Beyond the top two picks, the first round of this year's NHL Draft figures to be as unpredictable as ever.
Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, in some order, will almost certainly be the first two players off the board on June 21. After that, the consensus seems to be that it's a deep first round with a fairly wide range of players who could fall in the top 10.
Having said that, it's important to cast a wide net when trying to predict who the Sabres might select with the seventh overall selection. Today, we'll look at winger Vasili Podkolzin.
Vasili Podkolzin, RW - St. Petersburg (Russia)
Podkolzin is the No. 2 ranked European skater according to NHL Central Scouting, behind Kakko. He spent last season climbing the Russian ranks with SKA St. Petersburg, seeing 12 games in the MHL (Russia's junior league), 14 in the VHL (second-tier pro league) and three in the KHL.
He captained Russia's U18 team to a bronze medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he tallied 11 points (8+3) in five games, and silver at the U18 World Championship. He wore an "A" at U20 World Juniors, too, where the Russians won bronze.
Those distinctions speak to how Podkolzin has been described by those who have watched him consistently, with labels like "mature" and "hard-working" popping up regularly. With that attitude, he brings a high skill level and an appetite for the area around the net.
What they're saying
Mike Morreale: "Podkolzin (6-1, 190) plays with a lot of intensity and has a great set of skills that earned him three games with a strong SKA St. Petersburg team in the Kontinental Hockey League. He has the attitude and speed to become a solid NHL player with proper development. He plays a mature game, has a high hockey IQ, good breakaway speed, and puck protection skills."
Guillaume Lepage: "The dynamic forward did well on the international stage this season but didn't have the best finish with Russia at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship with four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games. Still, he has undeniable talent and could soon help bolster the forward depth in Detroit."
Adam Kimelman: "Some teams might be turned off by his two-year KHL contract, but his 200-foot game and offensive skill are too good to pass up. And after two more seasons of development in the KHL, he should be ready to step into the top-six forward group for any NHL team."
Why he could be picked at 7
Morreale and Lepage both have Podkolzin going sixth to Detroit, while Kimelman has him going selected 10th to Vancouver in NHL.com's mock draft. The Sabres' front office emphasizes combining character and skill, both of which the winger possesses.