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COMMENTARY

Filip Cederqvist, an unknown among Sabres draftees, takes step up in Swedish League

For every Dylan Cozens at your average Sabres development camp, there are multiple guys you've heard very little about. They all have stories too. Perhaps not as dramatic as the No. 1 pick's rise from the Yukon, but nonetheless unique to them.

They're usually low-round draft picks, often from far-off lands. (Of course, the way the Sabres like to draft, maybe "far off" is a misnomer given the way they make Sweden seem like it's just on the other side of Orchard Park).

And with this year's draft all the way in Vancouver, many projected low-round players did not attend. There were far fewer second-day celebrations in the stands than normal as rounds 4-7 stretched on in Rogers Arena.

So I picked one we didn't see in Vancouver for a chat this week at Harborcenter and had him fill in his story. His name is Filip Cederqvist, a left wing from the Vaxjo Lakers in the Swedish Hockey League.

Cederqvist is 6-foot-3, 196 pounds and turns 19 on Aug. 23. He's from Skara, a city of about 19,000 in Sweden's western half. It's about an hour to Rasmus Dahlin's birthplace of Trollhattan, 90 minutes from Gothenberg and actually closer to Oslo, Norway, than it is to Stockholm.

His English was excellent. His draft story was what you would have expected but the Sabres had clear methods to why they chose him.

"I was at home with my family watching on television in the evening and waiting," Cederqvist said. "It was a great time when Buffalo chose me. Then some friends came over to me to say congrats. I had talked to the Sabres a little bit during the season. I'm very proud to be selected by them now and excited for this opportunity."

The Sabres knew exactly what they were doing when they took Cederqvist in the fifth round at No. 143 overall. They traded picks 177 and 191 to Detroit to make the immediate selection of Cederqvist, who doesn't raise a lot of eyebrows when you consider he was ranked just the 119th-best European skater by NHL Central Scouting.

But the Sabres look deeper than that. They like upward paths. They saw that Cederqvist was promoted from Vaxjo's junior team to the main Swedish Hockey League. That's a big jump for an 18-year-old.

"That was very important for me," Cederqvist said. "If I didn't play as well and that had not happened, I think it would have been very hard for me to be drafted. I'm very thankful for the opportunity they gave me back home and I'm going to work hard and play better this season."

How big was the jump? Vaxjo had nine players on its roster last season over the age of 30, including former Stanley Cup champion Kris Versteeg (Chicago, 2010) and ex-Edmonton and Anaheim goaltender Viktor Fasth.

Cederqvist was more than a point-a-game player for the junior team, with 14 goals and 18 assists in 26 games. In the elite league, where the competition is men, he had four goals and four assists in 33 games.

"We like the fact he played in the SHL this year. He played in the men's league, with a very good club there," Sabres scouting director Ryan Jankowski said in Vancouver. "He's a well-rounded player with a nice little skill set. He's a very direct player. Our Swedish scouts ... raved about him and the steps that he's taken in his game. We like the fact he's playing more mature hockey, showing a step in his game and all that part and parcel gives him an upside for us."

When he played in juniors, Cederqvist was a key scorer. Moving up to more mature competition, of course, mandates a more all-around game.

"That still fits me good. That's how I'm going to have to play in the future," he said. "If I want to be a regular in the SHL as a young player, it's going to be hard to take a spot but I'm up for the challenge. We will have a very good team. This summer is very important to achieve my goals."

Filip Cederqvist's favorite NHL player is Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Here's the getting-to-know-Cederqvist portion of the conversation:

• Favorite sport outside of hockey: "I like to watch soccer all the time. I'm a big Premier League fan, especially Arsenal." Told that Mes Que on Hertel Avenue is a prominent soccer bar full of Arsenal fans, Cederqvist said, "Maybe I should look it up someday."

• Favorite activities: "Fishing and golf. I'm not so good at golf. I need to practice. The fairways and the drives were pretty hard. Not this year. Next year I'm going to start up again. I wish I could play more."

• Reaction to Buffalo: "I had heard it's a hockey town and it's really nice. I'm told the fans are very good. Saturday at the 3-on-3 tournament is going to be very fun to play and see the people here."

• On the Sabres playing this year in Stockholm: "People at home love the chance to watch the stars here. It's a very good decision by the NHL to bring games to Sweden and people are really looking forward to when Buffalo comes."

• Favorite player: "I like (Colorado captain) Gabriel Landeskog. I try to play like him a little bit. He's not a 100-point guy but he's a very good leader. People at home in Sweden often look at the stars but I think he's a very good player who deserves to get more credit."

• Favorite team: "People in Sweden follow players. I had no favorite team. Until now. Now it's Buffalo Sabres of course."

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