It is a very exciting time to be a fan of the Buffalo Sabres. Finally, after years of dysfunction and mediocrity, it looks like the franchise is finally on the right track. Leading the charge in the 716 are the likes of Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson, Owen Power, and a plethora of up-and-comers.
Although the club is filled with many young players, each looking to take the next step in their development, there are indeed some who will be “under the microscope” heading into 2022-23. Let us read on and find out who these players are and what their prognosis looks like as we inch closer and closer to October.
Be sure to keep up with all of our NHL coverage.
First up on our list is Eden Prairie, Minnesota native Casey Middlestadt. Man, it feels like a century ago since the Sabres selected him in the first round, eighth overall back at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Heading into next season, all eyes will be on the 23-year-old, and for good reason. How will he perform, and what will he need to do to secure a long-term stay in the Queen City?
Mittelstadt has skated in 195 career games to this point in his professional career. During that time, the centerman managed 33 goals and 80 points to his credit. A highly touted prospect with loads of potential, Mittelstadt has struggled to find his footing at the NHL level early on in his career, and time is certainly starting to become of the essence. With the start of training camp less than a month away, all indications point toward Mittelstadt lining up as the team’s second-line center. His linemates? None other than Alex Tuch and sophomore Peyton Krebs. The golden opportunity is certainly there for Mittelstadt; the only question remains, will he be able to seize it with both hands?
Up next is Anders Bjork, who came over from the Boston Bruins in the Taylor Hall trade a few years back. At the time of the deal, the Sabres believed Bjork would be a solid middle-six winger. Although they may still believe that assertion, fans and management alike are beginning to grow impatient.
Born and raised in Mequon, Wisconsin, Bjork is coming off a miserable campaign in 2021-22. In 58 games, he tallied a measly five goals and eight points to go along with an abysmal minus-14 rating. Bjork also fell out of favor at times with the Sabres coaching staff and even found himself up in the press box on numerous occasions last season. At the end of 2022-23, Bjork is scheduled to be a restricted free agent (RFA). Although the Sabres will still own his rights in this regard, there will not be much of a “hill to climb on” for Bjork if he puts up another poor campaign. It will be fascinating to see how Bjork handles this upcoming year and how he fares. Keep your eyes on this one, folks.
Vinnie Hinostroza is a really interesting case for the Sabres. He appears on this list, not so much for his lack of production but rather to hopefully secure a multi-year extension after this year. At season’s end, the man from Bartlett, Illinois, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. So the real question surrounding Hinostroza is simple. Will he stay within the Sabres’ long-range plans, or will he be allowed to walk in free agency?
Last season was a fairly productive one for Hinostroza in the Queen City. He would be the first to tell you that he thought his play was certainly up-to-par on a rebuilding Buffalo team. Even more so, the Sabres coaching staff and management group would agree with that sentiment. His statistics include 13 goals and 25 points in 62 games to go along with 93 penalty minutes. Hinostroza provided energy, jam, grit, and much-needed leadership and experience in Buffalo, much to the joy of die-hard Sabres fans. At 28 years of age, Hinostroza would love to find a more permanent home after bouncing around between stops in Chicago (twice), Arizona, Florida, and Buffalo. Only time will tell if that will be the case on the other side of the Canada-U.S. border. Stay tuned, Sabres fans.
Follow Dom Lunardo on Twitter @DLunardoNHL1
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images