The big storyline of the Buffalo Sabres off-season is #VeseyWatch. Wondering if/when Jimmy Vesey will sign with the Buffalo Sabres. He has already told them he wants to meet with other teams before deciding where to play, but Buffalo owns his exclusive negotiating rights until August 15th. Vesey could very easily test the open market and return back to the Sabres and sign a contract. My opinion, he hits the open market and uses the Sabres as leverage to get a little bit more money, but Vesey ends up signing elsewhere. The Sabres only risked a third round draft pick next year to try to get to him before he hits open market. I think GM Tim Murray should not be faulted, high reward for low risk, that's what you want to see from your GM.
Remember that this is based on fantasy production and not a matter of who is closest to the NHL or who is most likely to be an NHLer. It mainly focuses on who is going to be important in fantasy leagues overall.
Very few of these guys should be drafted in re-draft leagues. Watch for Fasching, Baptiste, Bailey, Nylander, Nelson, Guhle and Ullmark. They are the most likely to come out of training camp with a shot of being relevant in fantasy leagues this year. The same can be said If you are in a keeper league draft, by the end of the draft (depending how deep the teams are and how many keepers in your league) you could pick up one or two of these guys to be long shot helpers midway through the year or make the teams full time next year.
If you are in a dynasty league and about to start your rookie draft, Nylander should be a top-5 pick behind the big-3 (Matthews, Laine, Puljujarvi) and maybe Tkachuk and/or Dubois. But I don't think any defensemen should be selected before him. Nylander shouldn't fall past 10. If he does, consider yourself lucky to get him that late.
Rasmus Asplund should be picked up right around the 30th pick, so maybe a second or third round guy in your rookie draft. Cliff Pu should be a late round flyer in rookie drafts, he is a few years away but could be that energy guy that fits into a third line role down the road.
TOP 10 RANKINGS
1. Alexander Nylander – Nylander could make the team out of training camp, he has stiff competition in the Sabres top-six. If he doesn't make it out of camp, he will head to the Amerks and be a top talent in the AHL.
2. Hudson Fasching – Fasching showed the Sabres he could play with the big boys at the end of last year. He just has to use his body a bit more to be that dominant power-forward.
3. Justin Bailey – Will be battling Fasching and Baptiste for one of the final roster spots.
4. Rasmus Asplund – Asplund was drafted in the second round, 33rd overall. He has already been playing against men twice his age and size for two years. The NHL won't be a shock to this Swedish center man.
5. Vaclav Karabacek – He will be headed for the AHL, could play there a few years, will be a decent winger when he makes it to the NHL.
6. Nick Baptiste – has fallen down this list with the additions of Nylander and Asplund.
7. Brendan Guhle – with the graduation of Ristolainen and McCabe over the past two years, Guhle is the best offensive defenseman the Sabres have in their prospect pool.
8. Linus Ullmark – top prospect goaltender, Ullmark filled in for an injured Robin Lehner last year. He could get a chance again with Lehner being a 'band-aid' boy trainee.
9. Giorgio Estephan – He will return to Lethbridge (WHL) to continue to improve defensively and become a little more difficult to play against.
10. Cal Petersen – has two more seasons with the University of Notre Dame. Petersen is proving he has the ability and the work ethic to be an NHL starter in the future.
ON THE RISE
Vaclav Karabacek – not the flashiest player out on the ice, but he goes to the tough spots; the corners and the front of the net. He could become a net front presence for the Sabres sooner rather than later. Watch for him in his first pro season in the AHL, he could make the jump in his second year.
Brendan Guhle – Guhle got an extended look last year in Sabres pre-season, he was injured and then sent back to the WHL to continue to develop. At the end of his season he joined the Amerks and put up four points in six games. Guhle is built to play in the NHL, it may just be in 2017-18.
Casey Nelson – Nelson can't keep up his scoring pace he was on at the end of last year, 0.57 pts/gp in seven games with the Sabres. Nelson will be a top defender for the Amerks this year, who should be a better team than previous years.
Evan Rodrigues – signed with the Sabres hoping to eventually rekindle his chemistry with his BU teammate Jack Eichel. But the likelihood of that happening is slim to none, he will have to start producing on his own with the Amerks next year to prove he can put up numbers with whoever he plays with.
Jean Dupuy – is able to play left wing or center, the Sabres seem to like him as a center man, which could hinder Dupuy making it any higher than a bottom-six role player. Buffalo's center depth is continuing to grow.
The goaltenders have been dwindled down with the departed Andrey Makarov and Nathan Lieuwen. But with the addition of Anders Nilsson, the training camp battle will be very interesting between Nilsson, Ullmark and Kasdorf. I think Nilsson will become the Sabres backup with Kasdorf and Ullmark fighting for the starting gig with the Amerks. With Johansson staying in Europe and Petersen playing out his collegiate hockey, the Sabres have very good potential starting goaltenders that are about 2-3 years away. The competition is just going to heat up year after year.
A list of Buffalo's prospect profiles can be found here. If you are looking for a specific player profile, be sure to leave a comment and I will make sure to get it updated or up as soon as possible. Also feel free to leave comments, questions or concerns below, have fun playing the game of Fantasy Hockey.
If you missed the July Buffalo 30 in 30 you can find it here.