Connect with us

Buffalo Sabres

3 Reasons to Keep Hope During Buffalo Sabres’ Rebuild

Buffalo remains out of post-season contention, but the young core and solid prospects give hope for the future during the Sabres’ rebuild.

Nearly 13 years since their last post-season run, the Buffalo Sabres remain out of a playoff spot.  On Tuesday night, the Sabres beat an Atlantic Division rival, handing the Detroit Red Wings their sixth loss in a row. This puts Buffalo five points behind a wild card position, which isn’t insurmountable. Injuries and inconsistency have held Buffalo back this season, but there is reason to persist in hope for this franchise. Here are three reasons to stay optimistic in the Sabres future.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is a Future Star for the Sabres

Many thought Devon Levi would start the entire year after an impressive start to his career. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old ended up getting sent down to the AHL two months into the season. The good news is that Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen seems to have found his game this year and has been the highlight of Buffalo’s campaign. Not only does he have a winning record, the Finnish goaltender has the statistics to back up his play.

With a .914 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average, Luukkonen finds himself in the top 10 in both these categories. He also has four shutouts this season, tied with Sergei Bobrovsky for fourth in the NHL. Given his development status and his age, the Sabres will most likely sign Luukkonen to a long-term contract this summer. Having Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin already, the state of New York seems to have added another elite goaltender.

Sabres’ Promising Defensive Core

The Sabres have had two first-overall picks in four years, selecting a defenseman in both drafts (Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power). Currently, those two players lead their team in time on ice, and Dahlin is first in points. Power, the 2021 first-rounder, has signed a seven-year, $8.35 million contract that kicks in next year, after playing only one season. The Mississauga native has been playing like a solid top-four defenseman but has the potential to be so much better. Tall defensemen tend to take a longer time to develop. Victor Hedman’s size and talent are comparable, and he had his breakout season five years after being picked 2nd overall in 2009.

Owen Power Sabres extension

In addition to Dahlin and Power, the Sabres have now acquired Bowen Byram, a 22-year-old skilled defenseman in exchange for Casey Mittelstadt. Byram has struggled with injuries in his career, dealing with lingering concussion issues. Fortunately, he has managed to stay healthy this year.

In his first three games with his new team, he has scored three goals, giving a great look to the trade early on. Byram was also the top defenseman picked in his draft, selected fourth overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the very strong 2019 draft. To round up the top four, the Sabres also put a lot of trust in Mattias Samuelsson, a 6’4” 225lbs stay-at-home defenseman with terrific skating and defensive ability. He leads Buffalo in shots blocked per 60 mins, and neutral and defensive zone starts.

All four defensemen are under 25 years old, putting the Sabres in a position where they have one of the best young defensive cores in the entire league.

Sabres’ Overflowing Forward Prospect Depth

With their lack of regular season success in the past few years, Buffalo has drafted and traded for many prospects. In fact, most of those players have already graduated to the pros.

Prospects like Matthew Savoie, Jiri Kulich, Isak Rosén and Noah Ostlund all have top-six potential and are thriving in their respective leagues. Meanwhile Jack Quinn, Zach Benson, and J.J. Peterka already have a regular spot on the team. Every player mentioned is 22 years old or under. In the near future, some players’ contracts will have to come off the books, so that players like Luukkonen can be signed. With all the upcoming players that will have entry-level contracts, this will provide flexibility with the salary cap.

When the Jack Eichel trade was announced, it was clear the rebuild was going to be a long process. Since then, the Sabres have loaded up in prospects at every position. Leadership, culture and coaching are three elements that are extremely important in the NHL. With former captain Kyle Okposo traded, Buffalo is going to need their young veterans to step up.

Next: 3 Takeaways from Oilers’ Massive 7-2 Victory Over Capitals

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

More News

Discover more from NHL Trade Talk

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading