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Sabres Future on Blue Line is Bright

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It's no secret that the Sabres biggest weakness is (and has been) their defense. So it's probably not an accident that the Sabres have drafted as many defensive prospects as they possibly could.

The Sabres own the rights to a total of eight young defensemen that are projected play in the NHL. Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler have already graduated to the NHL and Tyler Myers may be ready as early as next season.

MIke Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani have had a taste of the NHL but spent most of the season in Portland. Weber seen significant time in the lineup at the end of the 2007-2008 season but injuries sidelined him for most of this season.

The Sabres recently signed defensive prospects Drew Scheistel and TJ Brennan to entry level contracts and they also received Dennis Persson back from Timra K of the Swedish Elite League.

If the eight players I listed above can live up to their potential the Sabres biggest weakness will be their biggest strength in the upcoming years.

Let's take a more in depth look at these eight players and their chances of being on the Sabres roster next season.


Andrej Sekera

#44 / Defenseman / Buffalo Sabres

6-0

191

Jun 08, 1986



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Andrej Sekera 69 3 16 19 -11 22 1 0 1 0 84 3.6


Sekera established himself as an everyday NHL defenseman. He began the season as one of the Sabres best defensemen until an injury sidelined him for a couple of weeks. After the injury Sekera never seemed to be the same player and by the end of the season he seemed to lose confidence in his game.

If Sekera can regain the confidence that earned him a spot on the Sabres opening day roster he will be a fixture on the Sabres blue line. Sekera reminds me of Brian Campbell when he was a young player. He doesn't have the same offensive skills that Campbell has but he is a talented player that needs to gain a comfort level in the NHL.

Chances of being on Sabres opening day roster: 100%


Chris Butler

#34 / Defenseman / Buffalo Sabres

6-1

195

Oct 27, 1986



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Chris Butler (NHL)
47 2 4 6 11 18 0 0 1 0 36 5.6



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Chris Butler (AHL)
27 2 10 12 -3 14 1 0


Chris Butler was initially called up to the Sabres on an emergency basis but he proved himself as an NHL defenseman. He was not a flashy player but he was probably the Sabres most consistent defenseman.

Butler played so well that he made it impossible for veterans Teppo Numminen and Nathan Paetsch to crack the lineup. When the Sabres season was on the line, Butler was asked to play in key situations and almost always made the smart play.

It's hard to believe that Butler is only 22 years-old because he plays like a veteran that has been in the league for 5-10 years. The sky is the limit for Butler if he continues to improve upon a solid rookie season.

Chances of being on Sabres opening day roster: 90%


Tyler Myers

#57 / Defenseman / Buffalo Sabres

6-7

204

Feb 01, 1990



G A P +/- PIM
2008 - Tyler Myers (WHL) 9 33 42 31 105

The Sabres drafted Myers in the first round last year because they felt that he was close to being ready for the NHL. This season he accomplished just about everything he could accomplish in Junior Hockey.

He became an elite player with the Kelowna Rocket of the WHL and he won a Gold Medal with Canada at the World Junior Championships in January.

Myers is expected to be a physical defenseman and is often compared to Zdeno Chara because of his large 6'7" frame. This is an area where te Sabres struggle and could use a guy like Myers to step in immediately.

The Sabres are always reluctant to give young players a shot at the NHL but Myers may be the exception. The success of Chris Butler this past season my help persuade the powers that be and the success of players like Drew Doughty (L.A. Kings), Zach Bogosian (Atlanta Thrashers) and Luke Schenn (Toronto Maple Leafs) will help as well.

Chances of being on Sabres opening day roster: 50%


Mike Weber

#4 / Defenseman / Buffalo Sabres

6-2

199

Dec 16, 1987



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Mike Weber (NHL)
7 0 0 0 -3 19 0 0 0 0 2 0.0


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Mike Weber (AHL)
42 1 7 8 +5 94 0 0


Weber surprised everyone with is solid play when he was called up to the Sabres at the end of the 2007-2008 season. In 2007-2008 he played a total of 16 games with the Sabres and led the team as a plus 12. He also brought a psychical presence to the Sabres blue line that was missing all season.

After a strong finish to the 2007-2008 season, many people feel that Weber may have taken a step backwards this season. His overall play was pretty good at the AHL level but he couldn't avoid the injury bug this season. Injuries slowed him down and eventually he forced to miss the remainder of the season because of injury.

Despite a disappointing season in 2008-2009 Weber still has a bright future with the Sabres organization. It's no secret that the Sabres brass like the way Weber plays and love is size as well. Depending on how the off-season plays out, Weber could have a chance of making the Sabres team next season.

Chances of being on Sabres opening day roster: 30%


Marc-Andre Gragnani

#17 / Defenseman / Buffalo Sabres

6-1

180

Mar 11, 1987



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Marc-Andre Gragnani (NHL)
4 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 3 0.0


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Marc-Andre Gragnani (AHL)
76 9 42 51 -1 59 3 1


Gragnani is better known for is offensive talent as he has grown as a player. The Sabres were unsure where he would fit in the future and moved him to left wing during the 2007-2008 campaign. Gragnani played well and actually earned a two-game stint with the Sabres that season.

This past season he moved back to defense and remained there all season. Once again Gragnani adjusted well to the position switch and earned another call-up to the Sabres this season.

It may take Gragnani another season or two to become the player the Sabres think he can be but he is another player that is likely to contribute in the NHL. Nobody is sure how good he can be because he was a late bloomer and has also dealt with a position switch. He is often compared to Brian Campbell because of his offensive ability

Chances of being on Sabres opening day roster: 0%


Dennis Persson

#0 / Defenseman / Buffalo Sabres

6-1

181

Jun 02, 1988



G A P +/- PIM
2008 - Dennis Persson - Timra K (Swedish Elite)
1 5 6 24



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Dennis Persson (AHL) 8 0 2 2 -7 6 0 0



Dennis Persson is a relative unknown for Sabres fans. He was drafted by the Sabres in the first round in 2006 and immediately had huge expectations. He continued to play in Sweden and was forgotten about until the Sabres signed him last off-season. There was immediate anticipation to see him lay but remained in Sweden for most of this season as well.

After the season in Sweden was complete he joined the Portland Pirates for the end of the season. His initial crack at the AHL was not without disappointment. He had two assists in only eight games but he was a minus seven as well. He played in three of the Pirates five playoff games and was a minus one with no points.

Despite a disappointing beginning to his North American hockey career, the Sabres still have high regard for his skills. It is sometimes difficult for a young player to adjust to the North American game after playing in Europe. His short stint this season will prepare him for next season in the AHL.

Chances of being on Sabres opening day roster: 0%

Drew Schiestel is one two CHL defensemen that the Sabres have already signed this off-season. As a second round draft pick the Sabres are excited for what the future might hold for this kid.

He played just across the river from the Sabres with the Niagara Ice Dogs in the OHL. Wile playing with the Ice Dogs he has really grown as a player and is solid in both ends of the ice. He is not afraid to join the rush and use his offensive talent to pressure opposing defenses.

Although he has a to of talent he is still far from reaching his dream of playing in the NHL. He needs to add more size on to his 6'2" frame before he will be able to take on NHL forwards.

Chances of being on Sabres opening day roster: 0%

Brennan was just signed by the Sabres after a successful season with the Montreal Juniors in "The Q". Brennan is quite possibly the best of the players listed here. He did not commit to hockey full time until he was already in high school. He has developed quickly into a solid player and is likely to continue to improve next season.

Brennan was hoping to get into game action with the Portland Pirates during the playoffs but after losing four straight games to be eliminated he never got that opportunity. He and Schiestel both had a chance to practice with the team and will be back at prospect camp in August.

Chances of being on Sabres opening day roster: 0%