With the 2014 NHL Draft set for June 27-28 in Philadelphia, Kris Baker from SabresProspects.com has meticulously compiled his list of the top 30 players. We'll reveal two players each weekday complete with analysis and video, leading up to the unveiling of Kris' top two picks on June 20.
The full mock draft as it's revealed can be found here.
#30 – TRAVIS SANHEIM
D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
6’ 3”, 181 lbs.
2013-14: 67 games, 5-24-29, 14 PIM
The smooth-skating Sanheim continued his second-half coming out party at the U-18 World Championship, galloping through the neutral zone and joining the rush en route to notching a team-high six assists in seven games for Team Canada. The impressive showing was the continuation of a strong rookie campaign that saw Sanheim post a sparkling plus-25 rating and 29 points (5+24), including 21 after January 1. The Manitoba native followed up with two points (1+1) in Calgary’s first-round playoff loss to Sam Reinhart and the Kootenay Ice.
Sanheim’s defensive game is built on smarts and mobility, much in the same manner that St. Louis Blues defender Jay Bouwmeester goes about his business. He covers a lot of ice in his 6-foot-3 frame, and while not a big hitter, he uses his reach to control gaps and force attackers wide. He’s risk-averse with the puck in his own end, but Sanheim shines when he’s pushing the pace and filling lanes on the rush, much like he did on February 17 when he notched a season-high five helpers versus Red Deer.
Middle-pair NHL potential is in play, and Sanheim looks poised to meet the challenge given two additional junior years to add some upper body bulk to his expansive frame.
#29 – NIKITA SCHERBAK
RW, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
6’ 1”, 175 lbs.
2013-14: 65 games, 28-50-78, 46 PIM
The third-to-last player selected in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, Scherbak exceeded all expectations by leading his team and all WHL rookies with 28 goals and 78 points in his first season of North American hockey. Having a big frame and quick hands helped drive the breakout campaign, but the successful adjustment doesn’t happen without Scherbak’s strong skating, intelligence and willingness to learn the two-way game.
Scherbak’s grit and versatility produced some dominant stretches, and being the marquee player for a Saskatoon team that was near the bottom of the standings all season long afforded him opportunities to adapt to different situations, often against the opposition’s top defensive pair. Scherbak sees the ice extremely well, and as the season progressed, the Russian used his size and acceleration more and more to dig in and take the puck to the net himself. The Blades coaching staff also lauded his commitment to becoming a reliable worker in all three zones.
It’s tough to determine how high of a level Scherbak can take his game, but the encouraging game-over-game improvement displayed virtually all season garnered enough attention to command a late first-round grade.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s website, sabresprospects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @sabresprospects for in-game updates throughout the season on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.