Thanks for joining us for our August 31-in-31 series! Every day this month we will be taking a look at each team and diving into their prospect depth charts, risers and fallers, graduating prospects, and top ten prospects in the system.
After an expected finish at the bottom of the barrel, the Buffalo Sabres looked towards the draft to raise their spirits, and boy did it ever. Striking luck in the lottery and selecting Rasmus Dahlin, the franchise Swedish defenseman was one of the best things to happen to the franchise in recent memory. The team was looking quite horrendous, but at the end of the year, Buffalo fans got a sweet taste of the future, freshly squeezed off of the sticks of Casey Mittelstadt and Alexander Nylander. The pair joined the team late in the season for a handful of games and showed their potential.
The Buffalo Sabres made a splash by acquiring Jeff Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes in a thrifty deal which saw them only give up Cliff Pu and multiple draft picks – viewed league-wide as a straight steal. The Sabres made a move for former Penguin Conor Sheary along with veteran defenseman Matt Hunwick for a discounted price of a conditional fourth-round pick which can upgrade to a third-rounder. The Sabres decided to bite the bullet and trade Ryan O’Reilly after all, dealing him to the Blues for a package that included youngster, Tage Thompson and veterans Vlad Sobotka and Patrik Berglund. All of these moves seem to be bargain buys for Buffalo as they look to rebuild the team and let some youngsters fight it out for prime spots up the roster. Skinner, Thompson, Sheary will get more opportunity than before and they can mix in with Nylander and Mittelstadt to prodive some good parody up and down the lineup.
As much as the arrivals of Sobotka, Berglund and Hunwick could clog up the lineup, there’s still lots of room for some other young players to step into the lineup and challenge the bigger names. Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund are among that group and they have a decent chance to prove their worth during the pre-season. Onto the back end of things, the Sabres moved on from Swedish goalie Robin Lehner and moved on to Carter Hutton, signing the former Blues goalie to a three year, 8.25 million dollar deal, which can hopefully stopgap the ongoing goaltending issue until Luukkonen or Johansson come through and take charge of the net. Hutton had a fantastic season in backup to and eventually surpassing Jake Allen during slumps. Scott Wedgewood was also picked up on a 650K deal to add some goaltending depth.
– Tage Thompson
– Evan Rodrigues
The most notable graduate from the Sabres is newly acquired forward Tage Thompson. The American played half the season with St Louis last year and is ready to transition to full time with the Sabres. Thompson looks poised to have a breakout year with lots of room to move up the lineup and a new system, where in St Louis he didn’t really have any room to leap up the lineup. Evan Rodrigues is another forward to graduate this summer, and after spending over half the year with the squad has shown that he deserves to stay, playing at over a point per game pace. Rodrigues will be rewarded this year, most likely with an increased role.
Soon To Graduate
– Linus Ullmark
– Rasmus Dahlin
– Casey Mittelstadt
– Alexander Nylander
– Victor Olofsson
– Rasmus Asplund
– Nick Baptiste
– Daniel O’Regan
Some players seem to be close to graduating this year, it looks like Linus Ullmark will be joining the Sabres on a nearly full-time basis next year after a solid showing last year. Ullmark will most likely split some games with Hutton until its decided at what level he can actually play at. Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt will be playing full time with the team this year, looking to make large impacts in very high roles. Alexander Nylander seems to be near-ready for the big leagues and scored a nice goal at the end of last season with the Sabres. But he’ll most likely start in the AHL and work his way onto the team later in the year. Daniel O’Regan has been hovering around NHL hockey for a while now, and this year could be his year. Nick Baptiste played quite a few games with the team last year, but could start in the AHL and wasn’t quite ready to graduate yet. As Mentioned previously, it seems Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund could soon push for spots in the NHL, it’s yet to see how high a level they can perform at.
Casey Mittelstadt: The electric American centre has only solidified his legitimacy after a terrific season scoring almost a point per game in the NCAA and showcasing his high-end talent at the World Juniors with the United States.
Victor Olofsson: Olofsson had a fantastic year in the SHL, showing his goal scoring prowess with Frolunda and lighting the lamp 27 times, enough to lead the entire SHL as a 22-year-old.
Linus Ullmark: Ullmark posted a 2.00 GAA and a .935 SV% in his 5 impressive starts with Buffalo this year, as well as playing great with Rochester and leading them to a playoff spot.
Alexander Nylander: After suffering another lower-body injury, Nylander missed a third of the season and missed part of development camp in July again nursing an injury. Still a promising player, but can he survive or will he be injury prone?
Casey Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald took the captaincy at Boston College this year, but saw his total points drop off two years in a row.
Daniel O’Regan: O’Regan has scored at a good pace last year, but he’ll be turning 25 soon and he still hasn’t broken into the NHL yet. He was traded to Buffalo in a change of scenery of sorts, hopefully he can pick up where he left off.
Top Ten Fantasy Prospects
1. Rasmus Dahlin
2. Casey Mittelstadt
3. Alexander Nylander
4. Linus Ullmark
5. Rasmus Asplund
6. Victor Olofsson
7. Brendan Guhle
8. Daniel O’Regan
9. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
10. CJ Smith
Thanks for reading, you can find me on twitter at @marcus_griep