Olivier Nadeau has stayed busy since signing his three-year, entry-level contract with the Sabres last month.
Nadeau, a fourth-round pick by the Sabres in 2021, played a key role in helping lead the Shawinigan Cataractes to a QMJHL championship earlier in June. Last week, he was invited to Canada's National Junior Team summer development camp, which will be held in July.
Nadeau and Shawinigan will now play for the Memorial Cup, the top prize in Canadian junior hockey. The tournament - consisting of the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL champions along with host team Saint John - begins tonight in Saint John, New Brunswick.
The Cataractes play their first game against the WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings on Tuesday. Find the full schedule here.
Nadeau is one of five players from Buffalo's 2021 draft class to have already signed his entry-level deal, along with defenseman Owen Power (Round 1) and fellow forwards Isak Rosen (Round 1), Aleksandr Kisakov (Round 2), and Josh Bloom (Round 3).
With the Sabres set to make another 11 picks in the NHL Draft on July 7 and 8, Sabres.com spoke with director of player development Adam Mair to catch up on the 11-man Class of 2021.
Owen Power (Round 1, 1st overall)
Power had hinted prior to the draft that he planned to return for his sophomore season at the University of Michigan, a path the Sabres supported.
The decision proved to be fruitful from a development standpoint. Power was dominant in the NCAA, stood out in a shortened World Juniors, and - with NHL players unable to attend - was able to suit up in a top-pair role for Team Canada at the Beijing Olympics.
When he joined the Sabres upon the conclusion of Michigan's season, he was poised and ready for the moment. He tallied three points (2+1) and exceeded 20 minutes of ice time in all but one of his eight NHL games.
Video: BUF@NJD: Power nets a slick pass from Skinner for 1st
"I was really impressed with the way that he acclimated to the (NHL) game, to the speed, to the size," Mair said. "For me, we were all very hopeful that that would be the case and that was sort of our internal expectations. But until a young player gets there, you don't know."
Isak Rosen (Round 1, 14th overall)
Rosen saw limited opportunity as an 18-year-old with Leksands of the SHL, the top professional league in Sweden. He averaged 7:53 in 28 games with the club, tallying four points (2+2).
He was eventually loaned to Mora of Sweden's second-tier league, Hockey Allsvenskan, where he had a goal and an assist in two games prior to sustaining a season-ending injury.
Rosen signed his entry-level contract on May 31, opening the door for the talented forward to potentially play in North America next season.
"He can really shoot the puck," Mair said. "He can skate, and he's got offensive abilities. So, when I think about how he can impact games, he can do that with his shot and with his offensive skills. That's the kind of player he is. He's effective off the rush, he's dangerous off the rush, he can score from distance. And that's something that's really hard to teach. So, we're excited about him long-term."
Prokhor Poltapov (Round 2, 33rd overall)
Poltapov split the season between three levels in Russia. He played 17 games in a limited role with CSKA Moscow of the KHL, had seven points (3+4) in 25 contests in the second-tier VHL, and had 15 points (5+10) in 13 games in Russia's junior league.
"He reminds me of the type of player who can move around your lineup, play in all situations," Mair said. "Complement a skilled line, but also complement the type of line that can shut down skilled players. So, he's got a really unique bag of tools that makes us excited."
Aleksandr Kisakov (Round 2, 53rd overall)
Kisakov spent the season in Russia's junior league, where he had 56 points (26+30) in 51 games. He signed his entry-level deal on May 25.
"Aleksandr is extremely agile, loves to have the puck on his stick, has a very good offensive mind, an incredible passer," Mair said. "So, he's a player that, as he comes into his body, should be able to continue to contribute offensively."
Stiven Sardarian (Round 3, 88th overall)
Sardarian - Poltapov's former teammate with CSKA Moscow - made the jump from Russia to North America last season, which he spent with the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms.
He tallied 25 points (8+17) in 46 games while acclimating to new surroundings.
"He took language classes at Youngstown State University and by the end of the year was able to have good conversations with myself and our development staff," Mair said. "… For all these players that are coming over and learning a new language, it's difficult."
Sardarian is slated to begin his NCAA career next season with the University of New Hampshire.
"The way we see him is as a guy that is very smart and very skilled and can provide some secondary offense," Mair said. "… He's got a unique skill set, for sure. Loves to have the puck, loves to make plays. And we're excited for him."
Josh Bloom (Round 3, 95th overall)
Bloom led the OHL's Saginaw Spirit with 30 goals and finished second on the team with 61 points. He was rewarded with an entry-level contract in April, after which he joined the Rochester Americans on an amateur tryout for the end of their season.
While Bloom's role in Rochester was limited to practice and training, the organization saw it as invaluable experience for the 19-year-old.
"I think that's a big part of development for these guys is learning how pros go about their day, learning how they warm up, how they work out, what they put in their body, what they do before games, how they go about their daily routine," Mair said. "Josh was here and took all that in and learned a lot. He's got a bright future ahead of him."
Bloom was selected along with Nadeau for Canada's National Junior Team summer development camp.
Olivier Nadeau (Round 4, 95th overall)
Nadeau led Shawinigan with 78 points (35+43) during the regular season and added 16 points (4+12) in 16 playoff contests during the Cataractes' run to the championship.
"That's a very, very difficult trophy to win and he's been a huge part of that team," Mair said of the 6-foot-2 forward. "He plays on the top line, he plays on the penalty kill, he's first-unit power play, and he's the kind of guy that gets around the net front, controls pucks down low.
"What I would say is he does a lot of the dirty work on the line but also can complement skilled players. He's got sense, he's got great hands, and he's very, very good around the net. So, the kind of player and identity that all teams need and it's very unique."
Viljami Marjala (Round 5, 159th overall)
Marjala had 46 points (13+33) in 68 games with the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts, alternating between the first and second power-play units and the second and third forward lines on the league's top team during the regular season.
"He's extremely skilled and extremely smart," Mair said. "He's got long reach, long body, a guy that likes to make plays not unlike Sardarian. So, he's a guy that projects as bringing offense or having the ability to bring offense at the next level, and another player that is dedicated to the game and to the sport."
"…Like a lot of these players, he still needs to add mass and strength to his frame and that's one of the things that we've really been working on with him on this year is just connecting him with our strength and conditioning team."
William von Barnekow-Lofberg (Round 6, 161st overall)
Von Barnekow-Lofberg, the tallest member of this class at 6-foot-3, saw limited ice time in 27 games with Malmo of the SHL. He was productive in 27 contests with Malmo's J-20 team, tallying 31 points (11+20).
"He plays center and that's certainly appealing, a guy with a big body that has a good skill set and can play up the middle," Mair said. "We're hopeful that he's able to play at the SHL level full-time next year. But overall, a real productive season at the junior level and also he was able to get his feet wet at the SHL level."
Nikita Novikov (Round 6, 188th overall)
Novikov spent the bulk of last season playing at the KHL level with Dynamo Moscow, where he had four points (1+3) in 32 games. He was also selected to Russia's World Juniors team as an 18-year-old, playing a pair of contests before the tournament was postponed due to COVID-19.
"The fact that he was a regular at the KHL level as a defenseman I think just speaks to how they value him and what they think of him, and we do the same way," Mair said of the 6-foot-4 defenseman.
"He's big, he's smart with the puck, and he has very gritty style to his play. When you watch the playoffs now, especially in the Cup Final, you see that - defensemen who are big and mean around the net, they're hard to get through."
Tyson Kozak (Round 7, 193rd overall)
Kozak ranked third on the WHL's Portland Winterhawks with 32 goals and fourth with 69 points, where he played the role of top-line center.
"It was an excellent year for him," Mair said. "The type of player that, for me, brings a really, really good blend of grit and two-way play. He's physical. Right now, he doesn't weigh a lot, but when you see him play and he runs into guys, there's impact there."