I wanted to take a look at which Sabres prospects will be eligible to "graduate" from either Juniors or the NCAA to the professional leagues this year. I tried to rank the players who, as far as I can tell, will be able and/or likely to join either the Sabres or Amerks when their current season with their amateur team is over. Prospects currently playing in Europe were not included as they are already playing in professional leagues. As always when discussing Sabres prospects, Kris Baker's excellent sabresprospects.com was used as the main source of information. Hockeydb.com was also used as a resource.
1. Mikhail Grigorenko, F, 19 years old, Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (drafted round 1 #12 2012)
2013-2014 stats: 11 goals, 10 assists in 14gp (1.5ppg)
Try not to let the 43 games Grigs has played as a Sabre impact the way you think about him as a prospect. If the Sabres had handled him correctly, the majority of those games (not to mention the numerous healthy scratches) would not have occurred. Fortunately, his time of being "too good for the Q but too young for the AHL" is coming to an end as he will finally be AHL-eligible next season. In fact, he could find himself on the Amerks this year if their season lasts beyond the Sabres' (which it almost certainly will) and the Remparts' (which it very well may not). While the AHL is definitely where he belongs right now, I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the Sabres opening day roster next season and stays there.
2. Jake McCabe, D, 20 years old, Wisconsin Badgers, NCAA (drafted round 2 #44 2012)
2013-2014 stats: 7 goals, 15 assists in 30gp (0.73ppg)
Even though he's only a junior, I think McCabe will join either the Amerks or the Sabres when Wisconsin's season is over. While not known as a pure scoring d-man, McCabe is tied for 1st among Big10 defensemen in points per game. He plays in all situations and I wouldn't be surprised if the Sabres gave him a look for a few games at the end of the season before sending him down to help the Amerks with a playoff push. If so, he will need to squeeze onto an already crowded and talented blueline in Rochester (sorry Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, but you might be stuck in the ECHL for a while). Of course, he could always decide to return to Wisconsin for his senior year, time will tell.
3. Eric Locke, F, 20 years old, Saginaw Spirit, OHL (drafted round 7 #189 2013)
2013-2014 stats: 19 goals, 30 assists in 39 games (1.26ppg)
Locke is an interesting case. Drafted in the 7th round in the 2013 draft, he went from 0.78ppg in 2011-2012 to 1.43ppg in 2012-2013. He has the highest scoring rate on the Spirit this year. Depending on when the Spirit's season ends, perhaps the Amerks will add him for some scoring depth down the stretch. If not he should definitely be there for the beginning of next season.
4. Brady Austin, D, 20 years old, London Knights, OHL (drafted round 7 #193 2012)
2013-2014 stats: 8 goals, 17 assists in 52 games (0.48ppg), +40(!)
I know +/- is a deeply flawed stat, but even taking it with a giant grain of salt, +40 is damn impressive. I don't know what the Sabres plan to do with Nikita Zadorov's D partner, but I hope they keep him around to see what he can do in the pros.
5. Logan Nelson, F, 20 years old, Victoria Royals, WHL (drafted round 5 #133 2012)
2013-2014 stats: 22 goals, 27 assists in 51 games (0.96ppg)
I don't know if Nelson will ever make the NHL, but he could be a good AHL-er.
6. Justin Kea, F, 20 years old, Saginaw Spirit, OHL (drafted round 3 #73 2012)
2013-2014 stats: 17 goals, 20 assists in 49 games (0.76ppg)
I think Locke is the most likely candidate to join the Amerks at the end of this season (if anyone does), but if they were to decide they want a 4th-line grinder type rather than depth scoring, I could see his Spirit teammate Kea getting the call instead.
7. Mark Adams, D, 22 years old, Providence College, Hockey East (drafted round 5 #134 2009)
Adams has had an injury-plagued couple seasons now. According to his hockeydb page, Adams has only played in 6 games this season after only getting into 7 last year. Regardless, I don't think he has much of a future in the pros unless he works his way up from the ECHL.
I believe that's it. If I missed anyone, if you disagree with the rankings, if I've misunderstood eligibility rules, etc., please let me know.