The Buffalo Sabres stand as a franchise on the fringe.
Boasting a whack of elite young talent and the depth necessary to score in bunches, the Sabres hold the potential to compete, yet will need a comprehensive effort from their blue line and goaltenders in order to do so. Fortunately, future top-pairing defenceman Rasmus Dahlin is on the way, and so too are other promising blueliners as well as a towering goaltender.
Look out, Toronto.
Stanley Cups: None
2017-18 Record: 25-45-12; 62 Points
2017-18 Top Scorer: Jack Eichel; 25G, 39A, 64Pts
Farm System Grade: A-
Top 10 Prospects:
- Rasmus Dahlin
- Casey Mittelstadt
- Alexander Nylander
- Mattias Samuelsson
- Victor Olofsson
- Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
- Brendan Guhle
- Rasmus Asplund
- Will Borgen
- Marcus Davidsson
The State of the Sabres’ Farm System
The Buffalo Sabres’ on-going misery finally led to a positive outcome following the 2017-18 season, as the franchise was able to nab defenceman Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft. Boasting good size, excellent skating abilities, and natural offensive instincts, Rasmus projects to serve as a top-pairing defender as well as a pillar for Buffalo long into the franchise’s uncertain future.
However, Buffalo boasts an array of other notable prospects who should be able to make an impact at the NHL-level as soon as the 2018-19 campaign, so let’s take a moment to meet them.
Let’s start with Casey Mittelstadt.
As the eighth-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, Mittelstadt has starred with the University of Minnesota in the NCAA as well as with Team USA at the annual World Junior Championship. Well-known for his silky mitts, crafty nature, and general competitiveness, Mittelstadt is an engaging forward who works tirelessly to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates.
Further to Dahlin and Mittelstadt, the Sabres hold the likes of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Alexander Nylander, and Mattias Samuelsson.
In Luukkonen, Buffalo may hold their starting goaltender of the future. At 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds, Luukkonen is an intimidating presence in goal who is not only uber-competitive but wildly athletic. Slated to tend the crease for the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL this coming season, Luukkonen’s first season of play in North America will serve as a major indicator of his future potential.
Then there are both Nylander and Samuelsson. Although Nylander’s personal progression has been slow, his skill level is unquestionable and his creativity unmatched. In Samuelsson, the Sabres nabbed a defender who can do it all and one who should develop into a punishing all-around force for Buffalo long into the future.
Ultimately, the Sabres’ farm system derives its value through elite skill and prospect depth at each position on the ice. If the franchise’s current crop of youngsters can develop with both purpose and pace, Buffalo could serve as a fierce rival to their long-time opponent to the north much sooner than later.
One Sabres Prospect to Watch
Who else but Dahlin?
As mentioned before, Dahlin is a complete prospect who has virtually no holes in his game. As creative as they come and confident to boot, Dahlin doesn’t hesitate when executing high-risk plays and seems to thrive off of the high-calibre chances which he devises.
When it comes to Dahlin, however, his skating is by far his greatest asset.
Agile on his skates and capable of darting around the ice with ease, Dahlin is rarely caught out of position and can hustle to regain his defensive posture with ease if need be. Yet it is on the offensive side of the puck where Dahlin’s skating truly shines, as his blazing speed allows him to join the rush and his agility forces opposing players to stand on their heels.
In short, Dahlin should challenge for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2018-19. Although he won’t play alongside a sparkling supporting cast, Dahlin has the ability to improve the play of those around him and will certainly do so for the Sabres in the coming years.