With the 8th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Buffalo Sabres have selected blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen.
I’ll be honest: I’m surprised the Sabres passed up on the chance to pick Russian power forward Valeri Nichushkin. No doubt, the Sabres defense needs some help – but there are some quality defenders who would have still been available when the Sabres use their second pick at the number 16 spot. The Sabres need offense, too, and they need to appease a fan base that booed the team liberally at times last season. A defenseman who might not make the team for 2-3 years is not going to bring fans to the First Niagara Center; a player like Nichushkin would have . . .
. . . if the Russian remained in the NHL, instead of fleeing back to Russia, which is probably a large part of the reason why the Ssbres passed on him.
So what do the Sabres get in Rasmus Ristolainen? They get a good sized – 6’3″, just under 200 lbs. – blueliner who can lay the hammer down on his opponents. They also get a defenseman who can contribute to their offense, someone who might eventually be able to quarterback their power play. Here’s what Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb had to say about the Finn:
“He’s a mobile, strong, offensive-minded defenseman with very good puck-handling and passing skills. He’s young, but he knows how to use his size and strength. He’s one of the best young defensemen in Europe in his age group. He’s a leader on the ice and plays with confidence.” [Courtesy of NHL.com]
Nothing against Ristolainen, but it’s hard not to be disappointed with this pick. Even if the Sabres didn’t want to take a risk on Nichushkin, they still could have boosted their offense by grabbing a player like Bo Horvat or the crushing Max Domi. Picking a defenseman offer up further proof that the Sabres just don’t understand how to put a winning team together. Time will tell, but right now, I’m stunned.
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