Center, Jack Eichel
This would be the popular pick amongst Sabres fans, and it would be the pick that makes the most sense. The new NHL allows young superstars to thrive and take on huge leadership roles early in their careers. McDavid was named captain at 19, Landeskog was also named captain at 19 and surely Auston Matthews will be the next Leafs captain. Eichel would be the best choice to wear the “C” for the blue and gold, he is the face of the franchise and the team’s best player. Eichel dominated for the Sabres last season posting 57 points in 61 games and showed the necessary leadership qualities the captain must display.
Helping Eichel’s case is that he has captained many teams throughout his hockey career. Eichel was the captain of his Jr. Bruins team in 2011-12, wore the “A” for his U-17 and U-18 teams and wore the “C” for Team USA at the 2015 World Junior Tournament. Eichel is the hope of the Buffalo Sabres and giving him the “C” would enstill the confidence that Eichel needs to take the jump from superstar to elite.
Center, Ryan O’Reilly
O’Reilly might be the only reason Eichel isn’t a lock to be the next Sabres captain, he has been and assistant captain since he joined the team in 2015. He is a leader in the locker room by all his teammates and possesses all the qualities a captain should have.
O’Reilly has also been given a leadership role on every team has played for, he captained Canada’s U-17 team in 2007-08. He was also an assistant captain for Erie in 2008-09, and captained the U-18 Canadian team that year. He has also been an assistant captain for team Canada at the last two World Championships while playing a prominent role en route to two straight podium appearances. Other than Eichel, O’Reilly is the most logical choice to wear the “C”.
Right Winger, Kyle Okposo
Okposo is a well-liked player by everyone in the Buffalo Organization and has been a leader ever since entering the NHL. Okposo was an assistant captain for the New York Islanders for seven years (2009-2016) so he has the experience of leading a locker room. Okposo also wore and “A” for USA at the 2010 World Championships.
While Okposo might not have a legitimate shot at being named the Sabres next captain he should not be overlooked. His position in the locker room and previous experience as a leader make him an excellent candidate to captain an NHL team.
Defenseman, Rasmus Ristolainen
Ristolainen is a darkhorse candidate for the captaincy but he has blossomed into a vital player in the Sabres’ locker room. Risto leads by example, he eats up a lot of minutes for the Sabres and is the franchises number one defenseman. He may not have the leadership experience that the other candidates have but he has been in leadership roles for his country Finland. He wore an “A” for Finland at the 2014 World Junior Tournament and helped Finland capture a gold medal.
Defenseman, Jake McCabe
McCabe might sound like a confusing choice as a candidate for captain but it’s not as crazy as it sounds. While he would be the most unlikely candidate on this list, his leadership qualities cannot be overlooked. McCabe went to Wisconsin, one of the most prestigious NCAA programs in the country and learned under some great hockey minds. McCabe also captained the 2013 US World Junior Team and helped them capture a gold medal.
McCabe is a very poised and confident young hockey player, and with his previous leadership experience he would make a very formidable captain in the NHL. While I don’t think he has a shot to be captain it wouldn’t be a crazy idea for Botterill and the new coach to look at McCabe as a possibility for a big leadership role.
*all stats and previous captaincy info for this article provided by http://www.eliteprospects.com