With the 2020 NHL Entry Draft now scheduled to start round one on October 6th and rounds two through seven to take place the following day, I thought it would be a good time to take a peek at which NHL club has a history of selecting Prince Albert Raiders players.
Keeping that in mind and being a fan of the Raiders since 1991, I immediately jumped to memories of Paul Healey and his team-leading ninety-three points during the ’94-’95 season and how the year prior my uncle’s favourite team the Philadelphia Flyers took him in the eighth round of the 1993 NHL Draft. I thought it must have been the Flyers, how wrong I was, as the last Raider selected by Philadelphia was Rejean Beauchemin in the sixth round of the 2003 NHL Draft. Beauchemin, unfortunately, didn’t pan out for the Flyers but had a successful pro career lasting six seasons bouncing between the ECHL and AHL.
Diving deeper down the rabbit hole I had just created for myself in the middle of a midnight sleepless spell, I finally came to terms with it all, the Buffalo Sabres have selected eight Prince Albert Raiders prospects starting most recently with defenceman Vojtech Budik in 2016. Budik was a bit of a sleeper pick for the Sabres that somewhat surprised the media because of his lack of stats in the WHL and it was his first season in North America as it was. Budik has yet to have played a regular-season game with the Sabres or their AHL affiliate in Rochester, instead spending his time with Plzen HC in the Czech league.
The last Raiders player to be selected by the Sabres AND play for them was their 2nd round, 51st overall in the 2015 Draft. It was defenceman Brendan Guhle who suited up twenty-three times registering five assists. Guhle traded was by Buffalo with Brayden Tracey to the Anaheim Ducks for Brandon Montour.
Brandon’s brother Kaiden Guhle is also a Raiders prospect and is expected to go between the 10th and 25th pick in the first round. With the likes of Rasmus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen already in their arsenal of offensive defencemen, Guhle could captivate the mind of GM Kevyn Adams with the eighth overall pick. I say this because Buffalo has already grabbed that second-line centre they were looking for when they traded for Eric Staal. Kaiden has been compared to Jacob Trouba and Brandon Carlo, if he was to project like either of those players and end up in Buffalo’s hands it would certainly help the cause for breaking their long-standing playoff drought.
Not to ignore the Sabres offensive needs in the second round the Raiders have them covered there too. Ozzy Wiesblatt is projected to go in the second round somewhere within the first ten picks taken on October 7th. Other than Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Buffalo doesn’t have a whole lot going right for them in the forward department. Ozzy’s ability to feed the puck through the most narrow of passing lanes would be an exceptional bonus for them, having a near NHL ready playmaker who can skate with and feed Eichel or Reinhart the puck on the Powerplay would certainly give them the punch they have sorely lacked for a number of seasons. I am certainly not the best person to consult for the future of a players development but if things go well I could see Eichel and Wiesblatt become a duo similar in skill level to Backstrom and Ovechkin in Washington.
Ranked 101st by TSN’s Craig Button is centre Ilya Usov who in his first season with the Raiders was scoring at a near point per game rate showing abilities to both dish the puck and take it to the net all on his own. Currently playing in the KHL for Dinamo Minsk, Usov could prove to be a late-round gem for GM Adams to take especially if he stays on Button’s projection path as they have the centennial pick. As of press time Usov has one assist in five games, he will certainly see playing time for Dinamo and it could be substantially more than other prospects with the 20/21 NHL season start date still up in the air.
Could we see a Sabres/Raiders NHL Draft reunion happen in October? Time will tell, but it certainly seems like the Raiders have the parts to help Buffalo get back on the right path to ending their playoff drought and maybe giving Youtube Sabres Super Fan and Musician Melody Martin something happy to sing about!
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