Sabres’ preseason clarified final roster, revealed notable breakout candidate

With a 16-day coaching camp and six-game preseason time table entire, Don Granato amassed the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center ice Saturday for every other rigorous follow to deal with a couple of spaces in their recreation that were given uncovered of their exhibition finale.

Breakouts have been a focal point. Those are more uncomplicated to execute, even though, when the Sabres have their peak 4 defensemen at the ice in Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Mattias Samuelsson and Henri Jokiharju, none of whom performed within the 7-1 loss in Pittsburgh that capped the preseason slate.

There have been full-ice sprints, aggressive small-area video games and drills explicit to the offensive zone. Granato is making the most of the few practices closing sooner than the common season starts Thursday night time in Buffalo in opposition to the Ottawa Senators.

The Sabres will wish to trim their roster to 23 gamers through Monday at 5 p.m. Defensemen Chase Priskie, Kale Clague and Jeremy Davies have been the newest to be put on waivers to be able to ship them to Rochester. A couple of extra cuts will probably be made, however there aren’t anticipated to be any surprises.

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Although the previous 3 weeks didn’t give us a greater thought how the Sabres will fare when the video games start to rely in opposition to the standings, a couple of notable questions have been replied.

Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka made the Sabres’ roster

The Sabres’ offseason strikes, together with the ones for the Rochester Americans, indicated that Quinn and Peterka have been graduating to Buffalo, and not anything has modified over the last month. Quinn and Peterka, like different younger Sabres sooner than them, will probably be given each alternative to be told from errors within the NHL. There’s no level in both rejoining the Amerks. Both have been all-rookie picks – Quinn was once named the AHL’s peak first-year participant – and wish to acclimate to the most productive league on the earth.

Quinn’s play in preseason confirmed that he’s in a position to give a contribution within the peak six. Right now, he’s higher at protective the puck and making split-second choices than Peterka, which might be vital to discovering time and area within the offensive zone. In 5 preseason video games, Quinn had two targets, 3 issues and a team-high 16 photographs on function.

Peterka defined following the preseason finale that he wanted time to regulate to the tempo of camp and to regain his timing. There have been instances he attempted to break out with performs that paintings in opposition to lesser pageant however will transform targets in opposition to within the NHL. But there have been additionally moments that confirmed his immense talent. Peterka additionally performed 5 of the six preseason video games and totaled one function with two issues. The Sabres’ training group of workers proved final season that it will possibly lend a hand younger gamers acclimate to the league.

Observations: Eric Comrie receives little help in Sabres' preseason finale

That the sport didn’t rely in opposition to the standings was once the one solace the Sabres may just take from their exhibition finale and 7-1 loss to the Penguins.

“Very important for JJ and Quinner to play (preseason) games,” Granato said. “They played almost the whole year in the American Hockey League last year. It’s a different level. This game here was a different level than earlier preseason games obviously because of their lineup. And that’ll be the case through the early going.

“We’re still a really young team. The negative is we will have growing pains, the positive is they will grow really fast. For all our young guys. We’ve seen that, we’ve witnessed that, we need to stay confident and comfortable in that. There’s no reason not to.”

Casey Mittelstadt and Peyton Krebs will line up at center throughout the season

Mittelstadt will get the first opportunity to play center at the start of the season, as Krebs spent the latter portion of training camp and preseason at left wing. This is going to be fluid, though. Granato doesn’t sound committed to lines or pairings yet. He’s going to mix and match until he finds the proper mix. Mittelstadt has more experience than Krebs and played at a half-point-per-game pace in the final weeks of his injury-shortened 2021-22 season.

Krebs has the playmaking ability to make an impact at left wing, though his speed and defensive instincts are a great fit at center. In Granato’s system, forward positions only matter for faceoffs. The first skater back into the defensive zone will take the center’s responsibilities. While there will be an ongoing debate among fans regarding where Mittelstadt and Krebs fit best, this is a good problem for the Sabres, or any team, to have. This club didn’t have enough NHL-caliber centers one year ago. Now, there could be six on the roster.

”In all honesty, I’m no longer one to position numbers down or make giant targets,” mentioned Mittelstadt. “I like to focus on day-to-day things. I find that if you’re doing the right things every day and getting good meals, getting good sleep, and usually that leads to good practices, and good practices lead to good games. That’s the plan for me. I’m not going to put anything down on paper necessarily; I just want to go out and play to the best of my ability every time I touch the ice.”

Rasmus Dahlin continues to develop as a pacesetter

We noticed Dahlin emerge as a vocal chief for the Sabres all over his fourth NHL season and his function will handiest develop as he beneficial properties extra enjoy within the league. During more than one coaching camp practices, Dahlin challenged teammates to compete tougher in bodily, small-area drills. His self belief is obvious each time he’s at the ice and when he’s dealing with media duties. It shouldn’t be a wonder if Dahlin in the end turns into the following long-term captain of this franchise. And his efficiency within the preseason indicated that he’s ready to excel in a top-pairing function when the video games start to rely in opposition to the standings. 

Eric Comrie’s preseason statistics are deceiving

The stat line is unsightly for the brand new Sabres goalie. In two exhibition video games, Comrie allowed 11 targets on 58 photographs for an .810 save share, however each appearances have been at the highway in opposition to an NHL-laden lineup whilst the Sabres have been lacking key gamers. It’s no longer an excellent method for a goalie to construct self belief coming into a season through which he’s anticipated to start out the majority of video games for Buffalo.

The tough assignments have been Comrie’s thought, even though, and maximum of the ones targets in opposition to have been the results of mistakes through his teammates. Comrie, 27, nonetheless has the accept as true with of the training group of workers and control, either one of which view him as a key piece in their plan to take every other step this season.

Tage Thompson will stay paired with Jeff Skinner

Victor Olofsson is situated to play proper wing at the peak line subsequent to Thompson and Skinner, however we will be able to like see Alex Tuch and others see time there. The first-line middle and left wing received’t exchange. Thompson and Skinner will stay a duo following a season through which they mixed for 71 targets. The Sabres scored 52 targets at 5-on-5 with them at the ice in combination at 5-on-5. Their chemistry will have to supply balance atop the lineup. The subsequent step is growing two productive middle-six traces.

Dylan Cozens seems to be larger, more potent and in a position to provide

Cozens had the exceptional coaching camp and preseason the Sabres anticipated of him. He attacked the center of the ice, received puck battles and, maximum essential, made his linemates higher. This is a continuation of what we noticed in the second one part of final season. Though Cozens totaled handiest two targets after the All-Star smash, he persistently generated scoring possibilities. At the IIHF World Championship this spring, Cozens capitalized on the ones alternatives. And he did the similar over the last 3 weeks.

At 21 years previous, he’s in a position to be a play-driving second-line middle and will have to receive advantages at the highway when combatants use their body of workers to take a look at to close down Thompson’s staff. Cozens was once the Sabres’ highest participant over the last 3 weeks, totaling two targets and a team-high 5 issues in 4 preseason video games.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s construction is trending up

Don’t panic about Luukkonen. Yes, he’s been inconsistent with the Rochester Americans and accidents have prolonged his timeline to succeed in the NHL, however Luukkonen regarded extra poised in function all over coaching camp and the preseason. He’s leaner and higher ready to deal with a starter’s workload with the Amerks. It’s additionally essential to notice Luukkonen’s been productive when in function for the Sabres, recording a .913 save share in 13 appearances.

JJ Peterka's learning curve looks like it will go up and down in NHL with Sabres

The maximum intriguing query left in regards to the Sabres’ roster is whether or not the membership will smash coaching camp with Peterka at the staff.

It’s imaginable he would have spent all the moment part of final season with the Sabres if it weren’t for a lower-body damage suffered in January. Then, he misplaced a construction alternative within the playoffs on account of an unavoidable in-crease collision with a Utica ahead. The Sabres have been smart to go for a bridge plan in function relatively than guess precious cap area on a pricey alternative. Most Cup contenders draft and expand their franchise goalie. Luukkonen nonetheless has the skill to develop into one, and his encouraging efficiency in camp will have to remind fanatics that he’ll lend a hand the Sabres faster than later.

Rasmus Asplund will middle the fourth line

Asplund, 24, is transferring again to middle after spending maximum of his time within the NHL at the wing, however he performed down the center early in his professional occupation in Sweden and Rochester. This lets in Zemgus Girgensons to stay at the wing, the place he’s been a shutdown ahead, and offers the fourth line with a play-making, two-way middle who can give a contribution offensively. Though Asplund totaled handiest 8 targets and 27 issues in 80 video games final season, he was once afflicted through dangerous puck success and confirmed on the IIHF World Championship this spring that he’s in a position to extra. Asplund’s six targets in 8 video games have been tied for second-most within the event.

“I’m feeling pretty comfortable,” Asplund mentioned of the location transfer. “I think I need to work a little bit more on the defensive side of it because it’s different from playing wing, but I’ve been playing a lot of center growing up and I started my pro career at center. (The knowledge is) somewhere back there, but I have to find a little more. I think I’m making a pretty good transition here.”

If follow traces are any indication, the Sabres seem in a position to hold 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies initially of the season. Casey Fitzgerald is these days in line to be the additional defenseman, however it is advisable to see a rotation with him and Jacob Bryson. Vinnie Hinostroza and Anders Bjork might be the additional forwards, barring damage. 

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