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Five intriguing players for the Sabres to consider with the seventh overall pick

Jack Hughes won't be joining Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin in Buffalo. Neither will Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko.

The NHL draft's top two prospects will be long gone by the time the Buffalo Sabres select seventh overall June 21 in Vancouver. General Manager Jason Botterill had the fifth-best odds to land the right to draft Hughes first overall, only to fall two spots when results were revealed Tuesday night in Toronto.

Still, the pick will allow Botterill to select among several elite center prospects, as well as dynamic forwards who could potentially address the Sabres' lack of depth scoring.

Here is a look at five prospects who could be available for the Sabres to take with their first pick: 

1. Alex Turcotte, center, U.S. National Team Development Program

Turcotte, a teammate of Jack Hughes, is unlikely to fall to seventh since he would fill a need for both Colorado and Detroit at fourth and sixth, respectively. However, the 5-foot-11-inch prospect would be an ideal fit for the Sabres, who need to take advantage of the high-end skill atop this draft.

Turcotte was limited to 30 games with the USNTDP because of injury, but finished with 23 goals and 30 assists, or 1.77 points per game. He is a physical forward who could add the tenacity the Sabres need.

However, Turcotte is committed to the University of Wisconsin, which could be a deterrent since Buffalo needs immediate help. Botterill must weigh how long he is willing to wait for this selection to contribute in the NHL.

2. Trevor Zegras, center, U.S. National Team Development Program

Yes, the program produced three top-10 centers in this year's draft, and it would not be a surprise if Turcotte and Zegras are gone when the Sabres are on the clock. Zegras is a dynamic, play-making center who supplements a strong transition game with the sort of snarl and physicality that frustrates opponents.

Zegras, a Boston University commit, is likely to spend one year in college, much like Casey Mittelstadt did in 2017-18. If Botterill is willing to wait, he would be drafting a player who had 26 goals and 52 assists in 54 games this season.

"You have three top-eight picks right there as your top three centers," Hughes said of the USNTDP prior to Tuesday's draft lottery in Toronto. "It’s really good. There aren’t many better places than the program. We have a lot of high-end players there. Cole Caufield broke the goals record, Matthew Boldy another top-10 pick, and on the back end we have a couple first-round D. Our practices are super competitive because we have so many good players."

3. Kirby Dach, center, Saskatoon (WHL)

This could be the year Botterill finally selects a Canadian junior player. Lethbridge center Dylan Cozens is regarded by many analysts as the second-best North American skater in the draft, but could be off the board as early as third to Chicago.

If Turcotte and Zegras are both gone, Dach could be the pick here. Dach had 25 goals and 48 assists in 62 regular-season games for Saskatoon, a remarkable improvement from his seven goals in 52 games last season. Dach was the second-best North American skater behind Hughes, on NHL Central Scouting's midseason rankings, which were released following the World Junior Championship.

The league's scouting bureau described Dach as a "legitimate threat when the puck is on his stick and capable of controlling pace and the outcome of games." The 6-4 prospect also played wing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, producing seven points in five tournament games.

4. Peyton Krebs, center, Kootenay (WHL) 

The trade of Ryan O'Reilly and unexpected departure of Patrik Berglund left the Sabres thin down the middle. Evan Rodrigues and Johan Larsson are restricted free agents this offseason, and Rasmus Asplund is the only center prospect of note in Rochester.

Krebs, like the names above, would provide the Sabres with another promising option. The trouble is scouts and general managers might have trouble scouting Krebs' game since he played on a team that won only 13 of 68 games this season. After all, he had a minus-50 in 64 games.

Still, Krebs scored 19 goals with 49 assists showed why is offensive upside had him ranked the eighth-best North American skater on Central Scouting's midseason rankings.

5. Cole Caufield, RW, U.S. National Development Team Program

Caufield was ranked the 15th-best North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's midseason rankings, partly because of concerns about him being only 5-7. However, he is an elite goal scorer in an era when size doesn't always matter. He and his teammate Boldy will be the first North American wingers off the board.

With 108 goals over two seasons, Caufield broke the USNTDP record, surpassing elite players Eichel, Auston Matthews, Dylan Larkin and Phil Kessel.

Caufield scored 54 goals with 23 assists in 55 games this season. Sure, he played with talented centermen, but the production isn't a fluke. If Botterill can acquire a second-line center through trade or free agency, Caufield is a player who could be ready for top-six minutes and would bolster a power play that ranked 16th in the league.

Ruff joins Canada's staff for Worlds

Botterill, who is part of Canada's management team for next month's World Championships, will work in close proximity to former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff during the tournament in Slovakia from May 10-26.

Ruff will join former Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol and Montreal assistant Kirk Muller on Alain Vigneault's coaching staff. Vigneault, who did not coach in the NHL this season after he was fired by the New York Rangers last April, could be a candidate to replace Phil Housley.

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