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Botterill, Jankowski recap Day 2 of the NHL Draft

Sabres rounded out draft with four picks on Saturday

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

VANCOUVER - In the eyes of Sabres director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski and his staff, Day 2 of the NHL Draft was an illustration of prioritizing quality over quantity. 

The Sabres entered Saturday with six picks: one in Round 3, another in Round 4, three in Round 6 and one in Round 7. They packaged a pair of picks to move up on two occasions, first to select forward Aaron Huglen in the fourth round and then to draft another forward, Filip Cederqvist, in the fifth.

They drafted four players total: goaltender Erik Portillo (Round 3; 67th overall), Huglen (Round 4; 102nd overall), Cederqvist (Round 5, 143rd overall) and forward Lukas Rousek (Round 6, 160th overall).

Patterns emerged along the way, as the Sabres opted to select players who they view as late bloomers with high long-term potential. 

"It's a huge balance, taking a player who can play in two years versus taking a player who's going to be even better in seven years," Jankowski said. "That's a very different way of looking at things. From my standpoint, it's about keeping our guys focused on the player, what he's going to be at the height of his career."

Here's what Jankowski and general manager Jason Botterill had to say about each of the team's selections, including first-round picks Dylan Cozens and Ryan Johnson. 

Dylan Cozens, C - Lethbridge (WHL)

Video: Dylan Cozens Media Scrum

Botterill spoke about Cozens' positive qualities after the first round, from the mental maturity he developed after moving away from home at age 14 to the rare blend of speed and size he offers at the center position. 

Jankowski said he sees a player who will add to the organization's depth down the middle, joining Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt. 

"He's going to be a good centerman in the NHL," Jankowski said. "This organization now, with Jack and Casey and Dylan, it gives us great options. So, we think that he's a guy who's going to be able to produce some offense while playing a well-rounded, 200-foot game with good size. 

"He still has the frame to fill out, still a little bit immature physically. Which is great, it shows there's a little bit of upside there and it gives us good depth at the center position."

Ryan Johnson, D - Sioux Falls (USHL) 

Video: 10 Questions with Ryan Johnson

After using five of their six picks in last year's draft to bolster their defensive depth, Johnson was Buffalo's only selection on defense in this year's class. The son of former NHL forward Craig Johnson was the USHL Rookie of the Year and a Clark Cup champion last season with Sioux Falls. 

Johnson described himself as a puck-moving defenseman with a high work ethic. Jankowski used the term "new-age" to describe the blueliner, with a blend of skating, puck movement and hockey sense and the potential for offense.

"We think that the offensive upside is still being developed in his game," Jankowski said. "He had that as a younger player, didn't have a ton of numbers in the USHL this year but it is a hard league to bring offense as a defenseman. I call him a new-age defenseman. 

"He skates extremely well, he moves the puck extremely well, he defends with his brain. ... So, I like the well-roundedness of him. From an offensive standpoint, we think that can still come. But even if it doesn't, we know we've got a new-age defenseman that can move the puck and skate."

Johnson will continue his development with the University of Minnesota next season.

Erik Portillo, G - Frolunda HC J20 (SuperElit) 

Botterill said going into the draft that he'd like to add to the organization's goaltending depth. In Portillo, the Sabres added a long-term project who previously played in the Frolunda organization (Rasmus Dahlin's former team) and has a North American development plan in place.

Video: Jason Botterill after the 2019 NHL Draft

Portillo will spend next season playing for Dubuque of the USHL. He's then slated to begin his collegiate career with the University of Michigan in 2020-21. 

"We've seen the steps from last year, him not getting drafted, to this year taking a step and being one of the best goaltenders in the Swedish Junior League, to the plan of him going to Dubuque next year and then Michigan," Jankowski said. "It gives us time for him to develop his game."

Portillo is listed at 6-foot-6, 209 pounds, one inch taller than current Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Jankowski said that size came late, with required time for Portillo to adjust. 

"Being a big guy and being a little bit of a late bloomer physically, he had to catch up to himself," he said. "The way he played for his club team down the stretch and in the playoffs and the steps that he took as a goaltender, we see a future there for him and that's what we like about him."

Aaron Huglen, RW - Roseau High / Great Plains (USHL)

Huglen took the same path as Mittelstadt, bookending his senior season of high school hockey in Minnesota with stints in the USHL. Jankowski said he expects the forward to return to Fargo next season for a full USHL season before joining Johnson at the University of Minnesota in 2020-21.

Jankowski was an assistant general manager with the New York Islanders when they drafted Brock Nelson out of the Minnesota high school system. As with Portillo, he emphasized the importance of staying patient with his development. 

"We know he's got the skills and abilities," Jankowski said. "It's just going to be a little bit longer development curve. Again, the organization's patient with that. The people in Minnesota will continue to develop him at the University of Minnesota and then take steps as a player to get more physically mature and gain confidence as a result."

Filip Cederqvist, LW - Växjö HC (SHL)

Cederqvist tallied eight points (4+4) in 33 games playing against grown men in the SHL last season, which was part of which made him an attractive option for the Sabres to move up and acquire in the fifth round.

"We like the fact that he played in the SHL this year," he said. "He played in a men's league, he played with a very good club there. He's a well-rounded player too, but he's got a nice little skillset, a very direct player. 

"Our Swedish scouts and our Swedish scout from last year raved about him and the steps that he's taken in his game. So, we like the fact that he's playing mature hockey."

Lukas Rousek, RW - HC Sparta Praha (Czech)

Video: Lukas Rousek Media Scrum

Ironically, the Sabres' final pick of Day 2 was the only one present at Rogers Arena on Saturday. The 20-year-old forward said he had positive meetings with the Sabres and knew there was a chance they would select him. 

"Lukas had a great year this year in the Czech Elite League," Jankowski said. "He had a tremendous second half and was the team's leading scorer in the playoffs. Our scout in the Czech Republic was extremely passionate about him. 

"He's a very well-rounded player, but the skill and the offense at the end of the season this year gave us a hint that there was still some offense there. So, we were really excited about what he brought, how his game improved and he was there for us in the sixth round to make that selection."

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