With the Buffalo Sabres limping into year two of their rebuild, several talented players are developing in the AHL, NCAA, or Junior hockey programs. Given Buffalo’s injury situation, a few of these young stars may even crack the NHL lineup in the 2016-17 campaign. Here are some names you’ve probably heard, and are looking forward to seeing on the ice in Buffalo.
1. Alexander Nylander
The 18-year-old, drafted 8th overall in 2016, is starting his rookie season in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans. He spent most of last season playing in the OHL with the Mississauga Steelheads, putting up 75 points (28G, 47A) in 57 regular-season games and earning All-Rookie Team honors. Nylander recently made his pro debut with the Amerks and is off to a hot start, earning three points in just three games, which included his first AHL goal. It's hard not to be excited about Nylander, and the fact that he's eligible to spend this year in the AHL will only further his development. Just imagine him in the blue and gold in a year or two. Yes, please!
2. Justin Bailey
If you're a Sabres fan, you know who Justin Bailey is. The 21-year-old Buffalo native was drafted by his hometown team in 2013 and made his NHL debut last season, appearing in eight games. He's an early favorite to get called up once again if the Sabres need a forward (though the recent call-up of Nick Baptiste is equally interesting.) Last year, Bailey had 45 points (20 goals, 25assists) in 70 games with the Amerks, and he heads into his sophomore AHL season on solid footing. It's only a matter of time before we see him in a Sabres sweater again.
3. Cole Schneider
At 26, Schneider is the oldest on the list, and perhaps a wildcard of sorts, considering he wasn't drafted by Buffalo. Despite that, he's one to keep an eye on. Schneider is fairly new to the Sabres organization, having spent most of last season with Binghamton in the AHL, but he was brought into Rochester to shake things up. He kicked things off with a four-point night in the team's 2016-17 home opener. As a sign of the team's confidence in him, Schneider was named an alternate captain for the third game of the Amerks’ season. The season is barely underway, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on him and his impressive offensive production as the campaign progresses.
4. Brendan Guhle
For a while there, it seemed as though the Sabres were going to give Guhle his seven-game tryout, at the very least. Alas, the last-minute re-signing of Rasmus Ristolainen allowed Buffalo to send the 19-year-old back to Prince Albert in the WHL. The left-handed defenseman was drafted by the Sabres 51st overall in 2015, and spent all but six games in the last season with the Raiders. He did make his AHL debut before the end of the 2015-16 season, racking up four points (1G, 3A) in six games, and came into this season with an even bigger frame than last. He impressed many at training camp and is THE player to watch in the WHL for Sabres fans.
5. Cal Petersen
If you're looking for one Sabres goaltending prospect to check out this season, try 22-year-old Cal Petersen. Drafted by Buffalo 129th overall in 2013, Petersen is now in his third season with Hockey East's University of Notre Dame. Last year, he went 19-11-7 with a 2.20 goals against average, while starting all 37 games for the Fighting Irish. He led the nation in percentage of team minutes played (98.6%) and was nominated for the Mike Richter Award as the nation's top collegiate goaltender, for the second straight season. Though the 2016-17 season is young, he's off to a hot start, going 3-1-0 with a 2.21 GAA and .917 save percentage. You can catch Petersen and the Irish on NBCSN against Penn State on October 22 at 7:05 p.m., with several other games also being televised on NBCSN throughout the season.
Sabres fans have a lot to look forward to when these prospects reach their full potential. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we can track their growth as they develop with their current organizations. 716 Sports Podcast will certainly be checking in with these players and more throughout the season.
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