Sabres to open NHL draft featuring Michigan, mystery, Kraken

(AP) — The focus of attention falls squarely on the Buffalo Sabres to kick off an NHL draft heavily themed by Michigan, mystery and the expansion Seattle Kraken.

General manager Kevyn Adams isn’t tipping his hand on whether Buffalo will use the No. 1 pick to select defenseman Owen Power, the consensus top prospect and one of three Wolverines players projected to be chosen in the first round Friday.

There’s even more uncertainty surrounding the Sabres, who have the potential of shaking up the draft order by adding an extra pick. Adams hasn’t ruled out doing so while juggling trade talks involving three key players, including captain Jack Eichel, who has questioned his future in Buffalo over a dispute with the team regarding how to repair his herniated disk.

“Lots of conversations. Lots of different scenarios,” Adams said Thursday of his bid to overhaul a franchise that finished last in the overall standings for the fourth time in eight years. “We’re willing to listen to every possible thing that’s going to get our franchise pointed in the right direction.”

The Sabres are picking first for the fourth time in franchise history, and second since selecting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in 2018. They’re followed by the Kraken and the Anaheim Ducks in a two-day, seven-round draft being held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the pandemic.

Having added 30 players in the expansion draft Wednesday, the Kraken can now start stocking up on prospects.

“It’s obviously a different feel and a different entity, but equally as exciting coming out of the entry draft with players, some that may be able to help us sooner than later, no doubt, but definitely are the future of our team,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said.

In a season in which the Stanley Cup was awarded for the first time in July, COVID-19 has added an element of uncertainty in ranking prospects, many of whom had limited playing time because of constricted or canceled seasons in North America, or scrambled to join teams in Europe.

Add in the NHL’s annual pre-draft combine being canceled, and scouting staffs were forced to rely on limited game tape or lean more heavily on Zoom calls with prospects for their projections.

“There’s some mystery to this draft,” Colorado Avalanche scouting director Wade Klippenstein said. “It’s not ideal. It would be nice to have more viewing, live viewings especially, on players. But I think there’s incredible opportunity here this year.”

Michigan benefited from playing a 26-game season before the second-seeded Wolverines were forced to pull out of the NCAA Tournament following positive tests.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds, Power is the NHL Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked prospect, a fluid skater and playmaker who made the most of the larger European ice surface by helping Canada win a gold medal at the men’s world championships in Latvia.


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