(Mats Lindgren with his press conference)
By Warren Kozireski —
MONTREAL — After their haul of three forwards in the first-round on day one of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, the Buffalo Sabres continued to stockpile prospects with eight more selections on day two. Five of those have played their junior hockey overseas and, as has become customary for the team, the last three hail from Sweden.
In the second round, the Sabres were the first to select a goaltender in NHL Central Scouting’s top-rated European-based goaltender, 6’5”, 233 lb. Topias Leinonen, who led Finland to a bronze medal at the 2022 Under-18 World Championship with a 3-2-0 record, a 2.61 GAA and a .897 save percentage.
“We fell like he’s just scratching the surface…we think he’s an athletic kid with a lot of upside and just a smart goalie,” Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting Jerry Forton said. “And I will add that there was a major gap on our list to the next goalie.”
Their third-round pick—74th overall—was Viktor Neuchev, a forward who scored 40 goals for Avto Yekaterinburg of the MHL in Russia last season and finished with 67 points in 61 games.
Buffalo went defense in the fourth round with Mats Lindgren of the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL. The offensive blueliner recorded 44 points in games last year and added seven assists in the 2022 WHL Playoffs to help Kamloops advance to the Western Conference Championship.
“It got a little antsy—you always see these lists and kind of where you’re projected, but I was sitting there waiting, but just hearing my name was tremendous and you get the feeling of happiness for all the work you put in all these years,” Lindgren said.
“I think in the playoffs I showed that I can play a two-way game and before the season I was more of an offensive defenseman, but I think I proved as the season went along that I can play both sides.”
Lindgren’s father, Mats played 387 NHL seasons with Edmonton, the New York Islanders and Vancouver,
In the fifth round, defenseman Vsevolod Komarov was the 134th overall pick. The 6’2”, 182 lb. Russian registered 19 points in 60 games for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL last year.
Buffalo had two selections in both the sixth and seventh rounds and started with forward Jake Richard of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. The University of Connecticut commit recorded 48 points in 56 games and was second among USHL rookies with 30 assists.
They then took Swedish forward Gustav Karlsson with their second selection of the sixth round. Karlsson scored 31 goals in 41 games for Orebro HK of the J20 league, which tied for second among all skaters. He finished the regular season with 48 points and added six points in five playoff games.
The Sabres stayed in Sweden with their final two selections. Joel Ratkovic Berndtsson was Buffalo’s first pick of the seventh round. He posted 22 goals and 49 points in 47 games for Frolunda’s junior team.
They used their final pick to select overage forward Linus Sjodin, who played 49 games in the SHL, recording 11 points in 49 games and added five goals in eight games with Rogle’s junior team.
“It was a big day for us; we had a plan and the work was done for a long time going into the draft, but as you get later in the rounds, I’m looking for passion…and I think we found that,” General Manager Kevyn Adams said.
(Sabres Photo By Koz)