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NHL Draft experts answer your Draft questions

Possible first-round picks by Sabres, Oilers, Canucks among topics

by Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale / Staff Writers

BUFFALO -- The 2016 NHL Scouting Combine has come and gone and it's time to prepare for the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on June 24-25.

We asked fans to submit questions via Twitter using #NHLDraft, and said we would answer them at the end of the combine.

Here are the top four questions we received during the week:

If Sarnia defenseman Jakob Chychrun and Mississauga left wing Alexander Nylander are both available at No. 8 in the NHL Draft, who should the Buffalo Sabres select? -- @ballcappin06

Morreale: I feel Jakob Chychrun is the choice here. He did nothing to disappoint after entering the season with a big bull's-eye on his back as one of the premier prospects in the Ontario Hockey League. He has good foot speed and defensive-zone coverage, and doesn't make many mistakes. He plays in all situations and stops the top players. From what I've heard, the knock on Chychrun might be the fact that he didn't influence many games this season when he's supposed to be an impact player, but he proved consistent and I like his demeanor on and off the ice. He reminds me a lot of Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith because he can play in many situations, has a bit of feistiness in his game and is one of the most fluid defensive skaters of this draft class. He's a leader in every sense and will be an effective NHL player for many years.

Video: NHL Draft prospect Jakob Chychrun

Kimelman: Alexander Nylander is a rare talent and would be pretty tough to pass on. Chychrun has a ton of talent as well, but the Sabres are well-stocked on defense now and for the future. Rasmus Ristolainen is 21 but looks like a franchise defenseman; Mark Pysyk is 24 and entering his prime; Jake McCabe is 22 and had a solid first season; and Brendan Guhle nearly made the Sabres as an 18-year-old, had a strong season with Prince Albert in the Western Hockey League and should push for a roster spot in 2016-17. Nylander stepped into the OHL and led the league's rookies with 75 points in 57 games. He also dominated playing for Sweden at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. With the depth down the middle the Sabres have, Nylander would give Ryan O'Reilly, Jack Eichel and Zemgus Girgensons a quality scoring option. 

Can the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks really pass up an opportunity to add one of the top defensemen in this class? -- @syphrtech

Morreale: With the No. 4 selection, the Oilers certainly could pass on drafting a defenseman because a defenseman might not be the best available player in that slot. The Oilers have a few young defensemen in the system in Griffin Reinhart, Ethan Bear and David Musil. What they could use down the road is that tenacious type of left wing who would be able to create space and even more scoring opportunities for top-line center Connor McDavid. London's Matthew Tkachuk would be a perfect fit for that role. Tkachuk has proven his ability alongside other great players. He was with Auston Matthews for two seasons in USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, and then had much success with Mitchell Marner and Christian Dvorak in London this season. Tkachuk is a special player because he can do so many things well. His hockey sense is really high-end, and from the faceoff circles down in the offensive end he's one of the most dangerous players in the draft. He won't win a race but he'll earn his money in the offensive zone.

Video: NHL Draft prospect Matthew Tkachuk

Kimelman: The Canucks had two defensemen 26 or younger play more than 50 games this season: 26-year-old Christopher Tanev (69) and 23-year-old Ben Hutton (75). They need to get younger and more mobile on defense, and there are a number of defensemen that should be available at No. 5 that could help them. London's Olli Juolevi probably has the most offensive upside of top defenders available and a number of scouts have spoken highly of his hockey IQ. Chychrun didn't have the most impressive offensive numbers this season but one scout said that was more because of the talent around him with Sarnia. Put him with the talent Juolevi had around him in London and Chychrun would have had 25 more points. He makes smart passes and can skate the puck out of trouble. Could the Canucks pass on a defenseman at No. 5? Certainly. Should they? I wouldn't. 

How about an NHL Scouting Combine question? I'm curious if the prospects care about where they score/rate on the tests? -- @LynseyStepan

Morreale: I think the players realize that the NHL Scouting Combine won't make or break them come draft day. The combine provides NHL teams more information other than just what scouts might have seen of that player on the ice. Players are excited to have interviews with interested teams and are happy to be sharing the experience, for the most part, with other players of similar caliber. The players just look to do their best; that's all that matters and that's all the scouts and general managers want to see. The bottom line is players know that teams will not say that this particular player was the hardest worker at the combine because he rode a bicycle very fast and for a long time. Teams just don't get into that, and players know it.

Kimelman: Of course the players care! They're ultra-competitive; that's a big reason they're as talented as they are. I'm sure Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk, friends and teammates from their time with the NTDP, compared results, and if one did markedly better than the other in any particular event, there certainly will be some good-natured chirping going on. And I'm sure they weren't the only ones comparing numbers. Does the amount of reps on the bench press or who did more pull-ups matter in how their NHL careers go? Of course not. But when two draft-eligible friends are working out during the offseason, will it come up? Absolutely. 

How big a difference in upside is there between Patrik Laine, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's ranking of international skaters, and Jesse Puljujarvi, No. 3 on the list? -- @EricSmithHockey

Morreale: Though Puljujarvi might be a little better skater than Laine, the latter has a much better set of skills. Laine has better hands and a better shot. I believe his hockey sense is better and he is much more physical than Puljujarvi. Laine wants to play like Alex Ovechkin. He wants to shoot and score like Ovechkin, and he certainly is on that path. He has an NHL-caliber shot. In addition to all the success he had this season in Liiga and on an international level, he will represent Finland at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey as an 18-year-old, and that's remarkable.

Video: Patrik Laine's upper-body test at the NHL Combine

Kimelman: What do Jaromir Jagr, Eric Lindros and Wayne Gretzky have in common with Jesse Puljujarvi? Puljujarvi had 17 points in seven games for Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, tying Lindros (1991) and Gretzky (1978) for the second most by an under-18 player; Jagr had 18 in 1990. A knee injury cost Puljujarvi time late in the season. It also kept him out of the World Championship and likely off the World Cup team. He's big, fast, strong, and has shown he can dominate against players his age and do very well against older players. He's difficult to get the puck off of, can drive to the net and score or set up his linemates. He's also got more of a 200-foot game than Laine. Laine is a dynamic scorer, but Puljujarvi might have a more well-rounded game.

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