3 new top 6 forwards, 2 new bottom 6 forwards, 1 new top 4 defensemen and a new starting goalie. That is how much change the Buffalo Sabres underwent this offseason. In are forwards Jeff Skinner, Connor Sheary, Casey Mittelstadt, Patrik Berglund and Tage Thompson. Rasmus Dahlin was added to the backend and Carter Hutton was signed to take over the net. All these guys plus Jack Eichel, a revamped Jason Pominville/ Kyle Okposo, Rasmus Ristolainen and veterans like Marco Scandella and Zach Bogosian leads to the Buffalo Sabres being 16-6-2.
The most obvious acquisition is Jeff Skinner, the pending free agent was traded out of Carolina after being a -27 last season with only 24 goals…. Well he has 18 this season and is on pace to crush his 37 goal career high. Who was his centre even in Carolina? Jordan Staal? Well we all know they had nobody close to his centre this year, Jack Eichel.
The Sabres drafted Casey Mittelstadt 8th overall in 2017 and after he lit up the World Juniors he saw 6 games at the end of his NCAA season last year where he had 5 points. Mittelstadt only has 8 points to start this year but looks to be heating up after his shootout winner against Vancouver then game tying goal in an eventual win in Pittsburgh. Connor Sheary has proven to be a nice addition with 12 points, while Okposo and Pominville have both bounced back from off seasons last year.
Many people talk about generational players in the draft like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel. Not many people talked about Rasmus Dahlin as such, although there were a couple who said he was the equivalent of the McDavid/Matthews talent… just on the blueline. It takes longer for defensemen to develop in the NHL but Dahlin has 13 points in 24 games while being a +5… oh yeah he’s also averaging 19:00 minutes a game.
Rasmus Ristolainen was taken just behind Darnell Nurse in 2013. But has had the far better career to date. Ristolainen has surpassed 40 points in the last 3 seasons and is well on his way to that mark this one as well. He plays the 8th most minutes amongst anybody in the league.
Carter Hutton has a career .916 save percentage although he’s never player more than 40 games in a season in his NHL career. But his work this year (.919) is better than anything the Sabres have gotten from anybody since Ryan Miller. Linus Ullmark currently has a .926 save percentage and looks to be the goalie of the future but for now he’s a very good backup.
After years of disappointment in Buffalo and seasons of not even getting to 30 wins, the Sabres look to be well on their way to a first playoff appearance since 2011 and I’m excited for it. Have you seen Bills Mafia?? Wait for the Sabres.