Buffalo Sabres Prospect Update


The Buffalo Sabres have one of, if not the, most highly touted prospect pipelines in the league. During the NHL Draft last year, the Sabres added another can’t miss prospect to their already superior group in Sam Reinhart. Reinhart started the season in Buffalo, but was sent down after the traditional nine games. He leads a group of talented forwards, and Rasmus Ristolainen leads a very deep defensemen crew.

On the blue line we see Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, who are both playing at the NHL level at the moment. The pair has made a Sabres game bearable to watch with their shut down play on the back-end, and their ability to keep the play alive.

Deeper in the system are AHLers Jake McCabe and Mark Pysyk. McCabe is the Sabres best defensive prospect not playing at the NHL level right now. Last year at the University of Wisconsin, McCabe had his best year points wise, putting up 25 in 36 games. What he is able to do without the puck is more impressive. His skating skills are above par, as well as his use of the body and stick. Mark Pysyk is another player in the AHL that is a very good prospect for the Sabres. Pysyk is a defenseman who is more exciting to watch with the puck. He has a pass first mentality, which is good due to the fact that he doesn’t have the best shot in the world. Mark had a great year with the Rochester Americans, the Sabres AHL affiliate, last season, and is doing his best to convert last year’s success to the current year. McCabe and Pysyk have been good, but can be a lot better.

Moving back up to forwards, we start at center. As mentioned before the Sabres top center, and forward prospect, Sam Reinhart was sent down at the beginning of the year. When Reinhart was assigned to the Kootenay Ice of the WHL, he did not take it very well. Sabres General Manager Tim Murray revealed in a press conference that the first round pick was “emotional”. Murray also added the Reinhart was disappointed. Murray said “He should be disappointed. I told him that, ‘Be disappointed. You’re allowed to be disappointed.” Before Sam was returned to Kootenay, the Ice were off to a horrendous start. They had a 2-13 record, and were being outscored 71-31. When Sam Reinhart was sent down he was an immediate impact. Since his first game Reinhart has an incredible 1.8 points per game. His 27 total points is 28.42% of his team’s points altogether. That’s the third hight team point percentage on the Ice, and he has played half of the games than leader, and St. Louis Blues prospect, Jaedon Descheneau. Reinhart also leads the Ice in estimated points per 60 minutes with 5.9. Sam Reinhart will rock in the NHL, and it will surprise no one. With the

Oct 9, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Sam Reinhart (23) signs a jersey for a fan before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

stats that he is putting up, and not to mention the much-needed weight, he will be everything Sabres fans are hoping he will be.

Although Sam Reinhart is having an incredible year in the WHL, there are other forwards within the Sabres organization that are very much turning heads. Justin Bailey is having a noteworthy year in the OHL. His 33 points is the best among his teammates on the Kitchener Rangers. Bailey stands out with his exceptional shot and puck handling skills.

Courtesy of: Kris Baker/ Sabres Prospects

In this example Bailey shows his true potential. His first goal is the most impressive of the three. He uses his body to shield the puck from the defender, then his hands finesse the puck to an eligible lane where Justin rockets one right passed the goaltender.

It is very similar to the shot of Nicholas Baptiste last year. The third round pick of the Buffalo Sabres had a breakout year in 2013 gathering 89 points, with a poor Sudbury Wolves team none the less. Baptiste started out the year on the injured list when he suffered a lower-body injury during the preseason. When Baptiste returned, he was sure to let everyone know he was still his old 2013 self. The former 45 goal scorer brought an “offensive spark”, Sudbury Wolves GM Blaine Smith put it. He told NorthernLife.ca “he will raise the confidence level of our team”. Baptiste did just that. He led his bad Sudbury Wolves team out of the Central Division basement, but not for long. Just when the Wolves future looked bright, Nick Baptiste was traded to the Erie Otters for Travis Wood, Cole Mayo, and 4 draft picks. Baptiste was sent to the same team as potential superstar, and 2015 NHL Draft eligible, Connor McDavid. Unfortunately, Nick will not be able to play with the injured McDavid until the World Juniors where he, McDavid, and 7 other Sabres prospects will hopefully play for gold. Baptiste is 8-8-16 in 19 games.

As mentioned, the other Sabres prospects invited to World Junior preliminary rosters for their respective countries are Sam Reinhart, Nick Baptiste, Nikita Zadorov, Vaclav Karabacek, Victor Olofsson, Jonas Johansson, J.T Compher, and Hudson Fasching. One player on that list that is overlooked at times is Vaclav Karabacek. The only Sabre in the QMJHL, Karabacek is very elusive and he finds where to be on the ice at the right time. His dangerous shot percentage is highest on the Gatineau Olympiques with 64%. That is also 18th best in the entire QMJHL.

Karabacek played fairly well during the Traverse City tournament, but would’ve used help from others on his line, like Brendan Lemiuex or Eric Cornel. Those two were also 2015 NHL Draftees and are both doing very well. Lemieux is showing promise with his physical play, but is also putting up decent numbers with 27 points in 24 games. Eric Cornel is just behind Nick Ritchie for the lead in points on the Peterborough Petes scoring just under a point a game with 25 in 26.

A position that was astounding last year for the Buffalo Sabres was goaltending. This year, things have come back down to earth a little. Andrey Makarov had an amazing first round for the Sabres AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, last season during the playoffs. This season he has been good, but not 2014 AHL Playoffs good. Makarov is 6-7-1 on the season and has a save percentage of .915. He has made a plethora of acrobatic saves this season, and his glove has been superb. He is trying his hardest to turn around a surprisingly poor Americans team. Linus Ullmark has won goalie of the year last year for the SHL, and this year he has been in a case like Makarov, where he has been good, but not goalie of the year good. He is 5-11-2 and has a .90 save percentage. He looked very promising last year and needs to step up his game.

All in all, the Buffalo Sabres probably have the best prospect pool in the league. I went through a lot of information, and yet there is still more I can cover. Their prospects should be even better next season from all of the draft picks they have acquired by trading assets. Next year’s update should be quite a doozie.