively as well as offensively. And that’s something I’m looking forward to.”

David Jiricek – RHD, HC Plzen (Czech Republic)

Jiricek is one of the top-two defensemen listed on most draft boards along with Slovakian blueliner Simon Nemec. NHL CSS has him listed one place behind Nemec as the fourth-ranked European skater.

Jiricek has size at 6-foot-3 and experience playing against men, both in the top Czechia pro league and more recently at the IIHF World Championship. NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman had him going to the Sabers at ninth overall in his most recent mock draft.

“A knee injury sustained at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship slowed Jiricek this season, but he still has the look of a high-skill, top-pair defenseman,” Kimelman wrote. “He’s got the size to win 1-on-1 battles in the defensive zone and a developing offensive game. Adding Jiricek to Owen PowerMattias Samuelsson and Rasmus Dahlin gives the Sabers a fearsome top four at defenseman to look forward to. “

Fast fact: Jiricek was named a top player for Czechia at the 2021 World Junior Championship, where he tallied a goal and an assist in five games as the youngest player on the roster.

Marco Kasper – C, Rogle (SHL)

Kasper had a large role in the SHL given his age, leading all U-18 players with 11 points (7 + 4) in 46 games during the regular season and adding six points (3 + 3) in 13 playoff contests.

The 6-foot-1, 187-pound centerman is ranked fifth among European skaters by NHL CSS. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman has him ranked as the ninth-best prospect in the draft and sees him as a potential option for the Sabers at that spot.

“He’s not an overly flashy player like a (Matthew) Savoie is, but he’s very well-rounded,” Pronman told Sabres.com. “He’s 6-1, he skates well, he competes really hard.”

Fast fact: Kasper left his home country Austria for Sweden prior to the 2020-21 season. He learned to speak Swedish in just six months.

“I tried to fit in as fast as possible,” he said.

What he’s saying: Kasper credited his time in the SHL – one of the top pro leagues in Europe – as having aided in his development.

“It’s tough to play against men,” he said. “… It helped me see how it is to live as a pro.”

Joakim Kemell, RW – JYP (League)

Kemell, the second-ranked European skater by NHL CSS, got off to a torrid start to last season to earn Player of the Month honors in October. While he did slow down, his 15 goals led rookies in Finland’s top pro league.

Kemell, at 5-foot-11, is smaller in stature than some potential first-round wingers but is touted as blending skill, grit, and an NHL-ready shot.

“He just scores goals wherever he goes,” Pronman told Sabers.com. “… It’s not just the shot and the skill, he’s also a really fierce competitor. He’s on the backcheck, he engages, he wins battles, good skater too. This is a guy I think could be a really quality top-six winger in the NHL. ”

Fast fact: Kemell tallied six goals and eight points at the U-18 World Championship, helping Finland earn a bronze medal.

What he’s saying: Kemell said he models his game after Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak.

“I like how he plays, and I like his style a lot.… He has a good shot and skating and vision,” he said.

Brad Lambert – C, Pelicans (League)

Lambert’s production dipped this past season, which included a January transfer from JYP to Pelicans. He finished with 10 points (4 + 6) in 49 games, down from 15 (7 + 8) in 46 games the season prior.

Still, Lambert is the 10th-ranked European skater by NHL CSS and his skill set – highlighted by his skating ability – makes him a potential top-10 pick.

“I still really like the talent as a skater, as a handler, as a shooter,” The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, who has Lambert ranked eighth among all prospects, said.

“… He grades out at the very top of the draft class in those three areas and then you just hope that some of the consistency, the reps, that’ll come back and he’ll start feeling good about himself again because the talent screams top-six NHL forward. “

Fast fact: Lambert is the nephew of former NHL forward Lane Lambert, who was named head coach of the New York Islanders last month.

Jonathan Lekkerimaki – RW, Djurgardens (SHL)

Lekkerimaki, the sixth-ranked European skater by CSS, is considered an option for the Sabers by multiple analysts. Button and Wheeler both have him ranked ninth on their overall lists, while Wheeler and Pronman both have him as the Sabers’ selection with the ninth pick in their recent mock drafts.

Lekkerimaki had nine points (7 + 2) in 26 SHL games last season. He dominated at the U-18 World Championship, tallying a tournament-high 15 points (5 + 10) in six games to lead Sweden to the gold medal.

Wheeler describes him as “arguably the most dynamic winger” in the class.

“He, with the puck on his stick, is as dangerous in the offensive zone as anybody in the draft,” Wheeler said. “So, that is what you’re looking for in Lekkerimaki. You’re looking for a gamebreaker. He’s going to score goals on the first power play. He’s going to have the puck on his stick a lot of the time. And you want him to be that guy. “

Frank Nazar – C, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Opinions vary on Nazar, the 21st-ranked skater by NHL CSS. Some analysts have him going during the latter half of the first round – making him a candidate for the Sabers with the 16th pick.

But others see him as a potential option with the ninth pick, including Daily Faceoff’s Chris Peters.

“I’d say that Frank Nazar is probably one of the most exciting players just in terms of his skating and skill package,” Peters said. “The hands, the quickness, I mean, he probably averages about a breakaway or two per game. It’s just amazing how he’s able to slip behind defenses.

“The thing about him, the reason why his projections are all over the map, is you got people that really respect the skill and the speed, but he’s not that big.”

The 5-foot-10 forward had 105 points (43 + 62) in 80 games last season.

Fast fact: Nazar will begin his NCAA career next season at the University of Michigan.

What he’s saying: Nazar cited his speed and ability to read plays as strengths of his game and agreed with NTDP teammates who said he is underrated within the class.

“I feel that maybe I might be a little underrated in the rankings,” he said. “But definitely just looking forward to the future and just gonna keep working. I’m kind of someone that just keeps pushing harder to get better each day.”

Matthew Savoie – C, Winnipeg (WHL)

Savoie could well have been gone by the time the Sabers are on the clock – he is ranked fourth among North American skaters by NHL CSS and a top-five selection in most mock drafts.

NHL.com’s Mike Morreale is one analyst who considers Savoie a potential option with the ninth pick, having mocked him to the Sabers in that spot.

“A lot of scouts have told me there’s a comparable there to Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning,” Morreale said. “A lot of speed, a lot of intensity. He’s real good on special teams. Really good pace with the puck.”

Savoie led WHL rookies with 90 points (35 + 55) in 65 games this season.

Fast fact: Savoie has history as an early selection. He was the No. 1 overall pick by Winnipeg in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.

Danila Yurov – RW, Magnitogorsk (KHL)

Yurov, the seventh-ranked European skater by NHL CSS, is considered a top-10 talent by most analysts.

He could be an option for the Sabers at ninth overall – or perhaps even at 16th – because uncertainty born from Russia ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Russian-based players, while draft eligible, were not invited to the NHL Scouting Combine. Russian and Belrusian teams have also been suspended from IIHF tournaments until further notice.

“Despite Yurov being a top-10 player without a shadow of a doubt on talent, the belief is that he may slip into the teens and then maybe a team takes a chance on him there,” Wheeler said. “I do think though, he’s probably in that (top) six group, maybe that sort of seven / eight range, just on skill.”

Fast fact: Yurov did not register a point in limited minutes with the KHL club but had 36 points (13 + 23) in 23 contests in the MHL, Russia junior league.

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