The Sabers did not tinker a lot with their ahead group this offseason. Kevyn Adams wished to verify prospects like Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka had a sensible path to the lineup, they usually now have that.
Buffalo was as soon as once more comfortably within the backside half of the Japanese Convention in scoring a 12 months in the past. However a number of gamers confirmed promising indicators and extra younger expertise is on the way in which to the NHL lineup.
With coaching camp a number of weeks away, here is a take a look at what we’re watching from every of the Sabers’ high forwards. We have just lately excluded drafted prospects from this run down since we’ll have an opportunity to zero in on these gamers on the prospects problem beginning Sept. fifteen.
Can he stay as much as the contract?
Tage Thompson is now not a promising prospect with engaging instruments. He is a participant recent off a 38-goal season carrying the expectations that include a freshly signed $50 million contract. Detractors will level to Thompson’s gaudy taking pictures share in 2021-22 and ponder whether he’ll return. Final season was an outlier for Thompson, however the change to heart appeared to unlock his offensive potential from him. The Sabers are betting that he can construct on that after seeing what he did taking part in alongside Alex Tuch. Thompson’s contract makes him an unquestioned member of Buffalo’s long-term core. This season he wants to indicate he can stay as much as that.
How a lot does he have left within the tank?
Kyle Okposo’s resurgence was an enormous increase to the Sabers a season in the past. Not solely is he a valued chief within the locker room, however underneath Granato, Okposo produced level totals the Sabers hadn’t seen since 2017-18. Now 34 and coming into the ultimate 12 months of his contract, Okposo may very well be in line to change into the Sabers’ captain. If Okposo can produce between 40 and 50 factors once more this season, the Sabers may take into consideration protecting him round past this season. Final season appeared to energise Okposo. He is an enormous believer in Granato and feels excited concerning the Sabers’ younger core.
Will the scoring translate?
Jack Quinn was a dynamo in Rochester final season, scoring 61 factors in 45 video games. He cooled off within the playoffs, although, with simply two factors within the Amerks’ 10 postseason video games. Quinn has earned the best to compete for top-nine minutes within the NHL lineup. Quinn mentioned this offseason he is tried not to concentrate to how the numbers recreation will shake out with the Sabers’ forwards. He simply needs to fret about creating his personal recreation so he is prepared to return coaching camp. If his scoring of him interprets rapidly, Quinn wo n’t have to fret about who’s round him. The Sabers can have no selection however to discover a function for him.
Can I discover a scoring contact?
The Sabers are in love with what Dylan Cozens brings to their workforce. He is already developed right into a mature chief. He isn’t afraid to throw his physique round in each space of the ice. He is a playmaker attributable to his robust transition recreation from him. Now he simply wants the scoring to meet up with the remainder of his recreation. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman just lately ranked Cozens No. 2 amongst Buffalo’s gamers 22 or youthful. The idea is that he can construct on the 13 factors and 25 assists he had a 12 months in the past and change into extra productive within the factors division in his age 21 season. What a lift that may give Buffalo’s lineup if Cozens can ship on his offensive potential.
Can he have back-to-back 50-point seasons?
Jeff Skinner had back-to-back 50-point seasons in his profession eleven in Carolina, however in any other case his profession has been up and down in relation to scoring. Skinner’s contract seemed like an albatross on the Sabers’ wage cap when Ralph Krueger was burying him within the lineup. However in his first season with Granato on the helm, Skinner scored 33 targets and had 63 factors. That is what the Sabers are paying for. Can he keep away from the slumps which have adopted these robust seasons prior to now? The Sabers want him to. He’ll possible be taking part in a task on the highest line. With questions on how rapidly youthful gamers will develop, Skinner matching or coming near matching his level whole from a 12 months in the past is essential.
The place does he match?
JJ Peterka, the Sabers’ 2020 second-rounder, has change into one of many group’s most tantalizing prospects. Michael Peca referred to as him a “unicorn” and mentioned of the German-born winger, “he has no thought how good he might be, which is frightening.” These are robust phrases for Peterka, who had 68 factors and developed right into a penalty killer within the AHL final season. He is assured and aggressive with the puck on his stick and that ought to make him a contender for a spot within the NHL lineup. It is simply powerful to know precisely the place he’ll match. Will he discover a spot within the high 9? Will he begin because the thirteenth ahead and rotate by way of? His taking part in fashion of him ought to mesh with a wide range of teammates, and that provides Granato and the teaching workers choices.
Who will get to play with him?
What a jolt Alex Tuch gave the Sabers final season. The Syracuse native was ecstatic to finish up along with his childhood favourite workforce of his. And that was a breath of recent air for the group. What was much more promising was how a lot Tuch elevated these round him. Tage Thompson scored 28 of his 38 targets from him within the video games Tuch performed. Tuch’s velocity, passing and defensive skill make him the kind of participant who shall be a boon to his linemates. The Sabers should be enthusiastic about getting a full season of Tuch. The one query I’ve is, who will profit from taking part in on a line with Tuch? Will Granato preserve him with Thompson or attempt to get extra from Dylan Cozens by pairing him with Tuch? He is most likely most beneficial on the highest line, however we’ll see if the Sabers discover different potentialities.
Ought to he play heart or wing?
Granato is not shy about his need for forwards to have place flexibility. He needs gamers who’re snug at heart and on the wing to provide the workforce choices within the lineup. Casey Mittelstadt is a tricky participant to determine. Accidents slowed him down final 12 months, however the Sabers have performed round with the concept of him taking part in wing, and the outcomes have been promising. This shall be a contest to look at throughout coaching camp. Who earns a spot at heart and who has to discover a house at wing? Granato has been savvy with these choices. His subsequent take a look at of him is determining get essentially the most out of Middelstadt.
Can he make the bounce?
Peyton Krebs had an odd begin to his profession. He was rehabbing from an Achilles damage when the Golden Knights drafted him within the first spherical. He later broke his jaw. Then he ended up as a chunk within the Knights’ commerce for Jack Eichel. So it is comprehensible the 21-year-old hasn’t had a full breakout simply but. He scored 22 factors in 48 video games with the Sabers final season after which had 15 factors in 18 AHL video games plus one other 11 factors in 10 playoff video games. He was excellent as a middle for the Amerks throughout their playoff run. We’ll see whether or not there is a spot for him to play heart within the NHL lineup. However whether or not he is on the wing or within the center, the Sabers want him to take the subsequent step in his growth this season.
Can he keep wholesome?
Buffalo prolonged Victor Oloffson this offseason with a two-year contract value $4.75 million yearly. That is the right bridge deal for a participant like Olofsson, who has proven he can put up factors at a excessive degree when he is 100%. Sadly, final season Oloffson was affected by a wrist damage. I’ve missed 10 video games whole and wasn’t totally wholesome in others. However when he was proper, Oloffson confirmed he may nonetheless rating at a powerful clip. I’ve completed with 20 targets and 29 assists, however 16 of these 49 factors got here in April. The Sabers noticed sufficient to provide an honest contract. If he can keep wholesome, there’s loads of motive to assume he can again it up.
Will he simply be an additional ahead?
The truth that Vinnie Hinostroza agreed to re-sign with the Sabers would counsel he expects to have a daily function within the lineup. Hinostroza was strong final season with 25 factors in 62 video games. He was a helpful bottom-six participant. Accidents will finally assist the Sabers kind out their ahead state of affairs, however with everybody wholesome, will Hinostroza take ice time from Quinn or Peterka? I am curious to see how the Sabers work Hinostroza into the lineup.
Can the scoring catch as much as the protection?
Rasmus Asplund is already a precious a part of the Sabers’ lineup due to what he is in a position to do defensively. He received Selke votes final season for a motive. The query is whether or not his scoring of him can catch up in any respect. On the IIHF world championships, Asplund scored six targets in eight video games for Sweden. Protection will at all times be his robust swimsuit from him, however Asplund might have some offensive upside that’s nonetheless untapped. The Sabers do not want a lot from him in that division, however it will be a bonus.
Will he play heart or wing?
Like Asplund, Zemgus Girgensons is a constructive affect on the Sabers’ lineup due to his robust protection. He is additionally a part of the veteran management group within the locker room. The one unknown with Girgensons is whether or not he’ll see extra time at heart or wing. The fact is he may transfer forwards and backwards relying on what the Sabers want. Kevyn Adams mentioned the teaching workers feels snug with him at each spots, so his function may depend upon what occurs round him throughout coaching camp.
Others competing for spots: Anders Bjork, Riley Sheahan
Anders Bjork did not have a powerful season a 12 months in the past, and he may very well be on the surface wanting in on the lineup as soon as coaching camp is over. Bjork is within the ultimate 12 months of his contract and now has to take care of the Sabers’ fast-rising group of robust ahead prospects. We’ll quickly see if he is as much as the duty. In the meantime, Riley Sheahan is again on a two-way deal to supply some depth. He may find yourself in Rochester however he has NHL expertise if wanted.
(Photograph by Jeff Bottari/NHLI by way of Getty Photographs)