The Sabres went from a tall goalie to a Czech forward on Day 2 of the NHL Draft

Director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski talks about the newest Sabres draftees

Paul Hamilton
June 22, 2019 - 6:37 pm

Photo: Paul Hamilton (@pham1717)

Vancouver, BC (WGR 550) - The Sabres made six picks in the 2019 NHL Draft and made two trades to move up.

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Buffalo sent their fourth and sixth round picks to Vancouver for the right to move up in the fourth round and take Aaron Huglen, a Minnesota high school winger.

The Sabres then traded their sixth and seventh round picks to Detroit for the Red Wings' fifth rounder. Buffalo then drafted winger Filip Cederqvist.

Buffalo opened Day 2 by taking 6’ 6” goaltender Erik Portello from Sweden in the third round. Sabres director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski said, “We’ve seen the steps from last year, not getting drafted to this year taking a step and being one of the best goaltenders in the Swedish junior league to the plan of him going to Dubuque next year and then Michigan and it gives us time for him to develop his game and being a big guy and a late bloomer physically, he had to catch up to himself."

Huglen played in high school and for Fargo in the USHL. He scores highlight reel goals, but Jankowski said there’s a lot for him to work on, “With Minnesota high school players it just takes them a little longer. He’s physically immature, but he has the capability of putting on weight and putting on size.

“He’s likely going to go back and play in the USHL and then go into Minnesota, which then it’ll be time for him where he’ll gain confidence.”

Most of the Sabres' Day 2 picks weren’t in attendance, but sixth round pick Lukas Rousek was. Jankowski said as the season went on, they liked him more and more, “Lukas had a great year in the Czech Elite League, he had a tremendous second half and was his team’s leading scorer in the playoffs and our scout in the Czech Republic was extremely passionate about him.

“He’s a very well rounded player, but the skill and the offense at the end of the season gave us a hint that there’s some skill and offense there.” Rousek is 20-years-old.

On Day 1, Dylan Cozens dropped to the Sabres at seventh overall. Jankowski knows anything can happen at the draft and usually does, “That’s where we’re so prepared, we’ve looked at different scenarios and as much as we say we’re not going to do a mock draft, we still have ideas in our mind of what could happen."

Jack Eichel is, of course, the Sabres' top center for years to come, but Jankowski likes where Cozens will fit in, “He’s going to be a good centermen in the NHL and this organization with Jack and Casey and Dylan, it gives us great options, so we think he’s a guy that’s going to produce some offense, while playing a well rounded, 200-foot game with good size. He still has the frame to fill out, but it gives us good depth at the center position.”

Buffalo’s other Day 1 pick was taken at 31. Ryan Johnson is an American defenseman. Jankowski said, “We think the offensive upside is still being developed. He had that as a younger player. Didn’t have a ton of numbers in the USHL. I call him a new-aged defenseman, he skates extremely well, he moves the puck extremely well, he defends with his brain, he’s not overly rugged, but he does have this grit every now and then and that showed in the playoffs this year, so I like the well-roundedness of him.

“As much as it played out one through five, the sixth may have been a pick that we weren’t expecting, but still to have Dylan there at seven was huge for us and it was a player that we really coveted.”

Jankowski has a big say at the draft table and he has a way he handles his staff, “That’s the focus of our group that we have to stay in the now and don’t play GM. Assess the talent, look at what the talent brings, feed us the information, we make decisions on the upside of the player, the potential of the player and then at the end of the day, management really has to make the final decision on what this organization needs.”

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