Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2018 Pool Projections: Buffalo

It is quickly becoming a matter of when and not really, if, the Sabres will turn this thing around and finally reach the heights that can be achievable after a long and arduous rebuild.  Their most dynamic offensive player is already popping off the points in his second season and now the breakout of these Buffalo Sabres can truly begin.

If all goes well, which I would suspect it will, for Jack Eichel, the Sabres do have a legitimate force, when it comes to their offense and now it will be a matter of who he takes with him along the way.  Sam Reinhart appears to be one of those guys and he could be a sneaky good pick, if you have him listed in the right spot, as the Sabres may not have hit those popular levels, just yet.

The Sabres did well to improve their blueline in the off-season, adding Marco Scandella from the Wild and Nathan Beaulieu from the Canadiens, both players that could make significant impacts with the team at both ends of the ice.

Goaltending still feels like a bit of a concern, but shoring up the position with bringing Chad Johnson back into the fold, does relieve some of that stress, since he has seen quite a bit of ice-time in the last couple of seasons, between Buffalo and Calgary.

If the Sabres can take back a lot of those points that they dropped to their own conference in the 2018 season, they could really even out what the competition will be like, come the trade deadline and the run into the playoffs.  They were a .500 team against their own division, but really took a beating against the Metropolitan, but who didn't?

Player Pos 17/18 Proj Rookie
Jack Eichel F 75 N
Ryan O'Reilly F 55 N
Sam Reinhart F 55 N
Kyle Okposo F 50 N
Rasmus Ristolainen D 50 N
Evander Kane F 45 N
Robin Lehner G 45 N
Chad Johnson G 45 N
Jason Pominville F 40 N
Alexander Nylander F 35 Y
Matt Moulson F 25 N
Zach Bogosian D 25 N
Johan Larsson F 20 N
Benoit Pouliot F 20 N
Jake McCabe D 20 N
Hudson Fasching F 15 N
Jacob Josefson F 15 N
Marco Scandella D 15 N
Nicolas Deslauriers F 10 N
Josh Gorges D 10 N
Seth Griffith F 5 N
Justin Falk D 5 N
Casey Nelson D 5 N

Table last updated on August 12th

Most Intriguing or Breakout Player

The younger of the two Nylander brothers, Alexander, should have ample opportunity to show his offensive flair in the 2018 season and with his rookie status still intact, he is the kind of player that could help to win your money back, assuming that the rookie pool reappears in the hockey pool again this season.

In four games last season, Nylander did pick up an assist and he was decent in the AHL, scoring 10 goals and 28 points in 65 games.  There might be some things he may have to work on to stay up at the NHL level, but where the depth is on the team, he may get the chance to work on those things with the big club.

First Round Picks

Not only is Nylander going to be something, I have a feeling that Jack Eichel will finally reach the upper echelon of the hockey pool world and be worthy of that 1st round pick.  The team is starting to round out a little bit more and his game was really taking shape last season, despite the late start to it.  Some of us tend to forget how much of an elite talent Eichel is, but I don't think we'll have trouble remembering here soon.

Other Pool Worthy Forwards

The management team for the Sabres have slowly pieced together an improving forward group, which will also include pool worthy players like Ryan O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane and they have brought in Jason Pominville from the Wild this summer.  It's a pretty good blend of talent, grit, playmaking and power on paper, but how that's going to translate on the ice will be what matters the most.

Other Pool Worthy Defense

The Sabres are not lacking on talent on the blueline now either.  The development of Rasmus Ristolainen has gone very well, the acquisitions of both Nathan Beaulieu and Marco Scandella can be seen as good minute adds, while Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe are coming right along.  If these guys can mesh together this season, their momentum is really going to be pushing forward.

Goaltending Situation

It's in goal, where I think the Sabres may find themselves a bit short.  I think the belief in Robin Lehner may have over-extended itself a bit and he may not be the guy to carry them far, while the return of Chad Johnson will give the team decent minutes, but I don't think he's the guy that can carry the load either.  Before the end of the season, I get the feeling that this is going to be a split, but I have been wrong before too.

Team To Pick From Late?

There is a fair bit of depth in Buffalo, but their side hasn't exactly given poolies much confidence over the last few seasons.   Still, I think this team is poised to surprise some people and you might be able to find some real bargain picks here.  Benoit Pouliot was brought in to add some veteran leadership, Matt Moulson is still around and Jacob Josefson finally crawled out of the swamp, so he could be ready for minutes too.

Unsigned Players and Salary Cap

The Sabres have still to make a deal with forward Zemgus Girgensons, who is a restricted free agent this summer.  The 23-year old has only regressed in his numbers over the last few seasons, which is certainly not making his negotiation stance all that stable.  Someone is going to have to tell him to start scoring and then he'll make the big bucks.

Buffalo hasn't been shy, when it has come to throwing around some of the big bucks out there, but they still have managed a decent budget, having $7.6 million in unused cap space on their current roster projection.  A lot of that space for next season, will likely go to Jack Eichel, who is in line for his first contract extension, but that is then and this is now.

Injuries

Not long after the playoffs had concluded, somewhere in between Game 6 and the expansion draft, the Buffalo Sabres confirmed that they were expecting Kyle Okposo to be ready for training camp, as he recovers from a scary infection, stemming from a surgery in the regular season.
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