Buffalo Sabres: The top-10 players under 24, part one

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Finland. Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Finland. Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /
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Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Johnson, Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

8. Ryan Johnson (18), Defenseman, 2019 1st round, 31st overall

This draft pick was another product of the O’Reilly trade. Buffalo got a keeper here with this defenseman from the growing Southern California hockey scene. Johnson plays a smart game in the defensive zone, utilizing strong positioning. He also uses an active stick to take away passing lanes.

The 6-0, 180 pounder is a great skater who can get up to speed in just a few steps. His natural stride and agility make his skating look almost effortless. Johnson is quite adept at carrying the puck out of the back end.

Once the puck is out of his end, the SoCal native makes mincemeat of the neutral zone in transition. Then comes the areas where Johnson needs to improve. While not afraid to crash the net, his youth and inexperience show when it comes to the times he should pinch in. Additionally, he is capable of making good passes but is quite inconsistent.

One last area of opportunity for the University of Minnesota incoming freshman is to put some bulk on his lanky frame.

7. Henri Jokiharju (20), Defenseman, 2017 1st round, 29th overall (trade with Chicago)

When Buffalo finally realized it wouldn’t work out between Alexander Nylander and the organization, GM Jason Botterill moved the disgruntled wing to Chicago for Henri Jokiharju. The 20-year-old joins a crowded, talented Sabres defense corps. With his skillset, Jolkiharju should fit right in.

The blueliner from Finland split last season between the Blackhawks and their AHL affiliate. With the Hawks, he scored 12 points in 38 games. In addition, he represented his county on both their WJC and World Cup, winning teams. It was indeed a busy season for the young man.

Jokiharju is a solid, somewhat physical defenseman despite his slight 6-0, 180 pound build. A heady player on both ends of the ice, he’s not prone to mental mistakes. The double gold medal winner is a solid puck handler who does a good job joining the rush. His superior vision allows him to find open teammates, but he can also finish plays by using his quick release.