With the 69th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft the Buffalo Sabres selected Cliff Pu out of the London Knights of the OHL.
As a third round pick Sabres fans didn’t know what to expect from Pu, in his Draft year he only scored 31 points, and many doubted he could be a full-time NHL player.
Fast forward to this season, Pu made his impact felt in the Sabres organization. He impressed in the preseason and was the last cut by the Buffalo Sabres who awarded Pu with his entry-level deal shortly after.
Pu is still relatively unknown by a majority of Sabres fans, but when you examine his game Sabres fans should be excited because the former third round pick looks to be developing into a NHL player.
Pu has taken his game to another level since being drafted. A year after being drafted Pu put up 35 goals and 51 assists for 86 points in 63 games.
This season Pu looks as impactful as ever, scoring 45 points in 36 games with London and has continued to impress even after being traded to Kingston.
In his draft year Future Considerations did a profile on Cliff Pu, and here is what it said “Pu is a power forward with size and offensive skill. He displays good vision on the rush with the puck while moving at top speed, able to see his options and seam a pass or keep it if needed. “
It continued to say “he picks up his check on the backcheck and works hard down low, grabbing loose pucks and getting into open space to escape the zone or feed his man through a passing lane to spark the rush.”
From watching Pu live, and on film three key factors of his game stick out:
-His play off the puck
Everyone knows the game is shifting to a game of speed and skating ability, and the Sabres are lacking on that front. Pu however has excellent skating ability and speed, both with and without the puck.
Pu’s ability top shift into another gear is amazing, while watching film there are countless occaisions where Pu would skate down the wall pick up the puck, blaze by everyone else and score or set up a goal.
With a lack of speed on the NHL roster Sabres fans should be excited to have a prospect who possesses the speed that Cliff Pu does.
To this point, Pu has scored 70 goals in 206 OHL games and a lot of that is credited to his speed and his excellent shot.
Pu has a very good release, and that is how he is able score on most of his shots. His shot isn’t exactly overpowering but his ability to get the puck off his stick in a quick manner, coupled with his accuracy make him a deadly shooter in the OHL.
While it remains to be seen whether his shot will translate to goals in the NHL it is encouraging to see him fill the net in the OHL this season (19 goals in 39 games).
Ability off the Puck
Pu’s most impressive ability is what he does when the puck isn’t on his stick, a very underrated but key skill in the game of hockey.
Watching the film, I’ve noticed that Pu is excellent on both offence and defence when he doesn’t have the puck.
On offence, he is able to use his smarts and his speed to get into scoring locations. Numerous times I saw Pu put himself in the slot for a shot, or use his skating to pounce on a rebound.
On defence, Pu rarely loses his man. He is responsible and has his head on a swivel, he knows where he needs to be and he does whatever he has to do to get there.
Overall, I would say Pu has the potential to be a middle six forward, he can play both wing and center and has the ability to contribute offensively all while be responsible on the defensive side of the puck.
I imagine Pu being a third-line winger who will play on the penalty kill, he is an excellent prospect for the Sabres and fans should be excited about having him in the system.
Pu will likely take the same developmental path as Guhle, I’d expect him to be in Rochester next year and when he shows that he is ready to make the jump to the Sabres he will.
Projected NHL Arrival: 2019-2020
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