Jankowski liked how the NHL Draft panned out for the Sabres

The Sabres' director of amateur scouting joined Howard and Jeremy to recap Buffalo's draft in Vancouver

Howard & Jeremy | Weekdays 6a-10a
June 24, 2019 - 12:06 pm

Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NHL Draft came and went this past weekend and it yielded six new prospects for the Buffalo Sabres.

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The Sabres picked center Dylan Cozens and defenseman Ryan Johnson in Friday's first round of the draft, followed by four more selections on Day 2 of the draft in Rounds 2-7.

General manager Jason Botterill showed his ability to wheel and deal on Saturday as the Sabres traded up twice to draft some players that they targeted.

The Sabres traded their fourth round pick and a sixth round pick to the Vancouver Canucks to trade up in the fourth round and select right winger Aaron Huglen from Roseau High School in Minnesota. The Sabres then traded another sixth round pick and their seventh round pick to the Detroit Red Wings in order to move up to the fifth round and select left winger Filip Cederqvist from the Växjö Lakers in the Swedish Hockey League.

The Sabres also selected goalie Erik Portillo in the third round of the draft, and rounded out their selections by taking right winger Lukas Rousek from HC Sparta Prata in the Czech Republic.

Sabres director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski joined the Howard and Jeremy Show on Monday to recap the weekend that was in Vancouver for Buffalo. He says that, for the most part, this year's draft for the Sabres went according to plan.

"You don't really know what's going to happen, especially once you get through pick six or seven," Jankowski said of the first round on Friday. "That kind of proceeded as we thought it might. A couple of guys got taken earlier than we thought, a couple of guys we felt real fortunate to pick. Overall, it panned out as expected as usual."

The Sabres sat with the seventh overall pick in the first round and knew that they were likely to get a very good player with that pick. One player that the Sabres had circled and were happy to have fallen to them was Cozens, who was ranked fifth among North American Skaters on the NHL's Central Scouting list.

Jankowski certainly liked what he had to see in Cozens as the year went on with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the Western Hockey League.

“We love Dylan’s potential,” Jankowski said of the Whitehorse, Yukon native. “He had a great year in Lethbridge. He’s a big man that can skate extremely well. He’s got good offensive abilities, we think that’s only going to develop and improve over time as he gets stronger as he becomes what we call a little bit more ‘hockey mature.’ The fact that he plays a strong 200-foot game with an offensive component at that size at his skating ability makes it really exciting for us.”

Despite gushing over Cozens’ abilities, Jankowski was hesitant to put a timeline on when fans can expect to see him in a Sabres uniform because letting prospects fully grow is a hallmark of Botterill’s system.

“That’s the beauty of for me, Jason Botterill, and our development department is that there’s no rush,” Jankowski said. “We want to make sure that the player is ready to go. He’s ready to play in Buffalo so that he’s not learning under fire and playing a game just to survive.”

As for the second pick in the first round, Jankowski believes that Johnson has developed well over the course of last season, and believes that he is an evolutionary player to today's game.

“Ryan we call a new-age defenseman,” Jankowski said. “He’s a very good skater. He moves the puck extremely well. He’s also grown a lot in the last two years …. For a kid like Ryan whose grown a bit in the last two years. What he does on the ice and his abilities are terrific and that’s what we like about him.”

Despite being compared to a defensive-defenseman, Jankowski said they envision the United States Hockey League defenseman contributing to the offense in the long-term, even though his stats may not reflect his involvement in the Sioux Falls Stampede offense.

"We think he has a byproduct of an offensive game,” Jankowski said. “What I mean by that is that he moves pucks extremely well. He’s got a very good hockey sense. Although he might not drive a lot of offense through numbers, he’s going to be part of the offense for how well he moves the puck.”

Johnson is expected to join the University of Minnesota this fall for his freshman season with the Golden Gophers.

Jankowski also touched base on the goaltender that the team drafted in the third round in Portillo. He spent the past couple of years playing with the Frölunda Under-20 junior team, where this past season he put up a 1.99 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage in 26 regular season games. It is expected that he will be playing in the USHL with Dubuque Fighting Saints next season before suiting up for the University of Michigan at the start of the 2020-21 season. Portillo’s well known development plan is what attracted the Sabres to Portillo.

“We have time with him and he’s going to have time to develop,” said Jankowski. “We saw the upside. We’ve seen the development the last couple years. We like the [development] path. We thought to build our goaltending stable, to get more depth at the position.”

Looking ahead to Sabres Development Camp, Jankowski name dropped a few prospects from this year’s draft and the 2018 NHL Draft that he’s excited to see. That includes forward Matej Pekar, as well as defensemen Mattias Samuelsson and Linus Cronholm. Ultimately, Jankowski said developmental camp is about growing prospects, not assessing them.

“It’s a chance for everyone to just come in and develop,” Jankowski said. “There’s no emphasis on evaluation. It’s about where they’re at physically, it’s about getting a physical plan together for the players, it’s about here’s what the Buffalo Sabres are all about, here’s what important to us. The exciting part is that we get all our prospects in and a chance to kind of grow as an organization.”  

This year's developmental camp takes place from June 26th to the 29th at the Harborcenter.

 You can listen to the entire interview below:

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