Having covered the top three prospects in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, I now turn my attention to the fourth, fifth, and sixth prospects. If I find the odds of the Buffalo Sabres moving into the top three to be nil, I can go on the record as saying that there actually IS a snowball’s chance in hell that the Sabres could make a trade that would move them up to this point of the draft. And let me tell you something you may already know, Sabres fans: there would be no shame in picking fourth in this draft, as odds are the Sabres would be using that pick to land
Valeri Nichushkin, Forward
Let’s be honest: there are some risks in picking Nichushkin, so some people may shy away from him and go after one of the next two guys I discuss in this post. If Nichushkin doesn’t make an NHL team right away, and/or if things don’t go as well as he would like, there’s talk that the talented Russian might pack up his toys and return to the KHL, so yes – there are cons to picking this kid.
The pros, however, outweigh the cons – he is 6’4″, weighs right about 200 pounds, promises to be a physically dominant winger and already has a polished offensive game – and in the case of the Buffalo Sabres, there is always the hope that having him join a system that includes fellow Russian Mikhail Grigorenko will lessen the chances of Nichushkin fleeing back to the KHL.
Why the Sabres Will Draft Nichushkin
Have you been paying attention? The Sabres need offense AND a dominant power forward, and if Nichushkin can adapt to the shortenend ice of the NHL he has the potential to give the Sabres both of those things with just one pick in the draft. His speed and stick-handling skills are going to give the Sabres a lethal scoring weapon for years to come.
Why the Sabres Would Pass on Nichushkin
Two reasons: the fear of him fleeing back to Russia, and the fact that his stock has risen based solely on his potential, not his actual production. Sure, he performed well in the 2013 Under-18 World Championships (4-3-7) and the 2013 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge (5-4-9), but his numbers in the KHL last season were not eye-popping, even if some of his goals scored were. In other words, he’s not a sure-fire thing, and do the Sabres want to take a risk in this rebuild?