Sabres Top-Tier Talent is For Real (Part 1 of 2)

Sabres Top-Tier Talent is For Real (Part 1 of 2)

by September 19, 2020 1 comment

The Buffalo Sabres have endured a ton of heartbreak having missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons. During which time, the team has gone through five different head coaches and have made three changes at the general manager position. Despite the change in personnel behind the bench and in the front office, two common denominators have remained true to the franchise: overall dysfunction and losing. 

As they say, in every cloud there’s a silver lining. This past summer the Sabres decided to make a change (once again) at the general manager position and awarded it to long-time Sabres employee and former player, Kevyn Adams. Don’t look now, Sabres fans, but your club now has some pretty significant talent throughout their roster and “in the system”. Over the course of two separate articles, I will take a deep dive and examine the top-end talent of the franchise starting with my inaugural piece, which can be seen below.

Jack Eichel, C

First up is silky-smooth centerman, and the face of the franchise in Buffalo, Jack Eichel. In just a few short seasons, Buffalo’s stud catalyst and captain has solidified himself as one of the best players in the National Hockey League. Blessed with sheer raw talent, a killer release, strong powerful strides, vision, excellent hands, and a will to win, Eichel is the real deal and the hopeful savior in the Queen City.

Over the past two seasons, he has appeared in 145 games scoring 64 goals to go along with 96 assists and 160 points, better than a 1.10 points-per-game pace. On a team that’s been mired in dysfunction, inconsistent play, and heartbreak after heartbreak, Eichel represents hope for an up and coming Sabres team looking to turn the corner. One final question remains…When will hockey fans be blessed with his presence in the Stanley Cup playoffs?

Mattias Samuelsson, D

Next up is highly-touted prospect, Mattias Samuelsson, who by all indication, is projected to be a real stalwart on the Sabres blue-line for years to come. Born in Voorhees, New Jersey, Samuelsson captained Team USA during the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship and also wore the “C” at Western Michigan, where he currently plies his trade. There’s a lot to like about the 6’4, 220-pound blue-liner, who should be donning the gold and blue of Buffalo as early as next year alongside Rasmus Dahlin, Jake McCabe, and Rasmus Ristolainen.

As a player, Samuelsson can skate, move the puck effectively, and plays a steady game in his own zone. He’s agile, good on his edges, and has an active stick which he uses to good effect. He’s not flashy, but he plays a lot like Andy Greene and Niklas Hjalmarsson (with a higher ceiling) and should be a welcome addition to the Sabres with his ability to read and anticipate plays at a high level. Yet another fine young player coming through the ranks. Giddy up, Sabres fans. 

Victor Olofsson, LW

Although he has less than a full season under his belt, Victor Olofsson looks like a real solid piece in Buffalo for years to come. Not only did he show a lot of promise as a rookie after spending four seasons in Sweden, but he proved to the Sabres brass that he’s ready to stick around and make a profound difference at the NHL level.

Olofsson’s rookie campaign was capped off with a 20-goal, 42-point season in just 54 games played. Quantify these statistics over a full 82-game schedule, and the Ornskoldsvik, Sweden native is flirting with 30 goals and 55+ points. The jury is still out as to whether he can play on the Sabres top-line given the small sample size. Make no mistake, this is a player with top-6 skill written all over him. On a team that’s severely underachieved over the past 10 years, Olofsson is certainly going to help this team moving forward, and then some.

Ryan Johnson, D

Promising young prospect, Ryan Johnson is next on our list as one of the crown jewels “in the system” in Buffalo, New York. An excellent skater with a really good hockey IQ, Johnson’s play at the University of Minnesota (NCAA) has had Sabres management salivating.

On defense, Johnson reads the game at an elite level and uses his crafty puck skills and high compete level to “get the edge” over opposing teams’ forwards. He’s not an overly flashy player by any means, and like Samuelsson plays a real simple, and effective game that will be a welcome addition to the city of Buffalo. I also really like Johnson because he’s a great teammate, works hard, and is just a solid presence in his own end. Drafted in the first round, 31st overall last summer, this kid’s poised to be a really nice addition to an improving Sabres team. 

Eric Staal, C

A few eyebrows were raised across the NHL landscape when Kevyn Adams pulled the trigger with the acquisition of Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Marcus Johansson. Staal, who turns 36 next month, should slot in as Buffalo’s second-line center next season. He brings goal-scoring, size, leadership, and (much-needed) experience to a team that was extremely thin down the middle of the ice last season.

Staal has had a marvellous run in the NHL up to this point in his career and brings Stanley Cup pedigree to the 716. Although he’s on the back-nine of his career, Staal will be an asset to the Sabres and provide a good 1-2 punch down the middle of the ice behind Jack Eichel. With 436 career goals to his name, the trade of Staal is a clear win for the Sabres. 

Thus concludes the first part of the growing abundance of talent for the Buffalo Sabres. Stay tuned for part two of this article in the next couple of days, hockey fans!

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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