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NHL Prospect Report: Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres

From now until the start of next season, I’ll be looking at each NHL team’s prospect situation and assessing each prospect’s projected fantasy value. With all due respect to turnover leagues, I will be focusing solely on keeper and dynasty leagues, because prospects have minimal value in re-draft leagues. Most fantasy leagues vary in structure, so for the purpose of this exercise, I will be referring to leagues that include a main roster and a prospect roster, each with their own respective draft.

This week we move up to the 26th placed Buffalo Sabres.

2016-17 Recap

After an improved 2015-16 season, expectations were up in Buffalo. Sadly, it was another year of injuries and disappointment for Sabres fans. There were rumors about trades, and in the end, Dan Bylsma and Tim Murray were shown the door. Phil Housely and Jason Botteril were brought in. How they develop these prospects will be key as the previous regime sputtered.

Sadly, most of Buffalo’s prospects have not seen the prime time just yet. That may change this year. On the other hand, another season of development may pay off handsomely for some of Buffalo’s prospects. The Sabres need a few of these players to make the jump this year. Last season, too many struggled in the system, which hampered Buffalo when there were injuries. Let us start off with the highest potential in Alexander Nylander.

1. Alexander Nylander, RW/LW

Age: 19  H/W: 6’1″/191 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 8 in 2016 by Buffalo

2016-17 Team: Rochester Americans, AHL

65 GP, 10 G, 18 A, 28 Pts, -24, 6 PIM

Nylander had an uneven season for Rochester, to say the least. He is a young Sabres forward that many have a ton of hope for. Nylander shined in the World Juniors with 12 points in seven games. New Jersey has center depth in their prospect and team ranks. When teams were more physical with the young Swede, he was easily taken out of most games. It was a troubling development not lost on both new management and Nylander himself.

He may start off in Rochester again, as he did bulk up by about 10 pounds or so in the offseason. Training camp will be telling because that can be an avenue for Nylander to show he can battle in close quarters. Also, his defensive game may improve as well. That will be an aspect to keep an eye on, as that was a huge detriment last year. There is much in the way of upside, but fans in Buffalo need to be patient.

2. Justin Bailey, RW/LW

Age: 22  H/W: 6’3″/ 214 pounds.

Drafted: Round 2, Pick 52 in 2013 by Buffalo

2016-17 Team: Rochester Americans / Buffalo Sabres

52 GP, 23 G, 13 A, 36 Pts, +4, 35 PIM. 32 GP (NHL), 2 G, 2 A, 4 Pts.

Bailey  enjoyed another good campaign for Buffalo but could not score in an extended stint with the Sabres. Overall, the forward had four points in 32 games for the Sabres. Yes, the winger created his share of chances. On the other hand, execution on those chances was problematic. What has to be different now?

[the_ad id=”384″]The most vital key will be for Bailey to execute at the NHL level. His lower body is extremely strong and upper body is noticeably present. Few can dispute that. Now the increased hand-to-eye coordination near the net and shot must improve. One final issue is defensive gap play covering other forwards. Bailey improved as the season went on and that must continue. There are some who believe that he still has top six upside.

3. Brendan Guhle, D

Age: 20  H/W: 6’3″/192 pounds.

Drafted: Round 2, Pick 51 in 2015 by Buffalo

2016-17 Team: Prince George Cougars (WHL)

32 GP, 13 G, 16 A, 29 Pts, +17, 22 PIM

Guhle blossomed once he was traded to Prince George. He had 29 points, and his possession metrics were amazing. His speed and hands were a huge asset as the year went on. Guhle’s competitive fire makes him hard to play against. Also, he is a defenseman who can take it and dish it out. Even in his limited time at Rochester, Guhle caught on quickly.

As he gains more experience, Guhle should see a better shot at cracking the Sabres roster. That could mean a nine-game audition or something longer. The defenseman wants to play in the NHL this upcoming season. Unfortunately, the depth chart may be an obstacle. Consider that Nathan Beaulieu was acquired and just signed for two years. Also, Viktor Antipin is in the mix. Despite this, Guhle is the type of player that will again turn heads at camp.

4. Nicholas Baptiste, C/W

Age: 21   H/W: 6’1″/ 205 pounds.

Drafted: Round 3, Pick 69 in 2013 by Buffalo

2016-17 Team: Rochester Americans

59 GP, 25 G, 16 A, 41 Pts, +3, 34 PIM, 14 GP, 3 G, 1 A, 4 Pts (Buffalo)

Baptiste almost made the Sabres roster out of camp, but the time in Rochester proved to be fruitful. He had 41 points in 59 games, including 25 goals. That resulted in a call-up to Buffalo, where he showed some flashes of offense. It did not mean things were all rosy, however.

Baptiste’s best opportunity is on the wing as a bottom six forward. The forward must play a better two-way game and show a knack for getting in front of the net. His shot is erratic at the NHL level and also needs improvement. Again, there is much to work on, but he has come a long way in three plus years. That has to be kept in mind. Baptiste will have ample chance to start the year in Buffalo. It comes down to executing opportunities.

5. Casey Mittelstadt, LW/C

Age: 18  H/W: 6’0″/ 201 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 8 in 2017 by Buffalo

2016-17 Team: Eden Prairie High School / Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)

49 GP, 34 G, 60 A, 94 Pts, 10 PIM

Mittelstadt is electric, but do not let his push-up abilities fool you. He has speed and enough strength to keep players honest. His cerebral thought process is that of an NHL player already. It is just a matter of when the rest of Mittelstadt’s game catches up. That may take a year or two, but it will come.

It will be intriguing to see where the forward ends up. Does he wind up with a nine-game audition to Buffalo, or will he definitely play at the University of Minnesota? If Mittelstadt goes the NCAA route first, he may be one and done. His ability to play North-South is breathtaking. Furthermore, the forward combines speed and skill with hockey sense. This may be a gem in the draft that many talk about for years.


Prospect Grade: B

Buffalo’s prospect situation is improving, as the Sabres gain a boost with Mittlelstadt. On top of that, the Sabres keep adding more top prospects. If GM Jason Botteril continues the plan, the Sabres will see tangible results. Buffalo took a slight step back last season and could take a modest step forward this campaign. The coaching staff should help the development curve in an upward direction. Guys like Baptiste and Bailey could make real impacts later in the season.

That does it for this week’s prospect report, but be sure to come back next week when we look at the Detroit Red Wings. As always, feedback is always appreciated, and I’d love to hear what changes you would all make to this list. Leave your thoughts in the comment section! Thanks for reading, and keep your stick on the ice!


All statistics taken from:

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