The Buffalo Sabres are a jumbled mess right now, everyone knows that. While they have some quality assets such as Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen, they lack any sort of depth on the roster. While their offense is not all that good, at least they have the young core of players (as mentioned above) that they’ve built. On defense, Ristolainen is the only top 4 defenseman on the roster. His partner on the first line, Zach Bogosian, could be a decent top 6 defenseman, but he is not a first line caliber player. The Sabres have done a poor job in surrounding the young core with appropriate talent they need to get out of the bottom of the standings.
The defense was a big reason why Buffalo had the lowest point total in the league. This may have turned out to be a great thing for the Sabres, though, as they won the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery and secured the number one overall pick. Some could say that this is the hockey gods repaying the Sabres for their misfortunes in the 2015 Draft Lottery, where despite having the worst record in the league by far, they lost out on the chance to draft Connor McDavid. Three years later, they finally have the chance to select the best player in the draft.
That player is Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin is the most highly touted draft prospect since Connor McDavid, and there is good reason to buy into the hype. Dahlin played for the Frölunda Hockey Club in Sweden this past season, tallying 20 points over 41 games. Those numbers would put him on pace for 40 points over an 82 game season. That total would place him 6th on the whole Sabres roster in scoring. Dahlin is also highly praised for his puck moving ability for a defenseman. While he is a productive scoring defenseman from the blue-line, he is also a revered open ice hitter, and has incredible agility and skating skills that make him a very productive one-on-one defender, even in two-on-one situations.
The Sabres could desperately use the Swedish phenom’s athleticism, defensive skill, and puck moving ability to add to their top line. There are other highly touted offensive prospects that Buffalo could see some promise in, such as Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina. While they both would add a lot to the Buffalo offense, there is a glaring need for a top 4 defenseman on this team. At the end of the day, however, the potential top line of Eichel, Reinhart, Kyle Okposo, Ristolainen, and Dahlin is too promising to pass up.
Jason Botterill is one of the newer general managers in the NHL, he was thrown into a dumpster fire of a roster in Buffalo. While the team didn’t get any better this season, Botterill still has a promising core of players to build around. While Dahlin wouldn’t instantly bring the Sabres into the playoff conversation, he could certainly have a big impact on the team’s progression next season, and if Botterill can sign some decent, inexpensive defensive depth, he can right this Sabres ship and get them back to the playoffs in the near future. That is, if he makes the right choice this summer.