Sabres training camp opens today which means the Bills have crushed our souls for nearly two weeks to the point where we’re actually excited to watch Sabres hockey.
It’s going to be an interesting camp as the Sabres finally have a stable of young talented forwards capable of pushing lackadaisical vets for the first time in a while. The addition of Jeff Skinner and Casey Mittelstadt to the top six should really help shore up the bottom six part of the roster. The past few seasons the depth forwards have been like the revolving door of judges on The Voice. One very handsome gentleman who needs four other dudes to make him look good. One guy who stays semi-relevant because he does something good once a year. Followed by a lineup decided by throwing darts at a wall of photos of whichever desperate saps need a job at the time.
The top part of the roster is about as predictable as a Nathan Peterman performance. Headlined by captain Jack Eichel (calling my shot), Jeff Skinner, and it-seems-like-a-good-day-to-sign-Samson Sam Reinhart. Based on skill you assume Mittelstadt factors into the top 6 with Kyle Okposo and the freshly acquired Conor Sheary.
As we reach deeper into Mary Poppins’ magical purse of talent, things get a bit more unpredictable. I don’t think anyone’s job is safe. Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka mixing into the fold really convalutes the bottom half of the lineup. Jason Pominville likely makes the roster based on candor at this point.
Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, Jonas Larsson, and Zemgus Girgensons need to keep eyes in the back of their heads as if the Corleones are coming to whack them. Based on the Prospects Challenge, Nylander looks ready to push for a spot but I think he needs to make the roster in a top six capacity and there’s just not room up there for him right now. I feel the same way about CJ Smith who excelled in the AHL last season. He is probably ready to play with the big club but throwing him on a 3rd or 4th line in the NHL isn’t as good for his development as playing top line minutes in the minors is.
Larsson and Girgensons might as well duel each other in an old western style shootout because there isn’t enough room in this town for the both of ‘em. One WILL make the squad and the other will find themselves on waivers. I feel like Girgensons has the edge here as Larsson is probably more likely to clear through waivers.
The surprise addition to the roster in my opinion is going to be Viktor Olofsson. Last season’s Swedish Hockey League leading goal scorer brings a blistering shot that can be utilized on the Sabres abysmal power play and will be a welcoming addition. Forwards as I see it, line up like this:
The defense is a bit heavy on NHL ready players as well but is a bit easier to predict. Uber prospect Rasmus Dahlin will almost certainly find himself on the ice opening night. Twitter was ablaze with “how good” the other Rasmus will be this season because he is the definition of SWOLE. Unfortunately for Risto, consistency and decision making don’t come with bicep curls and squats. While he does look pretty ripped up, his strength and condition have never been an issue for him. HOPEFULLY, we can get a healthy Zach Bogosian this season. If his on-ice game can be as consistent as his Twitter trolling abilities the Sabres top four can be as solid as any in the league.
The last two starting spots likely go to Jake McCabe and Casey Nelson as they will need to go through waivers. Both are commodities who will be attractive to other teams. Especially with the way Nelson finished last season. Brendan Guhle, who probably should be on the roster, will likely start his season in Rochester solely due to his ability to avoid waivers. Here’s my defensive prediction:
I don’t think the starting goalie is anyone’s job in particular. I think it will be an open competition between Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark. Both will battle hard in every opportunity they’re given this preseason. Beaulieu, Hunwick, and Sobotka start the season as healthy scratches.
What are your predictions for this season’s opening night roster?