The Buffalo Sabres will attend the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, and when they do, they hope they can move up in the draft. Without knowing their exact number, one player to explore would be offensive defenseman Axel Sandin-Pellikka.
His size at 5’11, around 181 pounds won’t be a hindrance at the next level. I would regard him as the best defenseman in the draft, but some others might disagree. What matters today is where he places in the draft, and would the Sabres’ have a chance to draft him.
Written by Russ Cohen. Check out his site for his latest top 45 rankings for the 2023 Draft
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) April 30, 2023
This Swede can skate, and he’s terrific on zone entries. Has been used on the top power play and is solid all around. He’s a first-rounder for sure.
That was my feeling about him right after the Five Nations tournament earlier this season. After that, he performed admirably at the 2023 IIHF World Juniors, where he had one point in seven games. His big jump there was the fact that he worked seamlessly on the power play as a 17-year-old at the time.
After turning 18 in March, he continued to play at various levels overseas. The fact that he saw some time in the SHL was promising. According to InStat, with the leagues combined, his hits, shots, and time on the penalty kill have increased. This rearguard is smooth on the power play. His ice time average is just over 19 minutes and that’s what matters. The fact that he can handle the workload bodes well for him.
At the recent U-18 World Championships, he ranked tenth in scoring with 11 points in seven games. Again, his matching up against his age group is what matters. And he passed again with flying colors.
Sandin-Pellikka has an accurate wrist shot that gets on the net in five-on-five action. That’s a recipe for success. His one-timer is pro quality, but that gets mostly on the power play. He likes playing on North American ice. His defensive zone play is based on being smart and keeping players to the outside. His skating is excellent, so he’s able to pull this off.
Pellikka’s dad is six feet tall, and a hockey coach, so he may grow a bit more, and his knowledge base is there. If Buffalo has a chance to get him, they should. He could be playing in the NHL in 2-3 seasons.