With the regular season shortly coming to an end in Buffalo, the focus is beginning to shift to the future of the Buffalo Sabres. After recording one of their worst seasons in franchise history, many hope that the future of the organization will look better with some new faces to help the team down the road.
Some future Sabres players are now in the playoffs and have been performing fairly well with their respective teams. There are currently six Sabres prospects still playing for their respective teams, with a chance to be crowned champions.
In the Ontario Hockey League, defenseman Nikita Zadorov has had an excellent playoffs for the London Knights. After a regular season that featured 30 points in 36 games played, Zadorov has carried over his hot play into the playoffs for London.
In seven playoff games, Zadorov has four goals and five assists, including a four-point night on March 22 against the Windsor Spitfires, and a three-point night on Sunday against the Guelph Storm. Zadorov is playing key powerplay minutes in London, and has been strong defensively for the Knights. With injuries affecting the Knights, Zadorov has gotten more minutes and is quickly becoming a leader for the Knights defense.
Zadorov’s teammate, Brady Austin played the first four games of the playoffs for London, but has missed the first three games of the series with Guelph due to mononucleosis. Austin was a 7th-round pick of the Sabres in 2012.
In the four games played, Austin had three points, including a goal and two assists. Austin is out indefinitely, and London will have to do without one of their veteran leaders on defense.
Austin finished his final season in the OHL with 33 points in 67 games with the Knights and also the Belleville Bulls.
London swept the Spitfire in four games, and is currently trailing Guelph in their series 2-1.
One of Buffalo’s newest acquired prospects William Carrier is currently playing in the second round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs with the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
In 66 games played this season, Carrier scored 22 goals and registered 43 assists while splitting his season with Drummondville and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Carrier was acquired by the Sabres from the St. Louis Blues in February’s Ryan Miller/Steve Ott blockbuster trade.
However, Carrier has been plagued by a lower-body injury that sidelined him for five of Drummondville’s eight playoff games. Carrier has a goal and three assists in the three games he has been available in the playoffs. If he can remain healthy, Carrier would be a big offensive weapon for Drummondville.
Drummondville won their series with the Victoriaville Tigres 4-1, and is currently down 2-1 in games with the Val-d’Or Foreurs.
In the Western Hockey League, Logan Nelson has been one of the Victoria Royals’ top forwards throughout their playoffs.
The 20-year old Nelson finished the year with the Royals by scoring 23 goals and adding 31 assists in 59 games played.
In the playoffs for Victoria, Nelson has three goals and three assists for the Royals. Nelson has played in all situations for the Royals, and has been a stable force on the Royals’ second line. If Nelson continues his strong play, the Royals could have a strong chance to upset the second seeded Portland Winterhawks in the WHL Western Conference Semifinals.
The Royals took care of business in the first round of the WHL playoffs by sweeping the Spokane Chiefs in four games. Victoria currently trails Portland 3-1 in games in their second round matchup.
Besides the players in juniors, the NCAA Frozen Four begins on Thursday in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center. Another newly acquired Sabres prospect, Hudson Fasching, is making an impressive run with the University of Minnesota Gophers.
Acquired in the Brayden McNabb deal from Los Angeles, Fasching had an impressive first year with the Gophers scoring 13 goals and adding 16 assists in 38 games. The 18-year old forward is quickly becoming one of the top collegiate players in the nation according to many scouts. Fasching also played for Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championships and had four points in five games played.
In the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament, Fasching has used his size to his advantage and has had an important role in Minnesota’s success. Fasching has one goal in the tournament, and could be a player to watch as the Gophers take on the University of North Dakota on Thursday.
The future continues to look bright in Buffalo for the Sabres. Some of these players may not be ready for a few more seasons, but we continue to follow their development in their respective leagues. Hopefully one day soon, some of these players will have a chance to wear blue and gold and help further the Sabres rebuild. Until then, we patiently wait and see.