Vancouver, BC (WGR 550) -- Just like the NFL Draft fell perfectly for the Bills to draft Ed Oliver, the NHL Draft fell almost perfectly for the Sabres to grab Dylan Cozens.
Jack Hughes went No. 1 to New Jersey and then the Rangers snagged Kaapo Kakko. Chicago didn't take Alex Turcotte and instead went for Kirby Dach. Buffalo would've loved for Turcotte to drop to them, but the Kings took him with the fifth pick. Detroit went totally off the wall just like the Raiders did for the Bills. The Red Wings selected defenseman Moritz Seider leaving Buffalo with three great choices.
Cole Caufield would've been a great choice and he fell all the way to 15 and Montreal. Trevor Zegras would've been another great pick and he went ninth to Anaheim, but Cozens was still there and the Sabres would've been foolish to pass him up.
Cozens had 34 goals and 50 assists for 84 points in 68 games with Lethbridge of the WHL. The biggest thing I hear about him is his work ethic. Almost anybody I talked to about him brings it up.
He's not afraid to go to the dirty areas around the net and he'll only get stronger as he grows into his body. The fact that he can play center or wing at least gives him a shot to make the Sabres this year, although Jason Botterill seems like he'd discourage it, "You always want your players to come in and have that belief and we're certainly going to give him that opportunity, but I've been on record saying that's there's probably one or two maybe three players that will step in and play in the National Hockey League this upcoming year.
"Probably the best thing for any player is probably to go back to junior and have another year of development, but we'll see how the summer goes. He's got great size and a great frame, but he certainly does have to get stronger and it's certainly a big jump to the National Hockey League from junior."
I was shocked that Cozens was still there for Buffalo at seven. Ralph Krueger told me he was too, but Botterill, not so much, "We were excited and we were happy, but I wouldn't say surprised. It was an excellent draft and it's also why you didn't see a lot of trades today because people were excited with what they picked and they knew they were going to be getting a good player."
There are many things that the Sabres scouts like about Cozens. Botterill said, "Size, speed and it's not just speed, it's the way he plays, he pushes the pace quite a bit out there.
"He has versatility playing center, playing wing, his ability to play a two-way game and if you look at our report trail with him all year it was the Hlinka in August, throughout the year, the teens at the end of the year, he was very consistent from that standpoint."
As Caufield was falling, I was wondering if Botterill was trying to move up. He said, "Not a lot from 31. We did try a little bit from seven, but teams were excited about making their selections there."
"I think it was just sheer coincidence and I'll admit, later round picks I have a bias, I think they take longer and there's probably going to be more of a focus on college kids and European kids for those mid to late round picks.
"For early round picks, there's so many talented Canadian kids, especially in the CHL, so I'll just say, there's no bias, my head amateur scout came from Hockey Canada and we believe in the model in the CHL and we think it's a great development model and the fact that two of our selections, Pekar and Luukkanen, we worked to get them to the CHL after we drafted them."
I don't know much about their other first round pick in Ryan Johnson. I made some calls to some scouts I know and the consensus was he's good in the transition game meaning he'll get the puck out with ease, but he won't put up points. He's also an excellent skater and defends well. Botterill said, "He's a very good athlete, a very good skater, has that ability to play well in his defensive zone and play against other team's top players, but he also has sense from a puck movement ability."
Johnson's father Craig played 557 NHL games with Washington, Toronto, Anaheim, Los Angeles and St. Louis. He was the Blues second-round pick in the 1990 draft and was taken two picks later than his son at 33. This is the pick Buffalo got from St. Louis for Ryan O'Reilly.
As we head into Day Two on Saturday, Buffalo does not have a pick in the second round. That went to Carolina in the Jeff Skinner deal.
Buffalo has a third-round pick and San Jose's fourth-round pick which could transfer over to 2020 and be a third-round pick. The Sharks haven't made that choice yet. Buffalo's fourth-round pick went to Pittsburgh for Conor Sheary.
The Sabres don't have a fifth-round pick, it has three sixth-round picks and one seventh-round selection.
The fifth-round pick went to Detroit for Scott Wilson. Buffalo got one extra sixth from Winnipeg for Nate Beaulieu. The blue and gold have Toronto's sixth-round pick for trading them a sixth round pick in last year's draft.
Day 2 of the NHL draft gets underway at 1:00.