2017-18 Buffalo Sabres Top Ten Prospects
After years of futility in every aspect, the Sabres made sweeping changes in replacing both the GM and the Coach in the off-season. The Sabres have not even been efficient at losing as they have drawn the short straw in draft lotteries, free agency and missed out on Mike Babcock as well.
With several key young roster players in place in Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen, all 22-years-old or younger and a deep top ten prospect list, the Sabres should turn their losing culture around and soon.
Players eligible for these rankings include prospects under 25 years of age with less than 50 career NHL games played.
1. Alex Nylander, LW/RW – Rochester (AHL)
Drafted: 8th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Buffalo
The Sabres 2016 first round pick was able to play in the AHL after his draft even though he played in the OHL in his draft year due to a technicality – he was loaned to Mississauga. As a 19-year-old playing in the AHL, there were some understandable development curbs, but he managed to post a respectable 10 goals and 28 points in 65 games. He regained his confidence after dominating at the WJC with Sweden where he scored five goals and 12 points in seven games. His play in the second half of the season improved and he got into four NHL games. His NHL games played totals will increase this year, but he likely splits time between the AHL and NHL before becoming a regular top six winger.
2. Casey Mittelstadt, C – Green Bay (USHL)
Drafted: 8th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Buffalo
Mittelstadt was criticised for playing high school hockey in his draft year at a lower level than the USHL. He took more heat after the scouting combine where he struggled with pull ups and bench presses. He responded with his on ice performance where he simply dominated at every level he played at, including the USHL and internationally with USA at the Hlinka, U18 and this summer at the World Junior Summer Showcase. Mittelstadt is committed to play NCAA in his post draft year for U. of Minnesota and is a lock to play for USA at the WJC where the host city is none other than the city of Buffalo. He could be ready for the NHL at the end of his freshman season.
3. Brendan Guhle, D – Prince George (WHL)
Drafted: 51st overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Buffalo
Guhle had a busy season, he was traded to the Cougars early in the season and was even recalled to the NHL on an emergency recall when injuries hit the Sabres and played in his first three games. An injury helped limit him to just 47 WHL games, and finally, he finished the year in the AHL with Rochester playing the final six games. Guhle has aged out of junior eligibility and will start his pro career; the Sabres added some depth to the defense so the best route for him would be to continue to develop in the AHL. Guhle had a strong rookie tournament and its possible with a solid training camp he makes the sabres to start the year.
4. Rasmus Asplund, C – Farjestad (SHL)
Drafted: 33rd overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Buffalo
Sabres fans had a glimpse of the future at the past two WJC where Asplund and Nylander played together for Sweden on the same line. The duo formed dynamic chemistry and were dominant. While Nylander carried the mail offensively, Asplund provided ample playmaking support and was responsible defensively. The slightly undersized Asplund will play the coming season in the SHL again, playing pro hockey in his native Sweden before coming to North America. Asplund needs to bulk up and could be two to three years wait yet before he makes the Sabres.
5. Viktor Antipin, D – Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2017
The Sabres addressed their defensive depth in the off-season, and one key acquisition was free agent Antipin. The 24-year-old offensive defenseman signed out of the KHL and is expected to make the roster to start the season. The five-year KHL veteran signed a one-year ELC contract and will need to make his mark in the NHL quickly. The undersized defenseman likely plays sheltered minutes in a bottom pairing role with offensive zone starts and second unit PP time.
6. Cliff Pu, C – London (OHL)
Drafted: 69th overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by Buffalo
In his post draft year, Pu enjoyed an expanded role with the London Knights after several players graduated after their Memorial Cup Championship. His point totals jumped from 31 to 86 in the same number of games. Pu is a speedy, forechecking player with good hands and vision. Pu will return for his final season junior with the Knights and compete for a role on Team Canada at the World Junior.
7. Justin Bailey, RW – Rochester (AHL)
Drafted: 52nd overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Buffalo
Bailey had a good development season playing in 32 NHL games raising his career GP total to 40, but his point totals failed to increase. Bailey may not project to a top six role limiting his upside, but he does project to be a solid bottom six, physical winger that could play many seasons in the NHL.
8. Nicholas Baptiste, RW – Rochester (AHL)
Drafted: 69th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by Buffalo
Baptiste continues to develop and managed to lead Rochester in scoring with 25 goals in 59 games. He was rewarded with a 14 game NHL recall and posted three more goals in that time. Baptiste needs a strong camp and will be in a tough battle for NHL time with Justin Bailey and Hudson Fasching all season long.
9. Hudson Fasching, RW – Rochester (AHL)
Drafted: 118th overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by LA Kings
His first full pro season had ups and downs; Fasching played in ten regular season NHL games but was held to just one assist. He missed some time due to a lingering groin injury, playing only 37 AHL games and posting 12 points. Fasching has great size and showed his ability to score in his collegiate career, but needs a bounce back season in Rochester.
10. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G – HPK (Liiga jr.)
Drafted: 54th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Buffalo
The big goalie may be the latest to come from the Finnish goalie factory. Luukkonen has the size NHL teams desire in goal as he fills the net. He also plays a butterfly style with quick feet. The loss of Cal Petersen as a free agent thins out the Sabres goalie depth, but Luukkonen will be four to five years away from contributing in the NHL.