Sаbreѕ Cаn Addreѕѕ аn Orɡаnizаtionаl Need With 11th Piсk

We’re just over a month away from Round 1 of the 2024 NHL Entry Draft (June 28), and the Buffalo Sabres will select in the top-15 for the 13th straight year. Given the fact that the Sabres have a loaded prospect pool with many talented forwards, the club has an opportunity to address the organizational need for more right-shot defensemen with this pick. That said, it appears as though the Sabres have a good one in Vsevolod Komarov who was recently named the QMJHL’s Defenseman of the Year. Outside of Komarov, there isn’t much at that position in the organization. Here are three options for the Sabres at 11th overall.

Carter Yakemchuk – RD, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Big, right-handed blueliners are hard to find these days, and Yakemchuk may be the best option available after the likes of Artyom Levshunov and Zayne Parekh. The Calgary native spent the last three seasons with his hometown junior team and was able to improve significantly year after year. Our colleague at THW, Peter Baracchini weighs in on Yakemchuk:

“He plays at a great level of pace as a modern-day puck-moving defenseman, but it’s his decision-making with the puck and thinking at a quick rate that stands out. He can easily take control of a shift and attack with such force.”

Peter Baracchini – 03/07/2024

The 18-year-old followed up his 19-goal season (2022-23) with 30 goals in the 2023-24 campaign while playing in all situations for the Hitmen. The 6-foot-3 defender would be a great addition to the Sabres.

Adam Jiricek – RD, Plzen HC (Czech Extraliga)

The younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets’ blueliner David Jiricek stands at 6-foot-2 and is ranked fourth among international skaters according to the NHL Draft Rankings. Due to a lack of production and an injury at the World Juniors, Jiricek at 11 could be seen as a bit of a reach by the Sabres, but because they have so many prospects in their system, they could afford to take on this kid as a project.

Also, if there’s a chance for him to become a similar player to his older brother who had 19 points in 29 American Hockey League games this season, then you’d be well advised to take the chance. The last Czech-born player taken in the first round was Jiri Kulich and so far, that looks like a good decision.

Henry Mews – RD, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Once again, we enter into project territory with Henry Mews if he were to be selected 11th overall by the Sabres. A puck-moving defender who was almost a point-per-game player in the Ontario Hockey League this season (61 points in 65 games), he still has work to do according to Steven Ellis of Daily Faceoff:

“He’s as impressive with the puck as you’ll find among OHL defenders, but it’s easy to notice that he only started playing defense a few years ago. That’s because he’s so dominant with the puck and makes his own-zone play a lesser priority. If he can clean that up, he’ll be a steal.”

Steven Ellis – 03/09/2024

Steal is the key word here because we’ve seen the Sabres steal players at the draft table before, and you can’t help but think of former 67 Jack Quinn as one of them in 2020. Could the Sabres do it again with another Ottawa 67? Potentially.

We know that the Sabres are disappointed to be selecting high in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft yet again, but with their prospect pipeline and a roster that’s ready to take the next step, they have an opportunity to do something different with this pick. We’ll see what general manager Kevyn Adams has up his sleeve on June 28.

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