Players to watch

It is finally here! The 2018-19 NHL season is upon us and it is glorious!

As we move onto the Buffalo Sabres and who we should watch for this year to really just take that next step, I’d like to say that I am very excited for this season but I want to hold off on any expectations. Let’s just sit back and enjoy this newly revamped roster that features Jeff Skinner, Conor Sheary, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, Vladmir Sobotka, Casey Mittelstadt, Rasmus Dahlin, and Carter Hutton.

Jake McCabe

Watch out for Jake McCabe this year, folks. Although he isn’t an offensive superpower, he does have enough offense in his game to contribute up to 30-35 points this season. With a career high 20 points in 76 games back in 2016-17, McCabe has yet to really break out.

If you throw in his injury-ridden season last year that saw him playing in only 53 games, the 6’1″ 209 lb defenseman hasn’t really had great success up to this point. However, being paired with rookie phenom Rasmus Dahlin to start the season could definitely give a boost to McCabe’s game.

Similarly to how Jack Eichel elevates everyone’s game that he plays with, Dahlin does the same thing. McCabe soon to be 25 and between the ages of 23-25 is when a lot of defenseman break out. Watch for McCabe to step into his prime this year and help solidify Buffalo’s D-core.

Sam Reinhart

I understand that Sam could be getting paid A LOT of money in a couple of years, but the contract that Jason Botterill and Sam Reinhart agreed on is an absolute steal for two years. After three full seasons in the NHL, the former 2nd overall pick in 2014 has showed why he was a first round pick.

However, he has yet to show why he was a 2nd overall pick.

That is going to change this year if two things happen. Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Sam need to play together the entire season. Sam also has to stay healthy. If those two things happen, it should be easy for Reinhart to eclipse his career high, 50 point campaign from last season.

Having a healthy Jack Eichel, and a goal scoring winger like Jeff Skinner, this top line will be the best top line that Buffalo has had in many years.

Rasmus Ristolainen

The other Rasmus on the blue line who has been Buffalo’s top defenseman for a few years now is going to have a BIG year.

Similar to McCabe, Risto is starting to enter his prime and if his off season workouts are any indication that he is ready for a big year, we should be very excited.

Throughout the preseason, Risto has looked bigger, faster, and stronger. He is ready to explode onto the scene as one of the NHL’s top d-men. A good comparison could be Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. Breaking out at 23 years old, Hedman has quickly become one of the few NHL’s franchise defensemen. Risto started to break out at 21 years old and then stayed steady for the past few years. Can Risto take that next step to become a franchise defenseman type of player? Having the depth we have on the blueline this year along with the addition of Dahlin should also take some pressure off of Risto.

When is the last time you were this excited for a season to start? Maybe when Jack was drafted? Or maybe it was even further back to the 2006-07 season?

Yes, they have a TON of skill on this team, but they are still very young. We will see flashes or Stanley Cup potential, and we will also see glimpses of last year’s last place team. As Buffalo fans, we stick by our team win or lose. Just have fun taking it all in and keep the future in mind when thinking about the playoffs. This team will be a consistent contender soon. Be patient. Let’s Go Buffalo!!!

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John Krieger
A Buffalo sports fan from birth who has stayed loyal through many tough years. Now living in Buffalo, NY. Producer of the BHC Podcast and would love to be able to report on future Sabres success. Let’s go Buffalo!
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