The Snipers Perspective
The Buffalo Sabres won the draft lottery and had the pleasure of drafting projected superstar defencemen Rasmus Dahlin. Defence has been a well-known weakness in Buffalo. So does bringing in this soon to be superstar enough to make them a contender?
How do they look down the middle? They have GM Jack Eichel, Rookie Casey Mittelstadt, overpaid third line center Patrik Berglund and also some players like Reinhart, Girgensons, Larsson who have played center in the past. We know Eichel has the potential for 80+ points, and we know what Berglund is capable of, the unknown is what Mittelstadt is capable of. In his short stint last season he managed 5 points in 6 games, which looks good, but how is this going to translate to a full season. I believe he will be capable of putting up between 40-50 points this season.
Which should be good enough for a second line center right?
The Sabres have been busy this offseason, drafting Dahlin, trading for Sheary for basically nothing, and trading away Olympic center Ryan Oreilly for veterans Berglund, Sobotka and rookie Tage Thmpson. Did they win this trade? Personally I think no, but they did improve their bottom 6 while freeing up a spot for rookie Mittelstadt to take over.
Now the defence. Ristolainen continues to improve; you know what you are getting from Scandella. A responsible dman who is capable of 19 minutes, Jake McCabe is very underrated and I believe is capable of top 4 minutes, Beaulieu who is …. Well …. He is there. Then there is the brittle as a cracker Zach Bogosian, who was supposed to be a superstar but has never played a full season in his career. If he could stay healthy that would drastically improve the D core but the issue is…. he cant. Let’s see how Dahlins offensive abilities boost these guys this season.
Goaltending. This is a major weakness. They let 26 year old starting goalie Robin Lehner walk in free agency, for a 32 year old Carter Hutton who is a career backup and besides last season has never posted a save average above .918. While 2 of the 3 seasons Lehner has been with a terrible Buffalo team he has posted above .920. Does this make sense to anyone else? Ullmark had good NHL and AHL numbers last season, but he cannot immediately make the jump to starter, he needs one season as a full time NHLer playing 30-40 games because you give him the reins, and I don’t believe Carter Hutton is capable of 40+ games.
So while this lineup looks very good on paper:
Sheary – Eichel – Reinhart
Rodrigues – Mittelstadt – Okposo
Sobotka – Berglund – Pominville
Larsson - Girgensons – Thompson
Scandella – Ristolainen
Dahlin – Bogosian/Hunwick
Beaulieu – Mccabe
I believe they make a push for the playoffs, closer than they have been in the Eichel era, but I still believe they miss the playoffs because of goaltending.