Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One To Watch: Buffalo Sabres

The bad news for the Buffalo Sabres is that they have a single win in the first ten games of the year and look far from a playoff caliber team. The good news is that this may be a temporary thing as the club has the means to kick off a serious rebuild and quality youth is already on the way. 

Already this year the Sabres have dressed 6 rookies including defenceman Nikita Zadorov who has played just once. Rounding out that group are Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson, Rasmus Ristolainen and the guy who was featured in this write up a year ago. 

2012 Choice: Mark Pysyk - They don't get much more humble or likeable than defenceman Mark Pysyk who I've had the good fortune to get to know over the last 6 years in Edmonton. He made his professional debut last year and played 19 games with the Sabres last year at the end of the shortened season. Pysyk joined me in studio for an hour this past summer and told me that he didn't necessarily expect to make the team out of camp this year but a month in and he's played on the top pairing with veteran Christian Ehrhoff.

My selection as One To Watch for Buffalo this year comes after the jump.

Brayden McNabb (D)
Rochester Americans
6'4, 208 lbs
Drafted 66th overall 2009

Not that long ago McNabb was considered a sure-fire NHL defenceman of the future and his 25 games in Buffalo during 2011-12 did nothing to detract from that notion. 

Unfortunately for McNabb, injuries and competition have gotten the better of him and he hasn't spent a day in the NHL since then. It's a tough situation for McNabb because he's put up pretty solid numbers in the AHL and looks qualified for the call up but the former Kootenay Ice blueliner keeps getting passed on the depth chart. 

Last season saw a trio of defenders make NHL debuts in T.J. Brennan, Mark Pysyk and Chad Ruhwedel. As noted above, both 2013 1st round picks, Ristolainen and Zadorov, are both with the big club out of camp and Pysyk has now clearly established himself as being higher on the pecking order. 

Photo: Getty Images
Perhaps if/when Zadorov is sent back to London in the OHL, then maybe that opens a door for McNabb. But if not, how does the 22-year-old react to having to spend another year on the farm? 

Do the Sabres entertain ideas of moving him or is he seen as part of the future, sooner as opposed to later if a rebuild is in fact on the way? 

In the meantime, McNabb has a couple of points through the first 5 AHL games but it's not the start that interests me; it's what happens from here on out. And that's why McNabb is One To Watch for me when it comes to the Buffalo Sabres prospects in 2013-14.    

Next Up: San Jose Sharks

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