"The Buffalo Sabres select ______ _____ from ___________."
Will new Sabres GM Jason Botterill be one of those guys who does the whole "We want to say hi to our fans watching from 716 Food and Sport back in Buffalo" or will he take after his predecessor and just announce the pick with a subdued look?
We will more than likely find out on June 23 at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago. The Sabres hold the eighth overall pick and assuming they don't make a trade, they have plenty of options with their first selection. As the draft rapidly approaches we'll look at some intriguing prospects for the Sabres and break down what they bring to the table. Buckle up, it's going to be a fun few weeks.
Center/Wing, Tri-City Americans, Western Hockey League
6'5", 200 pounds
This will surely sound crazy, but imagine a center almost the exact same size as Rasmus Ristolainen barreling down the middle of the ice. Rasmussen is an inch taller than the Sabres blueliner and the two are nearly the exact same weight -- so yeah, the 18-year-old hybrid forward is big and knows how to use his size as an advantage.
He describes himself as a big, power forward who isn't afraid to get into the dirty areas of the ice, but isn't that what every tall forward says about themselves?
Last year in the WHL Rasmussen came out of the gate firing, scoring four goals in Tri-City's first game of the season. He eventually cooled off, but no need to fret just yet, Rasmussen finished the year with a solid 32 goals and 23 assists (55 points) in 50 games played.
Here's where things get a bit dicey. Of Rasmussen's 32 goals, 15 of them came while his team was on the power play. That certainly inflates his stats, but some players just benefit that much more when they have that extra bit or time and space.
As far as five-on-five production goes, Rasmussen was in the middle of the pack when you look at the other players in the WHL, which is why some scouts and analysts think he may slide to the bottom of the first round on June 23 in Chicago.
This probably isn't a fair comparison, but when you look at Rasmussen the first player that comes to my mind is Lawson Crouse. Remember him from the Eichel draft? It's okay if you don't, but the 6'4" winger put up similar numbers in the OHL the year he was drafted. In his first year with the Arizona Coyotes, Crouse only found the back of the net five times in 72 games. By no means would it be fair to say that Crouse was a bad pick, he's still only 19-years-old, but a few more goals in his rookie campaign would've been nice.
Rasmussen, like so many other players in this draft, is an intriguing player because of his upside. It's not every day that a team has a chance to add a 6'5" forward who thrives on the power play and skates well.
Not many draft analysts will say that the big-bodied forward will be a first line franchise center for years to come. His skillset and size project him to be a player every team would want on their top-three lines, but is that worthy of a top-ten pick?
With the eighth overall pick I think there are more intriguing options for the Sabres, but if they explore a trade down into the middle of the first round, Rasmussen would be a pretty nice value pick. Like so many players in this draft, if not all of them, Rasmussen needs a few years of developing. If a team can wait on him and let him get a few more years in WHL/AHL, he could prove to be a value to any NHL team down the line.
Check out his highlights in the video above (courtesy: Tri-City Americans)