By Warren Kozireski —
If a tree falls in a forest, but no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise? Or in hockey terms, if a player enters the annual National Hockey League Entry Draft unranked by any of several scouting services, does he still have the talent to eventually play professional hockey?
The answer to the latter seems to be a resounding “yes” if referring to Buffalo Sabres 2017 third round selection Oskari Laaksonen.
An offensive defenseman who skates well has, since being drafted, put up four goals and 15 points in 40 games with Ilves Under-20 team in Finland and was great during international competition in 2017-18 with five goals and one assist in six games.
This season, the 6’2”, 165 lb. right shot had one goal with seven assists over the first 13 games while playing on the top pair ranking second among the team’s blueliners in ice-time. He netted his first goal on the power play Sept. 21.
“Obviously (I’ve) gained weight and got stronger and more confidence from being a year older,” Laaksonen said after a Buffalo Sabres Prospect Camp game in September.
“It’s great when the coach trusts you in every situation and I just want to make an impact there.”
The market for offensive defensemen may be better than ever elevating the draft ranking of those bearing the skills and even those not ranked among his peers a year and a half ago.
In an organization seemingly now brimming with blueline prospects, the 89th overall selection may seem unassuming, but is out to prove all of the scouts who left him off their 2017 draft list dead wrong—in time.
“Obviously I’m trying to prove myself and try not to be nervous and play my game and be myself. My main goal for this year is getting to the (Under-20) World Juniors.”