It’s tough. I know. Another lost season filled with frustration for our Sabres. While I know this is rough for many fans, including myself, but we all need to be patient and once again look to the future. I bring myself back to the realization that our missing pieces are soon to be suiting up in Buffalo. We all wanted to be in playoff contention by now but I think that was false hope. Our prospects weren’t ready but now things are looking up for the Sabres as plenty of our prospects are taking steps in their development, possibly making the jump to the NHL next year.
To get a better idea of the prospects who could make an impact at the AHL and NHL level soon, I’ll be ranking them in tiers starting with the best in Tier 1 and the projects in Tier 5.
1. Casey Mittelstadt/LW- What is there to say? Mittelstadt is a flat out stud. He brings speed, skill, and excitement every night. It’ll be interesting to see where he’ll slot in the pros either at wing or at center. Mittelstadt won’t be in Minnesota for long.
2. Brendan Guhle/D- He’s a reliable defenseman in the defensive zone and can add some offensive flair at the other end. Skates well up and down the ice, he’ll be a welcomed piece to the Sabres d-core next year.
3. Alex Nylander/RW- Hurt to begin the year, had a good world juniors as expected, but has struggled in Rochester. I’m a big believer in Nylander. He’s only 19 years old, has immense offensive skill, and just needs time to develop.
4. Rasmus Asplund/C- He’s a great two way center and adds a decent offensive game. Asplund has shown well for Farjestad this year once again. Asplund may spend time in Rochester next year but he’ll push to be the third line center soon.
5. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen/G- UPL has the potential to be the Sabres number one goaltender down the line. He’s big, athletic, but like all goalies needs more time to develop. He has a couple more years on his contract in Finland so it might be a little until we see him in NA.
6. Marcus Davidsson/LW- Davidsson is similar to his Swedish counterpart in Rasmus Aplund. Marcus is a good two way player and can add some offense in a role down the lineup. Davidsson’s future is likely on the third line with Asplund.
7. CJ Smith/LW- Smith is turning out to be a great prospect for Buffalo. He has some speed, playmaking ability, and a solid shot. He recently won the AHL All Star Game MVP as well. Smith should have a chance to play a middle of the lineup role for the Sabres soon.
8. Victor Olofsson/LW- Olofsson has turned into a really promising prospect for the Sabres after getting drafted in the 7th round in 2014. He currently has 34 points in 40 games for Frolunda in the SHL. He leads the team and league in goals with 22. I am really hoping the Sabres bring Olofsson over to North America next season.
9. Cliff Pu/RW- After a slow start in London, Pu turned it on for the Knights but Pu was traded to Kingston Frontenacs in a wild OHL trade deadline. Pu is probably one of the fastest prospects for the Sabres rivaling Justin Bailey. Pu will be looking to make an impact in Rochester next season.
10. Will Borgen/D- Borgen has looked like a steal for the Sabres. One of the few NCAA players selected to the US Olympic team, he’ll look to bring home gold. After his season with St. Cloud St. the hope is to get Borgen signed and get him some games in Rochester. Borgen could be a mainstay for the Amerks defense next year and hopefully a sound defensemen for the Sabres soon.
11. Nick Baptiste/RW- Baptiste has yet to fully take advantage of his opportunities in Buffalo. Obviously we would like to see him grab a larger role, possibly along side Jack. Baptiste has the size and speed to make an impact at the next level in the bottom six.
12. Justin Bailey/RW- Bailey is still a good prospect for the Sabres but he still left more to be desired in his short stint with the Sabres. Since then he’s battled injury in Rochester and has really had a down year due to that fact. There is still hope that Bailey can translate his game to the next level but time is dwindling.
13. Hudson Fasching/RW- Fasching seems to be the forgotten prospect in the system and that’s probably due to the fact that he hasn’t done much down in Rochester. Fasching is most likely a bottom six NHLer and hopefully a nice depth player when the Sabres make the playoffs again.
14. Casey Fitzgerald/D- Sharing the captaincy with fellow Sabres prospect Chris Brown, Fitzgerald has played solid for Boston Collefe. Casey impressed last year for the US at the World Juniors and carried it over to this season. He is a currently a junior but I expect him to play his senior year.
15. Jacob Bryson/D- Bryson is a little undersized for a defenseman but he plays a very offensive game. As a sophomore for Providence, Bryson currently has 19 points in 28 games. He’s an underrated prospect and one Sabres fans should keep an eye on in the NCAA.
16. Oskari Laaksonen/D- Oskari looks like a boom or bust prospect but theres not doubt there is some potential in him. He’s a great skater, probably one of the best this past summer at prospect camp, and is in a large role for his junior team in Finland. He was called up to Ilves in the Finnish league for 9 games and he’s held his own. He’s a project but a promising one.
17. Linus Weissbach/LW- Weissbach is one of the best surprises of the year for the Sabres. He has 19 points in 26 games for Wisconsin in the NCAA and is an exciting player on the ice. Hopefully he can bring the same energy and speed to the next level.
18. Brandon Hagel/LW- Hagel has seen his production dip for Red Deer in the WHL but he is still looking like a decent prospect down the line. Hagel will need to develop a two way game and create more offense before making the jump to the AHL level.
19. Vojtech Budik/D- Budik was always seen as a project after getting drafted in the fifth round in 2016. Former D partners with Brendan Guhle, Budik has shown well as of late in the WHL. He also played a solid role for the Czech Republic in the World Juniors, putting up 5 points in 7 games.
20. Jonas Johansson/G- Johansson is decent goalie prospect but hasn’t put up great numbers in the ECHL. Johansson will likely take Linus Ullmarks role in Rochester next season.
21. Christopher Brown/C- Now a junior for Boston College, Brown is sharing the captaincy with fellow Sabres prospect Casey Fitzgerald. A senior season in BC is probably the best option for him. At best he’ll be a bottom six role player in the NHL
22. Max Willman/LW- Willman is in his senior season for Brown in the NCAA and has 5 points in 9 games. He has decent speed and size. It remains to be seen what the Sabres plan is for him but he is worth a signing for the Amerks to add depth to the organization.
23. Sean Malone/C- I am hoping Malone could be a possible future 4th line center in Buffalo but he only has 8 points in 44 games for Rochester. He’s a hard working player but he’ll need to produce more if he wants a shot in Buffalo.