Monday, August 17, 2015

2016 Pool Projections: Buffalo

There's no question that the Buffalo Sabres did their absolute best to tank in the 2015 season, trying to secure the Erie Otters centre in the Entry Draft, but their tanking didn't go unrewarded, as the 2nd place prize, thanks to the lottery, nabbed them another generational player in Jack Eichel.

The Sabres did a fine job in the off-season, picking up pieces here and there, trying their best to improve their team from top to bottom.  Of course, trying to improve on that awful 2015 season should be a cake walk, but how well did the management team do?  Will they win games or will they still be playing with a lottery pick for next year's draft as well?

The early indications on this Sabres team is quite positive, as they have upgraded up front and they have taken a serious approach at their goaltending, giving a chance to a guy who has shared the starting job for so long, Robin Lehner now gets the chance to be the number one guy here in Buffalo.

Player Pos 15/16 Proj Rookie
Jack Eichel F 60 Y
Sam Reinhart F 55 Y
Robin Lehner G 50
Ryan O'Reilly F 50
Tyler Ennis F 45
Matt Moulson F 45
Evander Kane F 45
Zemgus Girgensons F 40
Zach Bogosian D 35
Brian Gionta F 30
Rasmus Ristolainen D 30
David Legwand F 25
Marcus Foligno F 25
Nicolas Deslauriers F 20
Chad Johnson G 15
Carlo Colaiacovo D 15
Josh Gorges D 15
Cody McCormick F 10
Mike Weber D 10
Mark Pysyk D 10
Phil Varone F 5
Jamie McGinn F 5
Matt Donovan D 5
Chad Ruhwedel D 5

Table last updated on August 15th

Most Intriguing or Breakout Player

Easily, the most intriguing player in the Buffalo camp this year has to be Evander Kane, who wasn't able to suit up for the team last season, after being acquired from the Winnipeg Jets in one of the biggest deals of the season.  There has been very little debate on how much talent this kid has, but his attitude and work ethic have been the biggest public issues, thus far, in his career.  A fresh start in Buffalo with a rebuilding team, it does make for an interesting storyline, certainly one that could help propel the Sabres out of the basement, much faster than expected.

I know what you're thinking... the most intriguing player isn't Kane, but I think it really is.

First Round Picks

I don't think the additions that the Sabres have made are going to be enough to vault them into any sort of greatness in the 2015 season, but they'll get off to a good start.  I don't think we'll be expecting any early round Sabres to be picked, but they will give us more reason to be excited about them, for sure.

Other Pool Worthy Forwards

The rookie combination of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart have the potential to really make their mark and they should be considered as two solid options for the hockey pool this year.  Reinhart getting an extra year of junior should have really helped.  The acquisition of Ryan O'Reilly should provide some depth down the middle, while Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and Kane can be hidden back in the fold, not necessarily enjoying the spotlight early on.  Last year's top vote-getter for the All-Star Game, Zemgus Girgensons, is also in the mix to be a good pool option in a deeper draft.

Other Pool Worthy Defense

The defense still leave something to be desired, especially for us poolies, as there are very few options for selections there.  Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Ristolainen are projected to be the only two pool-worthy defenders on the team, especially when the team's top defensive acquisition in the Summer was Carlo Colaiacovo.

Goaltending Situation

It looks like Robin Lehner is going to get those number one minutes, finally, so he'll be very worthy of a selection this year.  Now, will he win a bunch of games?  Well, that's something completely different to consider.  The team in front of him will have to score more goals than the opposition and some night that'll be easier than others, but his defense will let him down, make no mistake.  Depending on how deep the pool is, Chad Johnson, the back-up, may get a bunch of minutes too, but they may not be the minutes anyone wants, after the starter is pulled.

Team To Pick From Late?

The depth of the Sabres is still suffering, er... I mean, developing.  The Sabres will have their growing pains, which will probably mean that their scoring will suffer, which means they probably shouldn't be considered too highly for the late rounds, when you're lost for names/picks.

Unsigned Players and Salary Cap

All of the main restricted free agents were dealt with in a timely manner this Summer and they let a few players go off to pasture and into unrestricted free agency, so they have no worries with unsigned players.

Salary CapThe Sabres are a cap floor team and with a number of young prospects in the fold, their bottom line won't suffer nearly as much as their place in the standings might.  O'Reilly's $6 million cap hit for the coming year is by far the biggest and the team was good to take on more hits, like David Legwand.

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