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  1. Micheline Veluvolu/Rochester Americans What to expect from the team in the 585. As we head into the quiet of August, it’s a good time to check in on the Buffalo Sabres’ AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, and see how things are shaping up for that team for the upcoming season. Last Season Recap Last season saw the Amerks play 76 games, one of a handful of teams throughout the league to do so. They were one of only three teams in the North Division to play 76 games and finished the year with a 37-29-7-3 record and 84 points. The Amerks were an offensive powerhouse; with 254 goals-for, they were the third-highest scoring team in the league. But just as much as they were scoring goals, they were allowing them, too. Their 270 goals-against were second-most in the league, a pretty strong indictment of their goaltending. They were also among the top-ten most penalized teams. After rookies JJ Peterka (68 points) and Jack Quinn (61 points), captain Michael Mersch played a big role in the team’s offense. He recorded 26 goals and added 28 assists for 54 points in 65 regular-season games. On and off the ice, he truly was the heart of the team. It wasn’t an easy path to the Calder Cup Playoffs, but the Amerks made it, partly through their own graces and partly through the misfortune of others. Unfortunately, their inconsistencies eventually stopped them in their tracks. After sweeping Belleville in the two-game play-in series, the Amerks bested Utica in five games. Then they hit a brick wall, being swept by Laval in three games in the division final. Roster Outlook As of writing, here’s what the Amerks potential roster looks like for the 2022-23 season. Obviously there are some players on this list (*) who will fight for a roster spot in Buffalo. Like any AHL team, the Amerks are for the most part at the mercy of their NHL club. Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka and Lawrence Pilut are among those who could start or end the season with the Sabres, but could also play in Rochester. Realistically, I think all three will spend at least a good chunk of the season in Buffalo. Any time they spend in Rochester will simply be a nice bonus boost for the Amerks. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen remains an unsigned RFA. When it comes to the front office, I’d expect Seth Appert to return as head coach with assistants Michael Peca and Mike Weber. Forwards: Brandon Biro* Mason Jobst Sean Malone Michael Mersch (captain) Brett Murray* Kohen Olischefski Josh Passolt Matej Pekar JJ Peterka* Jack Quinn* Lukas Rousek Linus Weissbach Defense: Zachary Berzolla Kale Clague Jeremy Davies Mitch Eliot Casey Fitzgerald* Oskari Laaksonen Lawrence Pilut* Chase Priskie Ethan Prow Peter Tischke Goaltenders: Michael Houser Malcolm Subban* Beck Warm Amerks from last season who won’t be in Rochester: Josh Bloom (will return to the OHL) Aaron Dell (signed with San Jose) Dominic Franco (signed with Charlotte) Mark Jankowski (signed with Nashville) Peyton Krebs (let’s face it, he’s an NHL player. No doubt about it.) Arttu Ruotsalainen (signed overseas) Players who remain unsigned: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (unsigned RFA)* Mark Alt (D, 3-6-9, 60 GP) Nick Boka (D, 3-1-4, 24 GP) Brandon Davidson (D, 1-5-6, 23 GP) Ben Holmstrom (C, 0-6-6, 25 GP) Nate Knoepke (D, 0-0-0, 4 GP) Ryan MacInnis (C, 11-16-27, 49 GP) Jimmy Schuldt (D, 5-12-17, 61 GP) Josh Teves (D, 6-15-21, 72 GP) Brendan Warren (LW, 4-2-6, 51 GP) The Season Ahead The AHL season ahead will be slightly more balanced, as each team is scheduled to play 72 games. The Amerks are expected to play 14 other teams, with most games coming against North Division teams. They’ll play the Syracuse Crunch a whopping 12 times, and the Utica Comets 10 times. Otherwise, the schedule is heavy with Toronto, Belleville, Cleveland and Laval. As usual, it’s a loaded schedule, with 28 back-to-backs in total and five sets of 3-in-3 in the second half of the season. The biggest keys for the Amerks for the upcoming season are to keep up the offense, but work on strengthening the defense and keeping pucks out of the net. As I mentioned in the first two paragraphs, they did allow the second-most goals of any team and then utterly collapsed when it counted against Laval in the playoffs. If you’re building a championship-caliber team, that can’t happen. It’s also critical to have the depth to maintain a strong record even if they lose some of their big-name players to the NHL over the course of the season. What To Expect So - what can we expect from the 2022-2023 Rochester Americans? I asked Steve Lopez (steelopus) to chime in. Here’s what he had to say: The 2022-23 Amerks have a difficult task ahead of them in their quest to build on a surprisingly deep playoff run last season. It’s widely expected that several key pieces will graduate to become near-full time Sabres players, leaving some gaping holes to fill, particularly on offense. There was a little buzz before last season that we might see a breakout from the young rookies, but absolutely no one was predicting the output we saw from Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka; both players had historic seasons for AHL rookies (check the u22 stats in this thread). They’re also losing the output from Arttu Ruotsalainen (Swiss League) and Mark Jankowski (Nashville). Reinforcements will arrive, but no one can expect them to replace what’s been lost. We’ll hope Malone and Mersch can build off their career years last season, and for increased (and more consistent) output from names like Biro, Murray, Rousek, Weissbach, and Jobst as well as contributions from new faces, in particular Isak Rosen and hopefully also Filip Cederqvist, Alexander Kisakov, and Josh Bloom (I am admittedly not 100% sure on the contract rules for all these players). The elephant in the room is that while the Amerks were a powerhouse on offense last season, they were also a sieve in their own zone, and things aren’t likely to get much better, at least not immediately. Fans were hopeful that Ryan Johnson would sign an ELC and join the Amerks, but we know that’s not going to happen at this point as he’ll return to finish his career at U of Minnesota. Mattias Samuelsson can all but be penciled in as a full-timer in Buffalo. The team re-signed assistant captain Ethan Prow after his career-best season. Oskari Laaksonen will return for the final year of his ELC and he will hopefully be trying to prove that his defensive struggles last season were just a blip (unlikely) or that he has made significant improvements in the offseason - remember that he skated in 71 of 76 regular season games for the team last year… and then they made him a healthy scratch for all but the final two playoff games. If that doesn’t light a fire under a young player, I’m not sure what will. It’s good to see Lawrence Pilut back in the fold and I’d assume he spends most of the season in Rochester where he should run one of their two PP units. New names include Chase Priskie, Zach Berzolla, Kale Clague, and Jérémy Davies, who are all basically clones of one another - plug and play bodies for an Amerks team that had difficulty fielding a full roster at times last season. Finally, in goal: the organization said goodbye to Aaron Dell. For anyone who was only familiar with his performance in Buffalo last season that probably doesn’t seem like a major loss, but Dell actually put up respectable numbers in Rochester and bailed them out for a significant chunk of the year while UPL was struggling. UPL did seem to turn things around in the last month of the season before suffering an unfortunate injury in the final week. Most people assume he’ll start the year in Rochester but eventually find a permanent spot in Buffalo, leaving the Amerks with a duo of Malcolm Subban and Michael Houser. It’s far too early to tell how that will work out, but on paper it does sound like a downgrade from the UPL/Dell tandem. I think the Amerks will be fighting all year long to stay afloat in a tough AHL North Division and sneak into the playoffs just as they did last season, but as we recently saw, anything is possible once the playoffs begin. View the full article
  2. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images A Look Back at a Few of Buffalo’s Best This Past Year Recently, Die By the Blade asked readers which stories they’d like to see as we continue to wait for October. Swontfan wrote: “Another possibility is recap of best 5-10 games from 2021-22 season.” I’ll rank my favorite top five, and DBTB’s readers will, of course, have their own opinions. 1) RJ Night: KeyBank Center, Apr. 1, 2022 RJ Night was the evening to celebrate and commemorate legendary Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret. During a season when the home team was lucky to sell more than 8,000 tickets per game, more than 19,000 fans poured into downtown Buffalo to cheer on their hero, RJ and by extension, the Buffalo Sabres. The whole night was magical, from the pregame opening ceremony, when Jeanneret, overcome with emotion, told the crowd “I only have three words: I love you”, to the three intense periods, to Jeanneret’s postgame escort onto the ice: After the @BuffaloSabres' win, the team helped Rick Jeanneret onto the ice to take a photo with him. The sold out crowd gave RJ a standing ovation, too pic.twitter.com/FgdsRZcvgY — B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) April 2, 2022 The Sabres sensed that they couldn’t let down the sellout crowd by losing to the Nashville Predators. Tage Thompson scored two goals in the first period, but as the game went on the Preds whittled away Buffalo’s lead. At one point the game was tied, but fortunately, Victor Oloffson scored the game-winning goal on a power play to give the Sabres a 4-3 victory. 2) 2022 NHL Heritage Classic: Hamilton, ON, March 13, 2022 The Buffalo Sabres haven’t traditionally played well at outdoor games. The Winter Classic in 2008, especially, comes to mind. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the Sabres beat their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, at an outdoor rink on a cold late winter day that felt more like January than mid-March. The matchup was supposed to be a Sabres home game, but you wouldn’t know it watching the coverage. The majority of the fans sported blue and white Leafs jerseys. Brampton Ontario’s own Alessia Cara led the crowd in a chant of Go, Leafs Go! The announcers, with Wayne Gretzky being the exception, had a hard time hiding their pro-Toronto bias. It was nice to see Buffalo go to work and silence the hostile crowd. The Sabres trailed 2-1 in the second period when Vinnie Hinostroza tied it 2-2 and Peyton Krebs got the lead three minutes later. Tage Thompson scored an empty netter late in the third to seal the 5-2 win. The best part of the action, however, was when Dylan Cozens hit Auston Matthews after the Leafs’ forward cross-checked Rasmus Dahlin across the neck: Dylan Cozens lays a clean, hard hit on Austin Matthews #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/pOe2Gr3QhU — Rob Taub (@RTaub_) March 13, 2022 Buffalo beat Toronto both on the scoreboard and on the ice. 3) RJ’s Last Hurrah: KeyBank Center, Apr. 29, 2022 Even though the Buffalo Sabres and their fans had honored broadcaster Rick Jeanneret almost one month earlier, RJ’s last call was the final home game of the season against the Chicago Blackhawks. After a scoreless first period, Dominik Kubalik put the Hawks on the board 8:47 into the second. The third period would be busy, with Tage Thompson answering back, Dylan Strome taking the lead for Chicago once more and new d-man Owen Power tying the score to force an overtime. The Sabres and RJ saved the best for last. 2:07 into OT, Casey Mittelstadt got the game-winning goal and Jeanneret made the most of it. The legendary announcer launched into a comment that combined paraphrasing Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poetry, rhyming verse and RJ’s famous elongated words: “Casey, Casey at the bat, Casey Mittelstadt hammers it home and Buffalo wins it in ooovvveerrtiimmee!” After the game, nobody left and RJ came down to the ice a second time that season, to shake hands with a line of waiting people, including employees and support staff. A classic ending from a true class act. 4) Sabres Win Against the Wild in Minnesota, Dec. 16, 2021 One of Buffalo’s best road games this past season came in Minnesota in December. The Wild were a tough team to beat on home ice and the Sabres were playing rookie goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. UPL showed why the team should make another deal with him. The Finnish goalie stopped 30 out of 32 shots, including a shootout, something the Sabres often lose. UPL had some help from a defense and offense that were normally lackluster that December. Dylan Cozens and Mark Pysyk each scored once to keep Buffalo in the game and Tage Thompson got the SO winner. The Sabres didn’t hang back but kept up the pressure, outshooting Minnesota 40-32. The game was a rare treat for Sabres fans that winter. Hopefully it’s the kind of performance Buffalo will repeat far more often this upcoming season. Tage Thompson shootout game winner, 3-2 #LetsGoBuffalo #mnwild pic.twitter.com/otkciDFSIr — Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) December 17, 2021 5) Jack Comes Back and Gets Beat, KeyBank Center, Mar. 10, 2022 Jack Eichel was the Sabres’ big hope in the 2015 NHL Draft. Hockey scouts considered him a generational talent, along with Connor McDavid. Edmonton drafted McDavid, while Buffalo took Eichel. Things didn’t quite work out the way the fans and managers thought. After No. 15 acted like he didn’t want to be in Buffalo anymore, fans soured on the team’s captain. When the Sabres finally traded Eichel to Vegas for Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, many Sabres supporters felt it was good riddance. Jack Eichel came back to Buffalo wearing a Golden Knights uniform on Mar. 10, 2022. Fans weren’t happy to see him and they booed him every time he touched the puck. What made it more humiliating for the former captain and all the sweeter for the home crowd was what happened at the end of the third period. With Vegas trailing the Sabres 2-1, the Knights pulled their goalie. Alex Tuch, one of the players Vegas traded for Eichel, neatly stole the puck from him and skated gleefully down the ice to score an empty netter and seal a 3-1 win: Those are my top five. What are yours? View the full article
  3. Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images How much better will the Sens be this season? The NHL’s Atlantic Division is setting up for some fierce competition in the 2022-23 season. While the Buffalo Sabres have made several small roster moves, their divisional rivals certainly haven’t been sleeping this offseason. And while Sabres GM Kevyn Adams seems to prefer to focus on his own team, rather than what other teams have done, it's still a worthwhile venture to check in with the divisional rivals & see what to expect in the coming months. The Ottawa Senators are the first team the Sabres will face in the upcoming season in a game that counts, as the two teams kick things off on Thursday, October 13 at 7 p.m. The Senators have a lot of room for improvement following last season, when they finished second-last in the division. Their record of 33-42-7 and 73 points was a marginal improvement over recent years, but still leaves a lot to be desired. The Senators hold the third-longest playoff drought among Atlantic Division teams, having last made it to the postseason in 2017. The only division teams with longer droughts: the Detroit Red Wings (2016) and, of course, the Sabres (2011). Thankfully (for Sens fans), the franchise does seem to be moving in the right direction, even if it has been a painfully slow climb at times: “There can be no doubt that the team’s roster will be greatly improved, and anything but a substantial change in the end-of-season position will be a disappointment. However, expectations are riding high in the nation’s capital: you don’t shove all of your chips into the middle like Pierre Dorion did this off-season just to miss out on all the fun.” - Nate, Silver Seven Sens On The Roster The biggest free agent signing for Ottawa was clearly the addition of right winger Claude Giroux, on a three-year deal worth a combined $19.5 million. It’s a big splash to add the 34-year-old with plenty of leadership experience. The fact that he had 65 points (21-44) in 75 games last season with the Panthers certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Locking up center Josh Norris, who had 55 points in 66 games last year, to an eight-year contract is another key piece for the Sens. Ottawa’s two other significant moves this offseason has been shedding Matt Murray’s contract, and nabbing an absolute steal in acquiring Alex DeBrincat from the Blackhawks. DeBrincat had 78 points (41-37) in 82 games last season, and 56 in 52 the year prior. For the Sens to not only acquire such an offensive talent, but at minimal cost? Yes, please. Watch as Alex DeBrincat gets a first look at Canadian Tire Centre, and his new threads! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/KKUNdoBLiN — Ottawa Senators (@Senators) July 16, 2022 The Sens have added a lot of offensive firepower, and retained most of their top scorers - Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, Drake Batherson. In net, they retain Anton Forsberg, who carried most of the workload last season. Forsberg appeared in 46 games, accruing a .917 save percentage and 2.82 GAA. They dropped Murray (with a little salary retention) and added 35-year-old Cam Talbot via trade. Talbot, who has one year left on his contract, had a .911 save percentage and 2.76 GAA with Minnesota last season. Fun fact: this is the final year that the Senators are going to be paying Dion Phaneuf. He’ll get $354,167 as the last piece of his 2019 buyout. Former Sabres forward Tyler Ennis spent last year with the Senators, but remains unsigned as a free agent as of writing. Ennis had a hat trick and one assist against Buffalo last season. Front Office Happenings The passing of Senators owner, governor & chairman Eugene Melnyk back in March has certainly sparked some change for the franchise. Melnyk owned the Senators since 2003. The team is now currently owned by his estate, and it seems that Anna & Olivia Melnyk (Eugene's daughters) have at least some say in how the team is being run. Both were at the NHL draft earlier this summer and seen chatting with GM Pierre Dorion. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this year that the Senators aren't currently for sale and there's no urgency to do so, but it is at least something to be mindful of. Matchups Thu., Oct. 13, 7 PM vs. Ottawa Wed., Nov. 16, 7 PM @ Ottawa Sun., Jan. 1, 7 PM @ Ottawa Thu., Apr. 13, 7 PM vs. Ottawa View the full article
  4. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Help us rank the 2022 top 25 Sabres players under the age of 25. It’s that time once again: time for our annual top-25 under 25 rankings for the Buffalo Sabres. First up, of course, we have to vote! A combination of fan & Die by the Blade staff rankings will formulate the final list, which will be composed of players & prospects who are under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2022. Once voting is complete, we’ll bring you the series throughout the coming weeks. Refresh yourself on last year’s rankings here. Here’s last year’s top ten: 1. Jack Eichel 2. Dylan Cozens 3. Rasmus Dahlin 4. Owen Power 5. Casey Mittelstadt 6. Henri Jokiharju 7. Arttu Ruotsalainen 8. Rasmus Asplund 9. Jack Quinn 10. JJ Peterka Vote by clicking here, now through August 16. View the full article
  5. Just a barren desert out there | Photo by: Jon G Fuller/Eye Ubiquitous/Universal Images Group via Getty Images What’s going on with me? Nothing at all, how about you? We’re into that time of the year where there’s simply no Buffalo Sabres news as everyone’s away enjoying their summer breaks. There’s not been much in the way of news aside from the announcement about the return of the Prospects Challenge, with the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins all visiting, and all the games being played between September 15-19 at the Sabres home, the LECOM Harborcenter. Also, a big thank you to everyone who responded to the call for feedback on what the DBTB crew can work on for the next few weeks for your reading pleasure. There were a bunch of really good ideas in there; we asked, and once again this blog’s incredible readership delivered. You have consistently proven yourselves to be by far the most hockey-savvy, realistic and supportive fanbase there is in the sport and this site is the better for your participation. Give yourselves a big pat on the back! Use the comments below to discuss goings-on with the Sabres and the rest of the NHL for the week of August 1st. View the full article
  6. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports Let’s take a closer look at Don Granato following his first full NHL season as Sabres’ head coach This past week, Die by the Blade Twitter asked you, the fans and followers, what content you would be interested in during the final few months of the offseason. While more information on the coaching staff as a whole was requested (we will get to them later, do not fret!), it is important to spotlight the main man behind the improvement - albeit a slow climb - of the Sabres. Yes, they missed the playoffs yet again, but it would be dense to say that they did not show signs of hope during the 2021-2022 season, especially that second half. Following a tumultuous few years with some very poor coaching choices by the organization, it seems the Sabres have finally found a competent leader behind the bench, but...who is Don Granato? Unlike his predecessor, Granato has an extensive background in both playing and coaching hockey, which assumingly stems from his family’s passion for the sport early on. As one of three kids - all of which now have impressive careers in hockey - Granato used to run coaching drills in his basement with his siblings and look to Wayne Gretzky for inspiration. It was very clear early on that the now 54-year-old had the right mentality and knowledge of the sport to motivate a team one day. As they all grew up, hockey stuck with each of them in various ways. His sister Cammi was not only one of the first women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, she also earned an Olympic gold medal as the captain of the U.S. team in 1998 and then a silver medal in 2002. She is currently the assistant general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. His brother Tony has had considerable experience playing (for the Rangers, Kings, and Sharks, respectively) as well as coaching in the NHL. In 2018, Tony served as the head coach of the U.S. men’s hockey team in the Olympics. He currently works as the head coach at the University of Wisconsin. Though he did have a few brief stints playing for both the USHL and the ECHL, it seems Don was always destined to be a coach in some capacity when he hung up his skates in 1993 after playing just a few years. Since then, he has held various roles as either an assistant or head coach in the aforementioned leagues as well as the AHL. During his time coaching in the AHL, Granato won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as outstanding head coach of the Worcester IceCats - during his first year with the club - after racking up an impressive 108 points on the season. More recently, Mr. Meatballs led the U.S. National Team Development Program for five seasons, coaching some familiar faces over the years in Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Quinn Hughes, and Matthew Tkachuk, to name a few. Before all of these endeavors led him to the Sabres, Granato also had to overcome quite a bit of adversity with his physical health to get where he is today. As many fans may remember, he fell very ill with pneumonia in 2019, was hospitalized, and quite frankly not expected to live. Prior to that health scare, he battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2005 while coaching the IceCats. Health aside, let’s not forget Granato was provided a huge undertaking following the release of former head coach Ralph Krueger: coaching a team that has been tanking for nearly a decade and doing so during a worldwide pandemic. Sounds easy, right? Through all of this, it has felt right to have him behind the bench. And, while his numbers are not all that impressive to tired, restless fans yet, there is hope for a future that includes Jack Quinn and Owen Power in the equation. Though Donnie Meatballs has only been head coach for one complete season, he really does seem like one of the puzzle pieces that has been missing to get this team back on track and, honestly, is just so likeable. His first concert was Elvis Presley and first job was washing beer trucks. The man is already a legend. For more fun facts, do yourself a favor and watch this video: View the full article
  7. Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images Buffalo’s Moves Need to Be Enough to Make It in the NHL’s East Recently, Die By the Blade polled readers on Twitter, asking them which upcoming Sabres stories they’d like to see. One respondent, Zack Holiskey asked, “Where do they stand in the East after all the roster moves? Can the playoff drought finally end?” The 2022 NHL Draft and free agent signing deadlines are in the books, so sports pundits can do what they enjoy most, analyzing them to death. Reaction to the Buffalo Sabres’ moves in the Draft and free agency have been mixed. Corey Pronman of the Athletic gave Buffalo an A-, his third highest grade behind Montreal and Seattle. DBTB readers were mostly pleased with the team’s decision to stick with their draft picks, and 63% of those who voted gave the Sabres an A. However, not everyone in the sports world thought GM Kevyn Adam’s decision to stand pat with his picks and not make any major trades was the wisest decision. Harrison Brown of NovaCaps, scored Buffalo with a C. In his analysis of the Sabres’ moves, Brown wrote, “The Sabres signed a couple depth defensemen in addition to a back-up goaltender and did not lose anyone significant. In an 11-season postseason drought, more action was needed in Buffalo.” To put things in perspective, Brown graded the Leafs not much better, at C- and the Florida Panthers at a D-. Boston and Tampa were also trending down, but still did better than Buffalo, according to his analysis. Detroit, Montreal and Ottawa scored really well, trending up. Other sports bloggers also felt that the Senators and Red Wings are potential up-and-coming rivals. Zach Jezioro of SabreNoise pointed to Ottawa’s big move getting forward Alex DeBrincat from Chicago as something to watch. Detroit is shoring up their roster, as other pundits such as Kristen Shilton noted. Tampa, Florida and Toronto will still be the top three teams in the Atlantic Division, in Jezioro’s estimation. The Sabres aren’t ready to beat these three, but Buffalo could potentially fight the Boston Bruins or Ottawa Senators for a wild card playoff spot. The Sens are doing better, but they’re still in a rebuild mode. The Bruins are not the top franchise they were until recently. Bergeron is out for the next couple of years, Pastrnak is questionable long-term and Brad Marchand’s not getting any younger. The Sabres have youth and depth, which could make the difference in a possible Sabres-Bruins playoff competition. If the Blue and Gold can keep playing the way they did the tail end of 2021-22, the Sabres have a shot at the playoffs. One thing the team lacks is an experienced captain to show a good example and motivate the young prospects. Eichel was obviously not leadership material. Kyle Okposo and Alex Tuch have been floated as potential Cs. Jeff Skinner is another contender. Any one of these guys would make a good captain, and hopefully the team will choose one of them for the upcoming season. Goaltending is another weak spot. Buffalo resigned Craig Anderson, signed Eric Comrie and most likely will make a deal with RFA UPL. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, who wrote that the Leafs fell off the goalie carousel, gave the Sabres possible points for getting Comrie. Are these the right moves? Again, we won’t know until well into the season. The Buffalo Sabres are poised to make the playoffs, if the team can play consistently for more than two months and if the team’s offseason drafts and signings work out. What do you think? View the full article
  8. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images Tournament held in mid-September at Harborcenter. Over the past few years, the Buffalo Sabres have been building up quite the Prospects Challenge, held annually at LECOM Harborcenter. This year, the round-robin challenge continues to expand. Aside from Buffalo, prospects from the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins will attend. Per the current schedule released by the Sabres, five of the teams will play three games each. On the other hand, the Penguins will play just once. The Sabres will face the Canadiens, Devils and Senators. Although rosters will be released at a later date, it’s reasonable to expect that players like first-overall draft pick Juraj Slafkovský and other top picks including Filip Mesar, Šimon Nemec and Owen Pickering will be in attendance. Here’s the schedule, with Sabres games in bold. Admission is $10 per ticket. The three Sabres games will be streamed for the local broadcast market on the team’s website - so blackout restrictions may apply. (As an aside, the Devils have typically broadcast their games in this tournament on Twitter.) Thursday, September 15 • Buffalo vs. Montreal, 7 p.m. Friday, September 16 • Boston vs. Ottawa, 3:30 p.m. • Montreal vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m. Saturday, September 17 • Pittsburgh vs. Boston, 3:30 p.m. • Buffalo vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m. Sunday, September 18 • Ottawa vs. Montreal, 12 p.m. Monday, September 19 • New Jersey vs. Boston, 10 a.m. • Buffalo vs. Ottawa, 1:30 p.m. View the full article
  9. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Krebs spoke recently about being traded, making the NHL and more. On the ice, Peyton Krebs’ skill visibly sets him apart from others. What isn’t perhaps as visible to the naked eye, however, is his maturity and sense of responsibility. Krebs, of course, came to the Buffalo Sabres organization as a part of the Jack Eichel trade. When he spoke earlier this summer at the team’s development camp, his thoughts about being traded at a fairly young age were particularly wise and contemplative. “At a young age, you think you’re going to be with a certain organization for your whole life,” he said. “A lot of these kids that got drafted this past week probably think the same thing. You don’t know what can happen.” “For me, it’s just, stick to my morals, stick to my values,” he added. “The NHL is a league. It’s a business, and I want to be a part of it. I’ve got to work my brains out every day, no matter where I am. Stay humble, have fun. It’s a business to them, but you’re living the dream, so you can’t complain too much.” During the season, he’s one of the younger players on the ice and in the locker room for the Sabres. During development camp, however, he skewed toward the other side of things, as one of a handful of players with NHL experience, which he knew was valuable to the other prospects. “To have a guy that’s played, NHL-caliber, skate with you, you’re going to see where you need to be and where you need to go to get your game,” he said. “It would’ve been huge for me.” Krebs was unable to participate in his first NHL development camp, as he was recovering from a cut Achilles at the time. “Not all of these guys are going to play in the NHL,” he said. “If I can help one or two make their dreams come to reality, and give them little tips to allow them to maybe get that next jump that they need, that’s huge for our organization & what we need to do to build the franchise.” He spoke it plainly and simply, but I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever heard another player acknowledge that fact. There were a number of players at development camp, but the simple realities are: many of them, most of them, will never play in the NHL, and many of them will be traded at some point. It’s the facts of life, but to hear Krebs speak honestly about them, and his experiences being traded at a fairly young age, it was refreshing and authentic. Of course, Krebs also said he’s trying to get better, too, and used the team’s week-long development camp to get some extra ice, have fun and keep himself sharp. He also spoke about his time in the WHL, where he played with Matthew Savoie, and how he and his team persevered through some bottom-of-the-standings seasons - and how he can take those lessons into Buffalo. “My first year [in the WHL], we won 12 games out of 70,” he said. “It was a tough start... it was just about trying to get better by the end of the season. The next year, we took another step, and the next year, we’re a playoff team. I want to try to help do that here in Buffalo.” Krebs served as captain of the Kootenay Ice/Winnipeg Ice from 2018 until 2021. His leadership skills - and all of his other skills - clearly shine through even to this day, and he appears poised for another solid season in Buffalo. There’s a reason that earlier this year, Tage Thompson called Krebs “one of the smartest hockey players I’ve seen,” noting how well he reads the game, his high hockey sense and great passing ability. Thompson said Krebs truly makes everyone around him better. Victor Olofsson, too, noted Krebs’ maturity and how easy it is to forget he’s only 21. When he eventually joined the AHL’s Rochester Americans for their playoff push, his dominance on the ice was impressive. Regardless of where he plays, he brings an incredible amount of value to the team and should be a key piece of the Sabres organization for years to come. View the full article
  10. Will Kevyn Adams make any more offseason moves? | Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images The dreaded summer doldrums are here As mostly expected, the Buffalo Sabres haven’t made any big splashes either in free agency or via trades before or after the NHL Entry Draft. In the last week or so they have brought back defenseman Brett Murray on a one-year deal. Arttu Ruotsalainen declined to sign the qualifying offer extended to him and has chosen to play the coming season for EHC Kloten in the Swiss National League. That leaves goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen as the Sabres’ sole unsigned restricted free agent. It’s going to be a quiet spell with Development Camp complete and Buffalo’s first preseason game exactly two months away on Sunday, September 25 against the Washington Capitals on the road. Use the comments below to discuss goings-on with the Sabres and the rest of the NHL for the week of July 25th. View the full article
  11. Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Forward signs one-year contract in Switzerland. It appears that Buffalo Sabres forward Arttu Ruotsalainen will be playing overseas next season. The forward has signed a one-year deal with EHC Kloten, a professional team based in Kloten, Switzerland. The team plays in the NL, the National League. Der National-League-Rückkehrer @EHC_Kloten_1934 hat den finnischen Internationalen Arttu #Ruotsalainen verpflichtet. #srfsport #srfhockey https://t.co/qBm0aQvrp5 — SRF Sport (@srfsport) July 22, 2022 Since the Sabres did extend a qualifying offer to Ruotsalainen, the team will retain his Nroth American rights for the time being. The lone restricted free agent left to sign is now goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. While he may have dominated another year with the Amerks, it’s pretty clear that Ruotsalainen wants to play in the NHL. Unfortunately for Ruotsalainen, he simply became the odd man out on a pretty well-packed team. There’s realistically no room for him on the NHL roster, with 13 forwards already signed. That also doesn’t include a player like JJ Peterka, who will fight for a roster spot but may spend time in Rochester, too. Ruotsalainen has skated in 35 NHL games with the Sabres since 2020, scoring 10 points. He’s also played in 70 regular-season AHL games, potting 64 points. This past season, he recorded 51 points (18-33) in 57 games, then added 12 points in 10 playoff games. View the full article
  12. Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images Buffalo’s Newest Netminder Has Played Well in His Short Career Speculation swirled around who the Buffalo Sabres would choose to shore up their goaltending situation when free agency signings began on July 13. The Sabres, sitting on more than $32 million in cap space on the eve of free agency, had a number of veteran goalies available. It came as a surprise when GM Kevyn Adams signed Winnipeg Jets goaltender Eric Comrie, with a two-year, $1.8 million deal. What’s even more astonishing is that the Sabres’ managers had identified Comrie as their top goaltending free agent to pursue. Adams and his team could have gone after a different goalie with more NHL experience and a longer track record. Instead, they went for a backup goaltender with just 28 games under his belt. Sabres fans are used to free agents not working out in recent years. Many of the team’s recent signings and trades haven’t brought the level of success managers hoped they would. It’s easy to get the sinking feeling that, once again, Buffalo had all the right cards in their hand but failed to lay them on the table. However, it’s also possible that Adams didn’t blow it this year. When the Sabres traded for a little-known goaltender named Dominik Hasek in 1992, the Czech goalie had only played 25 NHL games. With an .893 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA, Chicago felt he wasn’t worth keeping. By comparison, Comrie has played 28 games, has a .905 save percentage and a 3.06 GAA. Before anyone accuses me of being a hockey Nostradamus, I’m not saying that Comrie is destined to be the next Hasek. However, he could play at the same elite level if he keeps his percentages as high as the Dominator did. Current goaltender Craig Anderson, who also started his career with the Hawks, played 21 games his second season in Chicago and had a .905 save percentage and a GAA of 2.84. UPL, who’s only seen 13 games in his NHL career, enjoys a save percentage of .913 and a 3.08 GAA. Both of these goalies will share the net with Comrie in the Sabres’ upcoming season. Some of Buffalo’s past goaltenders had comparable statistics in their first years with the Blue and Gold. Ryan Miller only saw 15 games his first Sabres season, but finished .902 and 2.63, respectively. Marty Biron played a mere 6 matchups backing up Hasek in Buffalo’s infamous No Goal season, yet his numbers were .917 and 2.14. Quite often, a goaltender can show their future talent level with not a lot of games on their record. No doubt, Adams hopes Comrie will show a similar talent level as some of Buffalo’s previous goaltending greats. There’s no guarantee he will, but current stats sometimes hint at how well a player does in subsequent seasons. While fans wait for October, everyone has their fingers crossed that the GM made the right goalie move. View the full article
  13. Natalie Shaver/OHL Images Sabres prospect heading into his final year of juniors. It’s safe to say that Buffalo Sabres prospect Josh Bloom has had quite a year. Last July, Bloom was drafted by the Sabres with the penultimate pick in the third round of the NHL Draft. Like others in his class, Bloom didn’t get all of the typical fanfare that comes with a draft. A few months later, he was back in Saginaw for another year with the season, stepping into an upgraded leadership role as an alternate captain. His productive season, during which he recorded 61 points in 67 games, came on a struggling Saginaw Spirit team that finished last in the OHL’s Western Conference. He joined the AHL’s Rochester Americans on an amateur tryout, but due to the NHL-CHL agreement, was unable to play in an actual game. Now, this past week, he came to Buffalo for the NHL team’s development camp. Hear from the newest *official* addition to the @BuffaloSabres family: Josh Bloom ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/6PUp6hqlkK — Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) April 18, 2022 “It’s been a crazy year,” Bloom said. “Stepping into a new position in Saginaw, a lot of guys graduating and stepping into a bigger leadership role on that team. Definitely a learning curve for me, but exciting at the same time.” From what he’s seen so far, Bloom has been impressed with both the city of Buffalo and the Sabres organization as a whole. He used this past week at development camp to gain valuable experience, enjoy himself and get more comfortable with the way things operate. Bloom, like some of his other fellow prospects, has certainly noticed the dedication of Sabres fans. Easily 200 fans were in attendance for a Wednesday afternoon on-ice session, and plenty were in the stands for Saturday’s French Connection Tournament as well. “It’s a pretty special thing playing here,” he said. “There’s a buzz around the city right now about the Buffalo Sabres, and it’s special to be a part of.” “You can see it out there with the fans,” Bloom added. “There’s definitely a buzz going around, and this city is a great spot to be in right now.” More than just learning about the city and its fanbase, Bloom also used development camp to learn from veterans like Kyle Okposo along with other experienced young players like Peyton Krebs and Mattias Samuelsson. He said that during his brief time in Rochester, he was able to build good relationships with a lot of the other players. Okposo addressed the prospects during camp & doled out some wise words. “[Okposo] had a lot of great things to say,” Bloom said. “... leaning on the older guys, not being afraid to ask questions. He’s a really open person and a great speaker from what I heard. Just listening to his story and the advice he gave us was pretty cool.” “Taking a lot of things from that, and just living a pro day, going about your business as a pro. We’re all young kids and we’re learning how to be professionals. That’s something that development camp offers for us,” he added. “Taking that away from here is something you can bring wherever you go - whether it’s juniors, whether it’s college - bring that pro mentality anywhere you go, bring your success.” Bloom, who turned 19 earlier this summer, still won’t be eligible to play in an AHL game this year - that aforementioned NHL-CHL agreement is in effect until he turns 20 - so his focus right now is on his development and his final year in juniors. He’s also headed to Team Canada’s national junior team summer camp July 23-27 in Calgary. “Hopefully we’ve got a really good squad, which I think we will,” he said. “Saginaw’s done everything right. It’s just an unbelievable organization to be a part. Really excited to go to camp and meet the new guys, see what group we’ve got this year and hopefully make a really deep playoff run. It’s exciting.” Josh Bloom has been so deadly on the penalty kill this year. Great work here to apply pressure at the point early, taking away any shooting options. Then he eventually makes a great read to intercept the backhand pass and is off to the races. pic.twitter.com/yYVbAI8x6d — Brock Otten (@BrockOtten) March 27, 2022 What can Sabres fans expect from this prospect? “Lots of speed. I’m fast everywhere I play,” Bloom said of himself. “I’m a big body who’s still learning how to use it, but at the same time, I can make an impact offensively and defensively. Whether I’m scoring, whether I’m not, I’ll find ways to impact the game and help the team out.” Following the national team camp, Sabres fans can follow Bloom in action with his Spirit team in a few short months. Saginaw kicks off its season on October 1. View the full article
  14. Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Winger signs one-year deal with Sabres. The Buffalo Sabres have locked up another of their restricted free agents. The team announced Monday morning that it has signed forward Brett Murray to a one-year contract worth $750,000 (league minimum). With Murray’s signing, the Sabres have two RFAs left in the system: Arttu Ruotsalainen and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. None of the Sabres RFAs elected for arbitration, which is likely a good sign with regards to an upcoming contract. Murray, who is about to turn 24 on Wednesday, spent most of last season with the AHL’s Rochester Americans. In his third pro season, he registered 15 goals and added 17 assists for 32 points in 52 games. He went on to score six points (3-3) for the Amerks in the playoffs. Murray also skated in 19 NHL games with the Sabres, registering six points, including his first NHL goal. To date, he has appeared in 21 NHL games, all with Buffalo, and 144 AHL games, all with Rochester. Murray was a fourth-round draft pick of the Sabres in 2016 at #99 overall. View the full article
  15. Photo by Vitor Munhoz/NHLI via Getty Images The dreaded summer doldrums are here The NHL Draft is now behind us and we’re well into NHL Free Agency as well. The Buffalo Sabres, as mostly expected, have been pretty low-key with their moves so far adding just a couple of moderate-replacement level players to address needs in some key positions. Defenseman Lawrence Pilut also returned to the organization after two years in the KHL. First round picks Matt Savoie, Noah Ostlund and Jiri Kulich all signed their entry-level contracts on Friday. Development Camp was also underway and finished out last weekend with a very entertaining French Connection 3-on-3 Tournament. Team Perreault consisting of forwards Jack Quinn, William von Barnekow, Jakub Konecny, Jake Richard, and Lukas Rousek; defensemen Albert Lyckasen, Mats Lindgren, and Spencer Sova; and goaltender Erik Portillo won the competition. Rewatch the live stream below - We are LIVE from Harborcenter for the 2022 French Connection Tournament! Rosters: https://t.co/QKdSQjpRo7 Who you got? https://t.co/YQ2HFKoFmX — Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) July 16, 2022 General Manager Kevyn Adams spoke to the audience after the game - “For us, the goal of this camp was for [the players] to get to know each other, to get to learn about the organization and who everybody is from Sabres right through Rochester. “… I talk all the time about, we need players that want to be here. We need players who want to be Buffalo Sabres. And these guys are special and they’re going to make you proud.” View the full article
  16. Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images Michael Peca is well-versed in what it takes to become an NHL player. Goodness knows he’s been around the game long enough, which makes him the perfect match to work with Buffalo Sabres prospects this week at development camp. “The talent that’s out there is remarkable,” Peca said on Friday morning. “It’s the vibe off the ice that’s just as impressive. Everybody that spoke in front of the microphone [in the] second half of last year talked about the culture and environment, and how it’s just changed so much for the better.” Among those who have caught Peca’s eye this week are, naturally, the first-round picks. “When you see a team pick three first-round centremen, that means at least two of them might be on the wing at some point in their career. But I think it’s exciting. They said it, they picked the best player available.” Peca noted Noah Östlund’s ability to move around the ice and his strength on the puck as key highlights. He’s also been particularly impressed with Jiří Kulich. Kulich was taken by the Sabres in the first round of the 2022 draft with the 28th overall pick, but based on what we’ve seen this week, he could’ve gone a lot higher - and the Sabres certainly could’ve taken him at 16. “He’s just edged JJ out at the amount of oohs and aahs he’s created in the stands with his scoring ability,” Peca said. “His shot’s the obvious thing, it jumps out at you, but it’s his poise as an 18-year-old on the ice and off, in this environment, off the ice. He’s incredibly mature.” “I think it’s been good for him to have [Lukas] Rousek and [Matej] Pekar and even [Jakub] Konečný. They call them the Czech Mafia. They’re tight,” he added. Other notes: Goaltender Tobias Leinenen wasn’t on the ice Friday. Peca said he’s dealing with “a bit of an injury.” Here’s to hoping that’s not anything too bad or long-term. Does Jack Quinn ever *not* have a smile on his face? Kid is always smiling. Vibes are great. “He made guys’ jaws drop on a daily basis in practice with his passing ability and his vision. I think that’s why he endeared himself so quickly to the guys; he just fit right in.” - Peca on Lukas Rousek Erik Portillo has finally gotten *some* of his own gear after losing three bags of equipment in the London airport. While he was still sporting an old Jhonas Enroth-era Sabres mask, he finally had his signature pads, glove and blocker. Hey, it’s a start. Here’s to hoping the rest of it gets to Buffalo… eventually… (At any rate, Peca said he’s been impressed by both Portillo and Devon Levi in this week’s camp.) The Sabres prospects will wrap up this week’s development with the French Connection Tournament on Saturday morning. The 3-on-3 tournament kicks off at 9:15 a.m. at Harborcenter. It’s a ticketed event and, it appears, all tickets went to season ticketholders, but it will be streamed on Sabres.com and on social media. View the full article
  17. Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images Defenseman returns to Buffalo after two years in the KHL. The Buffalo Sabres picked up a key defensive depth piece on Friday, signing Lawrence Pilut to a one-year contract worth $750,000. The two-way contract helps bolster the Rochester Americans defense while giving the Sabres a nice boost. Pilut should have the opportunity to compete for a spot in Buffalo - it’ll probably be him & Jacob Bryson fighting for the seventh spot, but even if he begins the year in Rochester, there’s plenty to look forward to. Pilot’s return to Buffalo is one that has been talked about a lot recently. The 26-year-old spent the last two seasons overseas in the KHL with Chelyabinsk Traktor, where he appeared in 97 games and put up 39 points. Per GM Kevyn Adams, the Sabres were certainly interested in bringing Pilut back, but needed to wait to formalize the signing until they made sure the termination paperwork from the KHL contract was accurate and all loose ends were tied up. Pilut spent two seasons with the Sabres between 2018 and 2020, splitting both years between Buffalo and Rochester. In 67 AHL games, he scored 10 goals and added 39 assists. He also appeared in 46 NHL games and had six points and 24 PIMs. Looking back, here’s his 2019 season review with the Amerks: View the full article
  18. Photo by Ben Green/NHLI via Getty Images Pysyk, Dell, Miller among those finding new homes. A number of former Buffalo Sabres who either skated with the team this past season in NHL action or in recent years have been on the move in the opening days of NHL free agency. Goaltender Aaron Dell is heading back to the San Jose Sharks, where he spent the first few years of his career. Defenseman Mark Pysyk signed with the Detroit Red Wings, while Colin Miller signed for two years with the Dallas Stars. Dustin Tokarski is heading to the Pittsburgh Penguins, while John Hayden will be ‘sleepless in Seattle.’ Here’s a quick rundown of former Sabres who have been on the move: Jean-Sebastian Dea: Arizona Coyotes, 2 years, $762,500 AAV Aaron Dell: San Jose Sharks, 1 year, $775,000 Nicolas Deslauriers: Philadelphia Flyers, 4 years, $1.75 million AAV Jaroslav Halak: New York Rangers, 1 year, $1.55 million John Hayden: Seattle Kraken, 1 year, $750,000 Matt Irwin: Washington Capitals, 1 year, $750,000 Marcus Johansson: Washignton Capitals, 1 year, $1.1 million Curtis Lazar: Vancouver Canucks, 3 year, $1 million AAV Colin Miller: Dallas Stars, 2 years, $1.85 million AAV Dustin Tokarski: Pittsburgh Penguins, 1 year, $775,000 Christian Wolanin: Vancouver Canucks, 1 year, $750,000 Evander Kane, Alexander Nylander and Nikita Zadorov all each re-signed with their respective teams. Other former Sabres players who are still available in free agency include Will Butcher, Cody Eakin, Robert Hagg, Johan Larsson, Justin Bailey and Andrej Sekera. Michael Houser, Andrew Hammond, Brian Flynn, C.J. Smith, Jimmy Vesey and Hudson Fasching are also each looking for new contracts. View the full article
  19. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Veteran defenseman was brought back for some smarts and stability Last up in our 2022 Buffalo Sabres player report cards series is defenseman Mark Pysyk. Total Season Stats: 68 GP | 3 G | 9 A | 12 PTS Age: 30 Contract Status: One-year deal at $750,000, signed with Detroit in FA. With the Sabres defensive corps undergoing major surgery last summer with the departures of Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe, coach Don Granato needed some experience and stability to ground all the youngsters in the room. Enter Mark Pysysk, who had been drafted by the organization and was a solid d-man between 2010-16 before an unpopular trade saw the analytics crowd darling shipped out to Florida where he truly hit the limelight. Granato brought Pysyk back after viewing his tape with the Dallas Stars, and proceeded to use the veteran up and down the defensive pairings during the season. The coach even named Pysysk alternate captain as a nod to his leadership after Kyle Okposo went out injured. “He’s a real stabilizing personality. That was at a premium for us at that moment, to have a little bit more calm. Certainly the defense group was under fire … and Mark has a real calming presence and it showed in the game.” There is nothing flashy about Pysyk’s game at this point, but he lets younger, more offensive-minded defensemen get about their game while providing them with a defensive foundation. His 15:29 a night was mostly unspectacular but sorely needed in a mixed-and-matched defense. At -4, he had the best 5-on-5 on-ice goal difference of any of the nine defensemen who played over 30 games (tied with Colin Miller). With the defensive corps a year older but still painfully young, it was expected that General Manager Kevyn Adams would find a way to bring Pysysk back this summer, however Buffalo decided to go with Ilya Lyubushkin and Pysysk instead went to Detroit. View the full article
  20. Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images Sabres prospects & invitees hit the ice Wednesday. Forty-three Buffalo Sabres prospects and camp invitees have taken over Buffalo’s LECOM Harborcenter for the next few days, hitting the ice at the team’s annual development camp. This is the first time the Sabres have been able to hold a formal development camp in a few years (thanks, COVID), so in addition to the newest draft picks, some of the others from years past are also experiencing their first taste at such a camp. Here’s my Cliffnotes version of Wednesday’s initial sessions, which featured a lot of half-ice work that Rochester Americans head coach Seth Appert called “not goalie-friendly.” Appert is helping run the on-ice portion of the camp, along with a number of other familiar names: Michael Peca, Mike Weber, Nick Tuzzolino & Tim Kennedy among them. Matthew Savoie, the Sabres’ first pick in the 2022 draft, is in Buffalo but won’t be on the ice. He suffered a shoulder injury in June when his WHL team was knocked out of the playoffs. While he managed to avoid surgery, Sabres doctors aren’t comfortable with putting him on the ice at unnecessary risk. Better safe than sorry! Aleksandr Kisakov is the other name I’ve seen Sabres fans asking about. Unfortunately, there’s been some immigration papers holding things up for his arrival to the United States. He did make it out of Russia and to Canada, and was in Montreal watching the draft. GM Kevyn Adams said he has to spend a few days in Ottawa and then can hopefully come over. A few other players have also had similar immigration issues OR are otherwise not at development camp because of where they are with their respective teams overseas. See: Filip Cederqvist, Prokhor Poltapov. Erik Portillo is currently using borrowed gear, as all three of his bags of equipment were lost at the London airport en route to Buffalo. Portillo said as of Wednesday morning, his gear was reportedly in Philadelphia, but he had no idea when it would make it to the 716. Speaking of Portillo, he acknowledged that he’d face the same situation when it comes to goaltenders in every NHL organization. Right now, his focus is on the upcoming season with Michigan. In addition to the on-ice skills sessions the prospects are participating in, there’s plenty of off-ice training this week, too. Among those is a Friday session with Brock McGillis, the first openly gay professional men’s hockey player. I asked Appert about the importance of these cultural trainings, particularly given today’s society & climate: “It’s huge. It’s of critical importance. Kevyn talks about it all the time. We don’t just want to draft great hockey players. We want to draft great people that want to be Sabres. How you treat people, how you treat others, how inclusive we are, is critically important to our organization. That starts right at the top and goes on through. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity... to learn, to gain valuable experience and be able to take that with them as they move forward.” Jack Quinn is only 20 and has just two NHL games under his belt, but his commitment to the organization shines through. Appert spoke about how Quinn called him on his way to Buffalo and said he wanted to learn more about each of the Sabres’ draft picks. Just my two cents, but that says a lot about the kind of person (and player) Quinn is and how much he cares about being part of this organization. Topias Leinonen’s size is hard to miss. I mean, I knew on paper he was up there, but seeing him on the ice and in net, especially compared to his goalie counterparts... wow. He’s 6’5” and only 18 years old. I’ll have more on Peyton Krebs, but his maturity at just 21 years old continues to impress me. He spoke about how he can be a mentor to some of the less experienced players at development camp, but that he’s also always looking to get better, too. He also spoke openly about being traded and how the expectations of a player after getting drafted are often different from the reality of their path to the NHL - or more often than not, not to the NHL. Ryan Johnson said he’s leaning toward returning for another year at Minnesota and to continue to work on his education. He also said that he hopes to sign, eventually, and that returning to school for another year doesn’t necessarily close the door on a future with Buffalo. An off-ice note, but I was honestly impressed by Wednesday’s crowd. There were easily over 200 people in attendance to watch from the stands on a sunny day in July. When Owen Power was the first to step on the ice, he was greeted by uproarious applause. When Devon Levi made a big save, the same. It’s always nice to feel that energy, and there’s no doubt that it leaves a good impression on the players, too. I’m not at development camp on Thursday (I do have a full-time job!) but I’ll be back at the rink on Friday morning for another set of sessions and back here with more thoughts to follow. View the full article
  21. Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images Draft Grades, Mock Draft Contest Winner, McGee/My picks As I sit down to write the annual draft recap I can’t help but feel that that was the most fun I’ve had watching a draft in 13 years. From the entertainment at the top of the draft (the Shane Wright stare down!) to the Buffalo Sabres aligning with my drafting philosophy perfectly: it was a lot of fun. The 2022 draft class is going to go down as one of the weirdest ones I’ve scouted. After the top 5 in my mind (Slakovsky/Nemec/Cooley/Wright/Jiricek) the next 20 or so picks (plus Lambert) could all end up being the sixth best player in this draft. Where normally a draft tiers off around the 9-13 pick; the 2022 draft never had that steep drop off where a team could reach or be criticized too harshly for a player they took. This isn’t a testament to the talent level of the 2022 draft, but rather the lack of consensus “safe but very good” players that were in this draft. The run up to the draft felt like if a player was big and physical and then was tagged with the vaunted “center” tag, they rose up draft boards 10 spots. This, plus the geopolitical problems of what to do with Russian prospects who were currently playing in Russia, led to a pretty unpredictable but fun first round. Day 2 of the draft is always a bit of a rollercoaster. Where the first round feels pretty scripted (as you’ll see: many people did well guessing who would be first round picks this past year in the Draft Contest), the 2nd-7th round gets a bit silly around the 5th round. I’m not one to make fun of a 17-20 year old, but there were some real head-scratching picks made in day two of the draft by NHL teams and a lot of prospects I thought were late round shoe-ins were left off the board. This article will tackle three things: Sabres Draft Grade, Mock Draft Contest results, and the annual McGee/Myself/Sabres pick-by-pick analysis. Sabres Draft Grade A- I’ll go pick-by-pick in a minute, but I wanted to first say that Kevyn Adams gets an A rating for his philosophy for drafting skaters. He drafts skill and upside in the draft and doesn’t go and chase bottom-of-the-lineup players. I love this about him. While he and I might have taken different players at different slots: for each of the first 5 skaters that were selected the player Adams took I found myself saying “Oh that’s a great pick as well.” The only skater I didn’t give an A rating to was Komarov, but that’s mainly because I watched him in the beginning of the season where he looked slow with little skill and as one of my scouting friends says “Just ejects pucks from the defensive zone.” Never really came back to him after the initial viewings but he appeared in a few later shift-by-shifts when watching Nathan Gaucher. In the fifth round, however, I’m not going to squabble over a pick unless it’s egregious or someone fell that should’ve been picked. The minus comes from the value lost of taking a goalie that isn’t a sure-fire to play 25 games a season in the NHL at some point in the future, as well as having UPL/Levi/Portillo in the system to use the draft capital of the 41st pick on a goalie. However, time will tell whether or not this was truly an egregious pick or if it was just one that could’ve had more value to take a different goalie later in the draft. My issue with the pick, personally, was that there were a few really high-end players I had on my board at that time like Gleb Trikozov, Seamus Casey, Calle Odelius, Mattias Havelid, Jack Hughes, David Goyette, Lane Hutson, Adam Sykora, Alexander Perevalov (if he’s coming over), etc. For me, I took Trikozov at 41. The player pool dried up considerably after the third round pick, so I thought about losing a chance at another skater when I liked some of the other goalies just slightly less but for far cheaper draft prices. 2022 Draft Contest Winners (and results) I just want to give a quick shout out to Psychotic Lucidity and SenecaNation4 for only missing three players total from the first round! The scoring rules, however, reward getting a player right at the right slot so both ended up missing out on winning by 1 point. The winner of a Dylan Cozens signed puck from his draft year is: 1.) Don52: 40 points: He ended up getting 6 draft selections right which carried him to the narrowest of victories! 2.) Psychotic Lucidity/SenecaNation4: 39 points 3.) Tim Horton: 38 points 4.) Bob Boughner/Jedi13: 37 points 5.) BMaster: 36 points 6.) WolfDoctor/TEMSON/BuffaloRepresent: 35 points 7.) madaddy37: 34 points 8.) DrWHo62redux/Sabres of Glory: 33 points 9.) SimmonianWonder14: 32 points 10.) Connor McTyczka/T McGee: 30 points 11.) Ben918: 29 points 2022 Draft Picks This is the accountability section of this piece. Placing my own and T McGee’s picks into this isn’t meant to be a boisterous exercise. If anything, it’s just holding myself accountable and letting y’all see if I’m doing terrible or doing alright in prospect analysis. I put McGee’s Big Board picks in here because, well, he does really well with them and they’re different than mine and I like to see how we’re doing. Pick #7 Buffalo Sabres/T McGee’s BB select: Matthew Savoie, C, WHL From T McGee: Born on New Year’s Day, Savoie (pronounced Sah-voy) is an elite offensive talent wherever you play him, be it in the middle or on either wing, although I suspect he’ll wind up on the wing in the NHL. Hardly a giant, but very sturdy (5’10 185#), Savoie primarily plays a speed game. He’s murder in transition. It’s fair to call him a gamebreaker. There are a couple times a game where he gets control of the puck and just explodes through a defense and generates a quality chance. I don’t think the Sabres have a player like that, maybe Peterka, in their organization. An excellent skater, Savoie possesses tremendous burst, and can rocket out of a dead stop to full speed in just a couple strides. Loves to take the puck wide and attack defenders who’ve just transitioned to backwards skating, blowing past them before cutting inside and either getting a high-quality chance himself or drawing more defenders and saucing the puck to an open teammate. Me: Did anyone else have a flashback to 2020 when Adams said “From the Winnipeg Ice...” and you found yourself hoping/praying it was Savoie? He was the next player after Lambert on my board so I love this pick. I don’t disagree with anything that McGee has said, but the biggest difference for me between Savoie and Lambert was I thought Lambert had the better physical tools but Savoie was the better offensive zone facilitator. Austin selects: Brad Lambert, C, Liiga I don’t regret picking Lambert because at the end of the day he was the fourth player on my board, but I do think I panicked a bit picking him at ninth overall. I had it in my head that if he fell to 20th or lower on McKenzie’s pick I would wait until 16th overall to take him, but alas he ended up at 16. Brad Lambert is simply the most polarizing player in this draft. You either love him or you are hoping your team doesn’t go near him. In a draft where most of the forward picks from 7-30 could be put in a blender and spit out an order that would make some logical sense; it was odd to see Lambert categorized as the one to stay away from. Like Shane Wright he has had the spotlight on him from an early age, and even more so, disappointed in his draft eligible season. Lambert was an enigma the past eleven months. His speed and skill was never in question, but in each situation he played in he looked like a different player. His first team in Liiga Lambert looked poised to break out with more playing opportunity. In the World Juniors and in u20 friendlies he looked utterly dominant, and in the second half of the Liiga season on a new team he looked lost out there on the ice. The Seattle Thunderbirds made a big move in the import draft to go and snag Lambert’s rights. I find it difficult to believe that Winnipeg would want to send Lambert back to Finland to play after his development looked to take a step back the second half of the season. This is a risky pick, but when you can nab someone who has the physical tools and has showcased the mental processing tools at times to be a top 5 pick in this draft: I had to swing for it. Pick #16 Buffalo Sabres Select: Noah Ostlund, C, J20 Nationell I’m first going to quote Mikael Holm who was Smaht Scouting’s Swedish scout this past year and runs a blog on Swedish prospects: Here’s what I wrote about Noah Östlund in my pre-draft piece #letsgobuffalo #2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/vbFD6Mo2PO — Mikael Holm (@carlmikaelholm) July 8, 2022 Mikael was the driving force behind Smaht ranking Ostlund at #10 on our final big board. Despite not having the gaudy numbers in the J20 like Ohgren, or the incredible shot like Lekkerimaki, Ostlund was the engine of the Djurgarden trio. An incredible playmaker and driver of controlled transitions; he’s small and rail thin. Filling out and playing against bigger and more physical competition while keeping up the production is his only question mark. T McGee’s BB Selects: Danila Yurov, RW, KHL I couldn’t find a specific scouting profile done by McGee for Yurov, but I do like this pick. I had him ranked a few spots below this on my own personal rankings and I know McGee had him very high. The part of Yurov’s game that I really like is how well he operates off puck in the offensive zone to find spaces to get off his shot, and I like his overall scoring prowess. In the MHL he was utterly dominant this year both production wise and microstat wise. He was heavily involved in transition and was a puck dominant winger. In the KHL and the u20s he took on more of a passenger role, and in the KHL I thought the pace of play put Yurov on his heels and he played much more conservatively as a shooter-only in his offensive game. I understand people loving Yurov and seeing him as one of the steals of this draft in the same way that I myself view Brad Lambert. They’re different player archetypes, have some flaws, but show flashes that at their potential apex they could far out perform their consensus pre-draft rankings and their current draft selection production expections. Austin Selects: Liam Ohgren, LW, J20 Nationell I swung for the fences at #9 so I played it pretty conservatively here at #16 by going with Liam Ohgren. When you watch the Djurgarden trio play it becomes pretty obvious early on in any viewing that Ohgren is the glue that makes the line go. He’s hard on pucks defensively, a utility knife in every zone, and will do the dirty work as the F1 forecheck but also has the skill to be a primary puck handler through the neutral zone in transition. He’s a natural goal scorer who has a decent shot, but thrives on being able to get into spaces and move the puck angle before he shoots to deceive goalies as well as great off puck movement to gather tip-ins and loose pucks around the net. Projecting conservatively I think that that he fills a middle six role on the wing, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him as a scoring winger in Minnesota’s system behind Matt Boldy. Pick #28 Buffalo Sabres/T McGee select: Jiri Kulich, C, Czechia From T McGee: At this point, I’m looking for a player who has the ability to be a regular NHL player, but also with the upside to be more than that. Enter Kulich. He’s a dynamite skater with a laser of a shot but is advanced in how he defends the middle of the ice. The MVP of the U-18s, he’s a natural centerman. Plays the straight-line game that Granato likes, could be a shut-down center but could also be Roope Hintz-type of player in the long run. My thoughts: I don’t disagree with any of McGee’s assessment. I thought his puck skill was very good playing against men but his passing decisions under pressure weren’t ideal. It didn’t shock me that his assist number never materialized. However, I think there’s a lot of skill there watching him that I could see him progressing to an all-around offensive threat. If the worst case scenario is that he takes Olofsson’s spot on the PP then I think you made out well with a late round first. Austin Selects: Seamus Casey, RHD, USNTDP I’m just a huge Seamus Casey fan, and Toronto trading back but in front of pick 41 made me take a shot at the defenseman I coveted here at this spot. I wanted to get at least one defensemen in the first four picks. I was hoping for Mateychuk at 16 but that didn’t happen, so it became between Casey and Hutson for the pick here. I chose Casey because I just fell in love with his game throughout the year. His edge work and puck skill is among the best in the class. He is so good when he pre-scans at moving pucks around the ice. I think he can stand to gain some more muscle weight, but a lot of what I think Casey needs to do is just get that Lane Hutson moxie into his game and take over shifts with the puck on his stick. When he is puck dominant in the offensive zone he is a monster to try to contain. He’s undersized, but I am excited to see him develop in Michigan’s system with Pearson. Pick #41 Buffalo Sabres Select: Topias Leinonen, G, U20 SM-sarja The first round could go down as a franchise altering draft class that will be known as the class that put the Sabres into contention. The second round pick could be the round where we look back and shake our head at all the talent we left on the talent to chase our fourth high-end goalie in the system. Leinonen was the #1 European goalie ranked by Central Scouting and the #2 ranked goalie when I asked Josh Tessler of Smaht Scouting who tracked goalies for us. He’s a big bodied goalies with good athleticism and decent numbers in the Finnish junior league. T McGee Selects: Alexander Perevalov, LW, MHL From McGee: A power wing with an awesome scoring touch, it’s entirely possible this kid will not be available in the 2nd round. Not a giant by any means (6’0, 190#) he plays a heavier game with a fearlessness and willingness to play through contact. He also happens to have a pretty full toolbox of attributes. Where Perevalov excels, like many Russian forwards, is in the O-zone. A true goal scorer, he puts the puck in the net in a number of ways: big shots from the top of the circle, one-timers, wristers off transition, rebounds, tips, backdoor plays. Relentless in puck pursuit, he plays with a conviction that if he can get the puck, he will create a great chance, either on the pass or the shot. And oftentimes, he delivers. A heavy shot that he controls with his exceptional hands is tough for most goalies to stop. Playing on his off-wing he loves to cut inside and rip a puck, either 5-hole with a big clapper, or lasers one top shelf over the goalie’s shoulder. Will pick corners, and his accuracy with the shot is high-level. Thinks the offensive game extremely well. Knows how to get open. As soon as the puck hits his blade, he knows where to go with it. Quick on touch passes, precise with cross-ice set-ups, sees lanes diagonally and knows where his teammates are without having to constantly scan the ice. Always seems to make the right decision when it comes to passing the puck. Has a great play style. Never quits on a puck or a play. Will lose the puck to a defender, outwork him to get it back, lose it again, recover it and then make a pinpoint cross-crease pass for a goal. And has no issue sticking his nose into a crowd to fish out the puck, go into the corner, or engage on the wall. Attacks the net with or without the puck and will try just about any move to get inside a defender and get a good look. Really strong possession player as well, understands how to use his size to protect the puck, especially on the rush. Seems to enjoy contact and initiates it more often than not. Those great hands make Perevalov a superb stickhandler, although he’s not flashy in the way some of his countrymen are. Uses just enough to keep defenders on their heels, and to keep his stick free. But as soon as an opening presents itself, he can get the puck there, skating it or passing it, and that says something about how soft his hands are. Like many Russian forwards, Perevalov is dynamic when the puck is involved, but can tend to lose interest on the defensive end. He cheats up a bit at the blue line when protecting his own zone, and his off the puck awareness is not great. Will lose his man and get caught chasing the puck far too easily. Something to work on. Likewise, his skating isn’t great. He’s OK, and his strength on his skates is excellent, but he could stand to improve his burst and maintain his speed with the puck on his stick. He’ll slow down a bit when he’s carrying the puck in and trying to get to the net. Will get blinders on at times, when he commits to a play (to his detriment) without seeing the ice and taking what’s given to him. So he’s not a perfect prospect. But there are a lot of things to like here. And he is abusing the MHL right now, to the tune of 16P in 8 games, including 7 goals. That follows on from a very good Hlinka, where he went for 5P in 5 games despite playing on the 3rd line while winning a gold medal. Given the Sabres’ last draft, they don’t seem afraid of Russians anymore. This kid is a player that other teams will be afraid of in a couple years. Austin Selects: Gleb Trikozov, RW, MHL I love Trikozov. One of the flashier players in the MHL; I thought Trikozov was a monster in all facets of his offensive game. He is super involved and highly effective in transition, he has great vision in the offensive zone, and his shot pops off his stick. While not overly physical, I was very impressed with his engagement level as a center and winger in the MHL given that it’s not an overly defensive league. He can skate very well, great in transition, has great skill, and can fill the back of the net. He’s a high risk, high reward type of player who I think will maturate in Russia for 2-4 years before coming over here. I see top 6 scoring winger in his future as a ceiling, and at pick 41 that’s what I’d want to swing on. Pick #74 Buffalo Sabres/T McGee select: Viktor Neuchev, LW, MHL Neuchev is a pick that I’ll be interested to hear more about from McGee in the comment section. From my standpoint: Neuchev has a lot of puck skill and a very good shot as evident with his 40 goals in 61 games in the MHL. From an individualistic standpoint there is a lot to like from his deceptive fakes with is puck handling and passes, to his ability to get to dangerous areas of the ice to shoot, and his ability to beat goalies from distance with his shot. When I’ve gone back to watch him I question his skating a lot, and he turns the puck over a lot as well which drove my dataset down on him. However, I saw a tweet that the Sabres analytics department loved Neuchev. Perhaps I’m way off here. I like the pick a lot though: bet on skill and upside. BMaster selects: Mats Lindgren, LHD, WHL Lindgren was a divisive defenseman at Smaht this past year. I was on the positive/upside side of the debate with Lindgren. He’s a fantastic 4-way skater and can skate himself out of pressure situations so well to find open space. He activates from the blue line very well and is creative with his passing decisions within the offensive zone. However, he can dump out pucks of his zone way too much for my liking and there are times when he doesn’t engage with an offensive player to separate them from the puck. I like the puck skill, skating, offensive upside, and late birthday. With another year I think he could end up right below the Mintyukov/Korchinski/Mateychuk tier of defenseman if he can iron out some of his passing decisions. Pick #106 Buffalo Sabres Select: Mats Lindgren, LHD, WHL See above. T McGee Selects: Fabian Wagner, RW, J20 Nationell From McGee: It’s apparent to me that when Granato gets the roster for it, the Sabres will be a high-pace, quick-counter, attacking North-South team. You can already see it with Tuch’s line, and at times with Cozens’ as well. Wagner fits this profile to a Tee. An electric skater, the 6’0, 175# Wagner is a later birthday, two-way wing with some similarities to former Sabres’ pick Marcus Davidsson. But McGee, you may say, the Sabres refused to sign that bust Davidsson…why would they draft another one of him? Wagner’s impressive skating allows him to do more than Davidsson ever could and do it more efficiently. First off, let’s dig into his skating a bit. I think he’s one of the best skaters in the Draft class. Tremendous burst, but very elusive and razor-sharp edgework make him a real terror in transition. He can be a zone entry machine thanks to his straight-line speed forcing defenders to back off, and his agility lets him get leverage on those same defenders. No hesitation on the back-check either. Wagner can enter the zone, take the puck deep, make a play and then get all the way back to stick-lift a puck carrier and kill a transition chance going the other way, all in the same shift. Where the similarities are more apparent with Davidsson, and other Swedish wings like Asplund, is his focus on details. Always seems to be on the right side of the puck, keeps opponents outside when defending, doesn’t take a lot of risks. Then controls the puck on offense and always seems to put it in the right place. Stick positioning typically in the right place, stick is active and on the ice most of the time which helps his defensive effectiveness. Can be extremely disruptive defending against rushes or up top on the PK (when they let him). His passes are on time and accurate and plays a very smart short-area game on both ends. Wagner does need to get stronger, and work on his shot. Right now, he scores a lot of his goals thanks to his hands and his skating; his shot is a bit of a pillow and as he moves up, it certainly won’t threaten any pro goalie from beyond the dots. Not unlike Isak Rosen, his lack of strength doesn’t help him defensively in the corners and along the wall, where he can get run over or physically manhandled without a lot of trouble from bigger opponents. Positionally, he remains sound, so he’s very rarely becomes a liability in his end, but there are areas where he can improve dramatically. Which can be detrimental offensively as well, as Wagner is smart in how he handles situations like the cycle, he rarely comes out of a scrum with the puck, which can make him tentative in puck battles. As mentioned, a very good passer, pucks are hard and on the tape, and often the smart place to go with the puck. However, not very creative, either with his passing or his routes to the net, which likely limits his offensive production at the next level. Don’t get me wrong, Wagner’s ceiling is probably could a very effective middle line winger who is a ferocious forechecker and the defensive conscience of a line. Having that kind of value in the 3rd round is pretty solid. Wagner has 31P in 34 games at the U-20 level in Sweden, but has recently “played” (i.e. gotten limited ice time) at the senior Men’s League level, the SHL. Was also one of the top scorers (4P in 5 games) for Team Sweden’s medal-winning group at the Hlinka last Spring. Austin Selects: Vladimir Grudinin, LHD, MHL If you turned on the u20s at all this past winter your first thought when watching the Russian defensive unit was: they’re all pretty bad minus Grudinin. Grudinin stood out as a draft eligible for his Russian national team as his skating mitigated rushes as well as jump started the transition his forwards. He played a mix of professional and junior level competition for CSKA this past year. His skating allowed him to stand out in a defensive role in the VHL while his offensive ability flourished in the MHL. He’s fantastic on the rush both in transition and offensively, and showed flashes of being able to be deceptive on the blue line to move into dangerous areas of the ice. Originally I was going to pick him no matter what in the third round, but moved all my Russians down a round. If he can get to North America I think he’s going to be turn heads with his game. Pick 134 Buffalo Sabres Select: Vsevolod Komarov, RHD, QMJHL I don’t really have much to say about Komarov. I watched him a bit at the beginning of the year given that he was a B rated skater by Central Scouting and he played on the same team as Nathan Gaucher in the QMJHL. He was a low pace skater and I didn’t see much skill. He was also dumping pucks out of the zone with zero scanning or control. By some accounts of people I know he got a bit better as the year went on. In the fifth round he’s got the size and enough tools to bet on. T McGee selects: Matthew Seminoff, RW, WHL From my friend Matt Somma at Smaht Scouting: “Seminoff is the type of player whose relentless drive could push him into a team’s top six on occasion. I don’t believe he’ll stick in that role for an entire season too often, but he has enough skill to compete on that line and not weigh it down. And like I said in the scouting report, it’s entirely possible that Seminoff takes some major strides in his development and turns into a legitimate second line forward. Right now, I see a middle six forward that can see time on a team’s second power play and penalty kill units. It’s entirely possible that Seminoff falls on draft day due to his size. I think it’s a stupid and irresponsible decision to pass on Seminoff for that reason, though. Some team is going to be very happy when they draft Seminoff, and they’ll look smart if they take him later than he was expected to go. If you’re able to, watch one of Kamloops’ upcoming games. I guarantee that he’ll catch your eye as one of the hardest working players out there, even if he doesn’t show up on the scoresheet.” Austin Selects: Jack Devine, RW, NCAA I won’t spend too much time on Devine, but I thought he was very good in the NCAA tournament. He has great passing ability and very good puck skill. He plays a bit heavy game despite his size, but his skating definitely limits his upside and he wasn’t very good at getting to dangerous areas for shooting in his freshman year. I think he’s poised for a breakout sophomore year with more ice time this year and hopefully he sticks on a line with Massimo Rizzo and Carter Mazur so he can thrive next year. Also, I agreed with Walt’s assessment last year of Devine on that year’s u18 squab: Jack Devine has been a lot of fun to watch on the NTDP U18 squad. He's been one of their best forwards so far this season pic.twitter.com/RYYYAZdKKE — Sabremetrix (@Sabremetrix) December 8, 2020 Pick 170 Buffalo Sabres select: Jake Richard, RW, USHL Richard is a big, power forward who excels at banging in pucks around the net. He committed to the UConn in the winter and will join the Huskies program in the 2023-24 season. He grew a few inches since joining the USHL which allows for his skill to blend with a physical, net-front game. He excels at putting the puck in the back of the net and really came on for Muskegon as the year went on. His 48 points in 56 games was very impressive considering his mid-August birthdate. He’s still rail thin, so filling out his frame will be a big thing for him as he develops his game to go to the NCAA. T McGee selects: Liam Arnsby, C, OHL From McGee: Spitfire of a centerman who hits everything that moves and does it with a smile on his face. At 5’11 185#, he’s already a sturdy kid who plays a 2-way role and gets a lot hard minutes against the best players on the other club. Wearing the C for North Bay, despite having some more veteran NHL-draftees on the roster. Gritty, fiery player who never quits on a play, and is more than happy to play the body over the puck. Relishes the forecheck, loves to be the first man in and creates a ton of turnovers with his relentless hustle, willingness to play the body and aggressive stickwork. There are some very superficial comparables to a young Mike Peca – not a dynamic forward with the puck on his stick, but defensively his game is quite refined. He’s obviously good on the puck – packs a lot of power in that smaller frame, and his persistent checking makes him very difficult to play against. But there’s his play away from the puck which is high-level as well. Understands how to play in space, has great awareness of the dangerous areas of the ice and constantly makes plays to defend those areas, particularly in the middle of the ice. Those attributes make him a very good defensive centerman. His skating is excellent; feet are very light, and his lateral movement makes him difficult to avoid when he’s defending or forechecking, while making him slippery in the O-Zone. Short-area skating really strong – he’s very tough to take the puck from along the walls or in the corners, and Arnsby’s very strong on his skates – allowing him to lay out some of the big hits he’s known for. He’s not a burner, no one is going to mistake him for Connor McDavid, but skating is certainly a plus and allows him to cover the entirety of the ice without problem. The big unknown around Arnsby is what his offensive ceiling might be. He struggled a bit in his rookie season, playing predominantly in a 3rd line role, but now a couple years out from that first year, can he be a big-time producer at the OHL level? Because if he can’t, he’s likely going to be a bit of a black hole as he becomes a professional. Thus far, he’s put up 10P in 11 games on a traditionally defensive team in North Bay. That’s in the Top 5 scorers for draft-eligibles in the OHL. Now, many of those points are in transition, off turnovers, or scrapping for loose pucks in front of the net and not reliant on Arnsby’s creativity with or without the puck, but he’s shown the ability to use his skating to turn pucks over and his work rate on the forecheck is second to none. Coupled with his tendency to drive play in the right direction – toward the other team’s goal – Arnsby might have more offensive chops than previously anticipated, which would make him even more attractive as a prospect. And he’s not afraid to drop the gloves, with about a half-dozen tilts since he joined North Bay. A fierce competitor who plays with plenty of fire, Arnsby has the tools and the mindset to become a valuable bottom six forward and shutdown center. That’s a nice return for a late 3rd rounder. Austin selects: Cole Knuble, C/RW, USHL My own biases love the game Knuble plays. He thinks the game so well off the puck, he processes under pressure very well with the puck, and gets to areas of the ice where goals are scored. He is the catalyst of everything good that happens on his line in Fargo. He’s able to jumpstart transitions, thread passes to open teammates, and make a quick small area move to free up a passing lane. Through four games and the ancillary viewing of an NTDP game he’s still the one making everything happen. Despite the skating limitations. I’ve landed on that he’s a project I’d be willing to bet on. He’ll play in the USHL for another year before going to the NCAA (currently committed to Notre Dame for the 2023-24 season). He’s a July birthday, and a lot of the aspects to his game that he needs to work on are mechanical. I hesitate to label him as a center given his skating issues, but if they improve drastically he could play there in college and in the pros. I’d label him more as a right wing as of now, and ideally I’d like him to be the fourth player coming off my board if I were an NHL team. Pick 187 Buffalo Sabres select: Gustav Karlsson, C, J20 Nationell In past years I would use VPNs and streaming services as I tried to learn as much as I could about every prospect in the draft. With my current role at Smaht as a North American crossover scout I really only scouted players our European scouts wanted a second opinion on or that they ranked so I could get an idea of North American comparables. I’ve watched the next three picks a couple times over the course of the last week since they were drafted and I’m just going to say that in general: all of them are skilled with some flaws who are worth taking this late in the draft and maybe they will pan out. Karlsson has been my favorite to watch and I think he actually might be a legit player for the Sabres. I liked his off puck skill and he thinks the game really well on the PP. If that translated to 5v5 I think he becomes a player. The other two are both skilled and look forward to seeing what they do, especially Sjodin in his DY+2 year in the SHL next year. He could have a Cedarqvist trajectory. T McGee selects: Spencer Sova, LHD, OHL I couldn’t find any thoughts on Sova so just adding a brief note here: he wore the ‘A’ on the u18 team for Canada this past year. He’s got good physical tools and he’s great at defensive zone entries and erasing players at the blue line from keeping control. His offense wasn’t there all year but his skating is good and he has some skill, but I didn’t rank Sova because I didn’t see anything more than a fringe bottom pair defenseman. Austin selects: Zach Bookman**, RHD, AJHL I love Zach Bookman. He’s my Trey Fix-Wolansky award winner this past year and he was available before the 7th round so I went for it. Having only one RHD pick so far I thought it’d be wise to grab another one here. I love his skating and offensive game. He’s hilariously skilled and he was very good defensively in the AJHL through two seasons that I saw him play. He didn’t get a development camp invite this offseason which was shocking to me, but I look forward to seeing what the undrafted defenseman does at Merrimack and Hockey East next year. Pick 202 Buffalo Sabres select: Joel Ratkovic Berndtsson, RW, J20 Nationell See Above. T McGee selects: Brennan Ali, C/LW, USHS-Prep I really liked this pick by McGee. I saw a few games of Ali on the NTDP u18 team this year and I thought he fit in really well. He played limited minutes but he played at a high pace at LW, and was very good at getting dangerous shots off and made a couple really nice passes. I had him in my second round for awhile this year. I thought he was very good but not eye-popping at Avon Farms this past year. I soured a little on him and moved into this range by the end of the year. I think there’s a bottom six winger in him, and if he can channel a bit more skill I think he could really outperform the selection. Austin selects: Beau Jelsma, LW, OHL I love Beau Jelsma. He’s so much fun. An exceptional skater who is everywhere on the screen when you watch him play, I thought there was a lot of skill there to go with his speed. While his defensive game is what is often referenced when talking about Jelsma; I was thoroughly impressed with his passing decisions and his skill as a playmaker. I think he is one of the best options in this draft to fill the role of a third line energy line winger who will also be a fantastic offensive zone facilitator and could put up decent production numbers. I think he has a relatively great floor, and if he can put the tool-kit together next year I see a great upside was wel. Pick 211 Buffalo Sabres select: Linus Sjodin*, RW, SHL See Above. T McGee selects: Josh Niedermayer, LHD, BCHL I’ll let McGee explain in detail why he likes the player in the comment section. I think he was very physical last year when I was watching him for a Costantini article, but this year I didn’t see any real offensive progression and he didn’t move the needle much for me. Austin selects: Marcus Nguyen, RW, WHL At this point you just have to listen to Smaht Talk’s podcast with Marcus Nguyen. We loved him at Smaht, a fantastic player who should get more opportunties to produce next year, and I loved his game every time I saw him play. Since 2019: How Our Draft Classes Are Looking Buffalo Sabres T McGee Austin View the full article
  22. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports Olofsson and his dynamite shot return for two more years. Two more years of Goalofsson. Victor Olofsson has re-signed with the Buffalo Sabres on a two year deal with an AAV of $4.75 million. The deal was announced on July 13 across Sabres social media, just before the start of free agency at noon. Olofsson will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2023-24 season. GOALOFSSON is BACK! We've re-signed the forward to a 2-year contract with an AAV of $4.75 million.https://t.co/ICNB9vIV2n | #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/pfwBmbezPP — Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) July 13, 2022 While the Swedish forward hit a career high in points (49) and tied his career high in goals (20), he struggled at points during the season while recovering from a wrist injury. Though he only missed eight games, Olofsson’s effective wrist shot was hampered for a long stretch in the Sabres’ season, but he finished with nine goals in the team’s final eighteen games. With the deal in place, expect Olofsson to see regular use on the power play, and remain in the Sabres’ top six as their second line right winger. Barring injury, Olofsson should continue to have a hot hand and put up more career numbers next season, particularly in the goals department. View the full article
  23. Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images The Sabres have added five players to their organization so far. Nearly seven hours have passed since the NHL’s free agency period officially opened, and thus far, the Buffalo Sabres have added new five pieces to their organization. Over the past few days, they also re-signed a handful of players & are undoubtedly talking with others, including RFA Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen’s camp. No, the Sabres certainly haven’t made as much of a splash in free agency as some of their divisional rivals. The Detroit Red Wings added Andrew Copp (5 years, $5.63 million AAV) and David Perron (2 years, $4.75 million AAV); the Florida Panthers added Colin White, Marc Staal and Eric Staal (1 year each). The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Nicolas Aube-Kubel (1 year, $1 million) and Ilya Samsonov (1 year, $1.8 million) while the Ottawa Senators made a big move in signing Claude Giroux (3 years, $6.5 million AAV). Then there’s the Tampa Bay Lightning, who re-signed Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak each to eight-year extensions. It’s easy to look at those moves and compare them to what the Sabres have done so far and be, well, disappointed. But Sabres GM Kevyn Adams stressed that he isn’t looking at what other teams, even divisional rivals, are doing. He’s focused on finding his team, and he’s happy with the signings they’ve made so far. To summarize, here are the signings the Sabres have made so far: Eric Comrie (goaltender), 2 years, $1.8 million AAV Ilya Lyubushkin (defense), 1 year, $2.75 million Kale Clague (defense), 1 year, $750,000 (2-way) Jeremy Davies (defense), 1 year, $750,000 (2-way) Chase Priskie (defense), 1 year, $800,000 (2-way) “We feel really good about the way the day’s played out,” Adams said. “We came into today, well yesterday, actually, it started with re-signing Vinnie [Hinostroza]. Felt like that was a really big one for us. We had a plan coming into this second phase of the offseason after the draft & feel really strongly that the staff did a great job in executing the plan. Feel really good about yesterday and really, really good about today.” The Sabres had been thinking about Comrie for several months and planned to target him in free agency. Of course, as Adams said, just because you want a player doesn’t mean the player wants you. In this case, it worked out. He also noted that while there were other goaltenders out there in free agency, those are guys that you pretty much know what you’re getting. With Comrie, he noted that they see upside in a player that wants this opportunity and the chance to run with it: “The scouting staff, our goaltender coaches and Sam Ventura & his crew were aligned on this player & felt that he’s one of these players that we feel has the opportunity to take the next step. He’s very talented,” Adams said. “From a numbers perspective, he has a strong body of work with what he’s done in the American League [AHL] and then his opportunity when he has played in the NHL. He just hasn’t had a ton of opportunity. For me, this was a goaltender that we feel is right there on the cusp of taking that step. That’s why he was our guy we were going to target,” he added. Adams also stressed that the Comrie signing doesn’t indicate anything negative about Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s future in Buffalo. Adams said he called UPL right after the signing to speak with him and noted a focus on not rushing him to the NHL. While Comrie fills the opening goaltending spot in Buffalo, Lyubushkin helps shore up the team’s blueline. His signing also got the Sabres to the salary cap floor. “We really felt that his skill set fit in with what we were looking for,” Adams said. He plays a hard game, he’s a bigger guy. He’s solid, he can kill penalties. He can play with any type of player. We just really felt that with the D we have, the young D that we have and the skill that we have, he’d be a good fit.” Clague, Davies and Priskie are all depth signings to help bolster Rochester’s blueline, but also to provide options for the Sabres. As Adams noted, a team can go through 10 or 11 defensemen in a season and it’s important to have that depth to pull from when needed. After the initial first batch of signings, the Sabres currently have 39 contracts signed for the 2022-23 season. Their projected cap hit is $62,145,834, with $20,354,166 in space remaining. View the full article
  24. John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports A two-year deal worth $2.75 million AAV. The Buffalo Sabres have added to their blueline early in NHL free agency, as the team has reportedly signed defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin. Reports indicate a two-year contract for Lyubushkin, with an AAV of $2.75 million. Lyubushkin is a 28-year-old right shot defenseman who isn’t afraid to add to the physical side of the game. He spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Arizona Coyotes and appeared in 77 games between the two teams. The Buffalo Sabres have signed Ilya Lyubishkin who is pretty good TOP4 defensive defenseman. Should be good signing for the Sabres. We're waiting for more contract details. pic.twitter.com/8UW0bzvM1w — Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) July 13, 2022 Lyubushkin previously played three seasons with the Coyotes after making the jump to North America in 2018. Prior to that, he spent several years with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. Ilya Lyubushkin (2x2.75m, BUF) the destroyer of offence. pic.twitter.com/zZxYSHuOrg — Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) July 13, 2022 He’ll be a welcome addition to the Sabres blueline and can also help mentor some of the Sabres’ younger Russian prospects. The signing also helps the team hit the salary cap floor, so any moves from this point forward will simply help shore up the team further. View the full article
  25. Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports Former Winnipeg goalie reportedly heads to Buffalo on a two-year deal. As NHL free agency opened Wednesday afternoon, the Buffalo Sabres have reportedly signed goaltender Eric Comrie. Reports, including a Tweet from Comrie’s agent, say that it’s a two-year contract with an AAV of $1.8 million. Goaltender Eric Comrie to Buffalo per @FriedgeHNIC Comrie posted a 2.58 GAA and a .920 Save % with a 10-5 record#LetsGoBuffalo #NHLFreeAgency pic.twitter.com/RwD9OkJAVb — 2 Goalies 1 Mic (@2Goalies1Mic) July 13, 2022 Goaltender Eric Comrie to Buffalo per @FriedgeHNIC Comrie posted a 2.58 GAA and a .920 Save % with a 10-5 record#LetsGoBuffalo #NHLFreeAgency pic.twitter.com/RwD9OkJAVb — 2 Goalies 1 Mic (@2Goalies1Mic) July 13, 2022 Comrie played in largely a backup role for the Winnipeg Jets last season. The 27-year-old had a .920 save percentage, but has only appeared in 28 career NHL games to date. Eric Comrie (2x1.8m with BUF) has only faced 66.6 xG worth of shots so far in his career but he's done well with that workload. pic.twitter.com/1OprMRdDOM — Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) July 13, 2022 View the full article
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