Buffalo Sabres 2019 NHL Draft Rankings: June Edition

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JUNE 03: National Hockey League prospect Jack Hughes speaks with the media at Enterprise Center on June 03, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JUNE 03: National Hockey League prospect Jack Hughes speaks with the media at Enterprise Center on June 03, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Jack Hughes
Jack Hughes #6 of United States against Slovakia during the IIHF World Junior Championships at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

There’s been a lot of talk as of late as to who is the best prospect in this draft. Kaapo Kakko has made a furious run at the top spot, but Hughes is still going to be the top name in the rankings as far as we’re concerned.

Hughes has consistently been a solid contributor this season. Whether it was with The Program, at the World Juniors, or representing the United States at the World Championships, he had good outings.

"“Jack is an elite skater who plays the game at top speed both with and without the puck, he sees the ice tremendously well and finds open space to create scoring chances. He has a complete package of skills that suggest he will be a franchise NHL player and game-changer.” – Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting"

The dynamic American finished the year with two points per game in play against USHL opponents as well as 52 points in 26 exhibition contests.

While he might not get off to as good of a start as Kakko in the NHL next season, he’ll only get better with time. Every team in the league could use a pivot with the incredible talent that Hughes possesses.

Buffalo Sabes
Kaapo Kakko #24 of Finland celebrates after scoring what proved to be the game winning goal against the United States in Gold Medal hockey action of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship on January, 5, 2019 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

If Kakko’s record season in the Finnish top flight didn’t give fans enough of a snapshot of what he’ll be in the NHL, he was fantastic at the World Championships, scoring six goals in 10 games.

With TPS, he put up the most goals by a teenager in Liiga history as well as the third-best point total by a 17-year-old.

"“An NHL-ready player who has honed his craft against pros, Kakko is good in all areas of the ice with few noticeable weaknesses.” – Chris Peters, ESPN"

There’s no doubt that Kakko will be playing in the NHL next season. The bigger question is where he’ll be playing. There’s still a chance that New Jersey takes him with the first pick. If they do go with Hughes, however, the New York Rangers could have next year’s Rookie of the Year fall to them at No. 2.

Buffalo Sabres
National Hockey League prospect Bowen Byram speaks with the media at Enterprise Center. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It’s been a steady rise up draft boards for Byram, whose play has only improved as the season has gone on.

After finishing with under half a point per game in his first WHL campaign, Byram came out this year and finished top 10 in scoring among CHL defenders with 71 points in 67 games. He followed up his stellar regular season with eight goals and 26 points in 22 postseason contests.

"“[Byram] was Vancouver’s best player, and if he wasn’t their best player he was their second-best player, because he impacted play every night. He’s a physically strong player, thinks the game so well and has a little bit of that nasty stick and push back in his game.” – Josh Williams, NHL Central Scouting"

There is no doubt that the Cranbrook, B.C., native is the best blue-liner that this draft has to offer. Teams picking in the top five can always use top-level defenders, and Byram looks to be a lock to be off the board early.

Buffalo Sabres
National Hockey League prospect Alex Turcotte speaks with the media at Enterprise Center. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Talk about a big performance this season. Unlike others that are featured in the top 10, Turcotte earned his spot in these rankings after only being able to play half the season due to injury.

He dominated against teams in the USHL this year, finishing with 12 goals and 34 points in 16 games. He also had 28 points in 21 games of exhibition action with The Program.

"“Across-the-board talent with a smart and efficient style. Great offensive instincts, quick acceleration and already the most complete two-way player in the crop. A constant battler, with underrated puck skills.” – Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects"

Turcotte also followed up his stellar regular season with a nine-point showing in the U-18 tournament.

There are several teams in the top 10 that will be looking for help down the middle, and after Hughes is off the board within the first two picks, his USNTDP teammate will be the best available due to his solid play in every zone.

The USNTDP has become one of the best breeding grounds for top-end talent in the world, but 2019 could be their most impressive class, as up to four of their players could go in the top 10.

Zegras has played up and down the lineup for the Program over the last year. He’s featured on the wing with both Hughes and Turcotte. He’s also spent time on the team’s fourth line.

He had 40 points in 27 USHL games as well as 47 points in 33 exhibition contests.

He also managed nine assists in five games for the United States in the U-18 World Championships. He didn’t have a goal, but the job he did in distributing the puck definitely didn’t go unnoticed.

"“Zegras marries stellar hockey sense, which allows him to anticipate the flow of the game and create plays, with high-end acceleration and puck skills. He’s also effective in his own zone, using that hockey sense to limit opponents’ opportunities.” – Hannah Stuart, theScore"

His versatility will be a plus for a team picking early in the draft. Zegras will be headed to Boston University for at least a year. We’ll have to wait and see if he leaves following his freshman year.

There are a lot of teams that will be looking for help down the middle in this draft, and he’s a player that’ll be highly sought after. Don’t expect him to be sitting in the stands for very long.