We are 26 days away from the start of the NHL season. The scheduling of your Fantasy Hockey drafts have begun. The DraftKit is on sale and it is time to start previewing the 2016-17 NHL season.
I will be previewing two teams every day and each preview will consist of: Projected Line Combinations, a breakdown of each team’s top Fantasy assets, a look at their goaltending situation and 2016-17 NHL Standings projection.
If you don’t want to wait for the previews, buy our 2016-17 DraftKit—which has previews for every team as well as projections for over 300 players and goalies. You will get rankings and projections on here over the next few weeks, but why wait, when you can get it all right now for just $4.95?
Let’s take a look at the Buffalo Sabres.
|Kyle Okposo – RW – (from NYI)||Chad Johnson – G – (from CGY)|
|Dmitry Kulikov – D – (from FLA)||Mark Pysyk – D – (to FLA)|
|Anders Nilsson – G – (from STL)|
|Justin Falk – D – (from CBJ)|
By: Michael Bondy (@)
The Buffalo Sabres missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year in 2015-16, but not without a significant improvement in their overall record, posting 35 wins, their most since the 2011-12 season. A 12 win increase from the year prior, the Sabres will be looking to continue with the winning pattern while steadily developing their impressive core of young talent.
The Sabres bench will be once again be led by their beloved seven-year veteran head coach Dan Bylsma. The 45-year-old bench boss proved in his inaugural season with the Sabres that his coaching tactics that led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup victory in 2008-2009 were anything but a fluke. The Sabres showed steady and significant improvements as the 2016 season wore on. Bylsma will look to continue to work with and around his young talent, as Buffalo’s recent years of poor performance has led them to assemble top name prospect names like: Alexander Nylander, Rasmus Asplund, Justin Bailey, Hudson Fasching and many more. While these prospects are not expected to crack the roster on opening day, they will be key assets for years to come and potential mid-to-late season effective call ups. Buffalo did not make many moves to improve their young team this offseason, but grabbed one of the biggest names on the free agent market, acquiring 28-year-old right winger Kyle Okposo. The American-born winger will be looking to move out of the shadow of Islanders’ superstar John Tavares and into his own spotlight on a team he is more than capable of leading in scoring.
Buffalo’s strengths will seemingly come from their high flying forwards who will look to improve on a season which saw them finish tied for 25th in NHL scoring (199 goals for). The Sabres will once again be led by centre Ryan O’Reilly who led the team in both points (60) as well as assists (39) in his first year with the club. The top-six forwards will be rounded out by an abundance of young, almost proven talent in Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart and of course, the 2015 No.2 pick Jack Eichel. After leading all rookies in shots (238) a year ago, Eichel proved he is not afraid to put pucks towards the net, a quality which will certainly help him become the superstar he is expected to be. Expect both Reinhart and Eichel to be prime candidates for breakout seasons in 2016-17. The rest of the Sabres offensive output should come from veteran forwards Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta, who will all find themselves in role positions across the team’s roster.
One of the teams glaring weaknesses to start this season comes from their back end. Besides sophomore sensation Rasmus Ristolainen, who posted 41 points while suiting up for all 82 games last year, the Sabers do not really provide much more excitement from their developing back end. Look for Ristolainen to carry the majority of the defensive weight, while working alongside offseason pick up Dimitry Kulikov, who was acquired in the from the Panthers. The bottom-four defensemen offer little to no fantasy value, but look to 22-year-old Jake McCabe as one potential breakout.
In net, the Sabres will again turn to spark plug goaltender Robin Lehner, who is truly a question mark between the pipes due to his inability to stay healthy. Having only strapped on the pads in 25 percent of regular season games across the past two years, (46 GP) the Sabres are hoping the 25-year-old can finally put together a clean bill of health and post numbers similar to his .924 save percentage (SV%) that he achieved across 21 starts last year. If Lehner were to go down like he has in previous years, the Sabres would be forced to turn their starting job over to offseason pick up, and unproven journeyman Anders Nilsson. Regardless, goaltending looks to be a big issue for Buffalo as they will try to establish who their true No.1 goaltender of the future is.
Much like fellow up-and-coming teams Arizona and Toronto, the Sabres are expected to be a better team than they were in 2015-16. With their core group improving through free agency as well as player development, this will be a team to fear for years to come, just not quite yet. Expect 2016-2017 to be an important year as this team continues to shape itself and develop its young, exciting talent into a core the Sabres hope can turn into a playoff and eventually a Stanley Cup contenders.
Sabres in the DFO Top 275:
- 32. Jack Eichel – C
- 52. Ryan O’Reilly – C
- 82. Rasmus Ristolainen – D
- 104. Kyle Okposo – RW
- 150. Robin Lehner – G
- 216. Sam Reinhart – RW
- 253. Evander Kane – LW
2016-17 Season Projection:
The Sabres will likely take another step forward in 2016-17, but are still one year away from competing for a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Look for them to miss the playoffs for sixth straight season, despite visible improvement in all facets of the game.
- Boston Bruins
- Buffalo Sabres