According to many in the hockey community the Sabres have one of the best youth cores in the NHL. Now we get the luxury of ranking those top players. The high level of talent the Sabres have collected makes for a lot of optimism for the future, but it makes the list more competitive and tougher to put together than ever. Welcome to the 2014 Sabres Top 25 Under 25!
For those new to the 25 under 25 concept, it's rather simple. We'll be ranking the top 25 Sabres players under 25 years of age starting at 25 and making our way all the way down to number one. This is not just a prospect ranking, players who are currently on the team are eligible. The list was created by compiling and averaging the rankings from Andy, Calvin, Terry, Stephanie, and myself.
We'll be releasing a new post everyday starting tomorrow with an overview of each ranked player's last season and their place in the Sabres organization. There were multiple factors used to formulate the rankings, but potential, current position in the organziation, and their current skill set were all taken into consideration. Because there are still a lot of question marks surrounding young prospects one player may look like he'll be a very solid player in the future, but that may not necessarily mean he's at the point where he'd be higher than an average player on the current roster.
The Sabres are a very young team. 53 players qualified for the Top 25 list this season. Here they are listed in alphabetical order.
|Luke Adam||C||24||Rochester (AHL)/Buffalo|
|Mark Adams||D||23||Providence (NCAA)|
|Joel Armia||RW||21||Rochester (AHL)|
|Brady Austin||D||21||London (OHL)|
|Justin Bailey||RW||19||Kitchener (OHL)|
|Nicholas Baptiste||RW||19||Sudbury (OHL)|
|Chris Brown||C||18||Cranbrook High|
|William Carrier||LW||19||Cape Breton/Drummondville (QMJHL)|
|Dan Catenacci||C||21||Rochester (AHL)|
|JT Compher||LW||19||Michigan (NCAA)|
|Eric Cornel||C/RW||19||Peterborough (OHL)|
|Nick Crawford||D||24||Rochester (AHL)|
|Nicolas Deslauriers||LW||23||Buffalo/Rochester (AHL)|
|Hudson Fasching||RW||18||Minnesota (NCAA)|
|Anthony Florentino||D||19||Providence (NCAA)|
|Jerome Gauthier-Leduc||D||21||Rochester (AHL)|
|Mikhail Grigorenko||C||20||Quebec (QMJHL)/Rochester (AHL)|
|Matt Hackett||G||24||Rochester (AHL)/Buffalo|
|Connor Hurley||C||18||Green Bay (USHL)|
|Christian Isackson||RW||22||Minnesota (NCAA)|
|Colin Jacobs||C||21||Rochester (AHL)|
|Jonas Johansson||G||18||Brynas (SHL)|
|Vaclav Karabacek||LW||18||Gatineau (QMJHL)|
|Justin Kea||C||20||Rochester (AHL)|
|Johan Larsson||LW||21||Rochester (AHL)/Buffalo|
|Nathan Lieuwen||G||22||Rochester (AHL)/Buffalo|
|Brendan Lemieux||LW||18||Barrie (OHL)|
|Eric Locke||C||20||Saginaw (OHL)|
|Andrey Makarov||G||21||Rochester (AHL)|
|Sean Malone||C||19||Harvard (NCAA)|
|Brycen Martin||D||18||Swift Current (WHL)|
|Jake McCabe||D||20||Wisconsin (NCAA)/Buffalo|
|Brad Navin||C||22||Wisconsin (NCAA)|
|Victor Olofsson||RW||18||MODO (SHL)|
|Calvin Petersen||G||19||Watertoo (USHL)|
|Gustav Possler||LW/RW||19||MODO (SHL)|
|Mark Pysyk||D||22||Rochester (AHL)/Buffalo|
|Sam Reinhart||C||18||Kootenay (WHL)|
|Rasmus Ristolainen||D||19||Rochester (AHL)/Buffalo|
|Chad Ruhwedel||D||24||Rochester (AHL)/Buffalo|
|Jordan Samuels-Thomas||LW||24||Quinnipiac (NCAA)|
|Tim Schaller||LW||23||Rochester (AHL)|
|Kevin Sundher||C||22||Rochester (AHL)|
|Shawn Szydlowski||RW||23||Fort Wayne (ECHL)|
|Linus Ullmark||G||20||MODO (SHL)|
|Phil Varone||C||23||Rochester (AHL)/Buffalo|
|Maxwell Willman||LW||18||Williston Northamton School|
|Nikita Zadorov||D||19||London (OHL)/Buffalo|
Of course with the Sabres prospect pool's depth there were some players left off that at another point in the team's history would likely have made the list. Before we start at number 25 tomorrow, here are some of the players that just missed the cut.
Luke Adam- Slotted at 23 in last year's rankings, Adam slid down just a bit further in his last year of Top 25 Under 25 eligibility after another season without NHL production. He had his best AHL season yet, scoring 49 points, but only tallied one goal in 12 NHL contests. At 24-years-old he may be tip-toeing the line between prospect and career AHLer. It's a big season for Adam, who signed a one-year deal this off-season.
Phil Varone- Rochester's leading scorer last season, Varone got his first taste of the NHL in his third year with the organization. In his nine games in Buffalo he scored one goal and one assist. He had a career year in the AHL, scoring 18 goals and 43 assists in 69 games. At 23 years of age Varone might have hit his ceiling, but he has at least proved that he is a top scorer in Rochester.
Andrey Makarov- This season was Makarov's first professionally after a very successful final year with the Saskatoon Blades. He split time between Rochester and the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL but received his opportunity to shine after the Sabres late season goaltending injuries. He helped will the Americans into playoff position when they looked all but done with an incredibly impressive win steak. He should get more of an opportunity in the AHL this season, especially since Hackett will likely be out with a leg injury for the first few months of the year. He dropped out of the Top 25 after finishing in 22nd in last year's rankings.
Justin Bailey- One of the Sabres three second-round picks in last year's draft, Bailey saw his point total increase this season with the Kitchener Rangers. In 54 games he scored 24 goals and 19 assists, surpassing his last season's point total by seven. The big winger and Buffalo native is noted for having one of the hardest shots in his draft class according to Future Considerations. He was 18th in last year's Top 25 Under 25 list.
Connor Hurley- Hurley, another second-round pick from 2013, is rather young for his draft year. He won't turn 19 until this September. This season in his third and final year in the USHL he scored 10 goals and 26 assists in 35 games for the Green Bay Gamblers. He was invited to the US World Junior development camp, but did not make the final cut. He'll be headed to Notre Dame to start his NCAA journey this year. He was the very last spot, 25th, in the 2013 rankings.
Vaclav Karabacek- With the amount of draft picks that Tim Murray has at his disposal, he's able to take a risk or two. Karabacek may not be the dynamic player that you build a team around, but his pure goal scoring talent could carve him a spot on an NHL roster. He spent last season in the goal friendly QMJHL with Gatineau, scoring 21 goals and 26 assists in 65 games. Contradictory to the cliches about European goalscorers, Karabacek is known for his gritty play and ability to use physical play to create goal-scoring opportunities.
William Carrier- Acquired from the Blues as part of the Ryan Miller/Steve Ott trade, Carrier will be making the jump from juniors to the AHL this year. Although he wasn't one of St. Louis' top tier prospects, he has potential and looked solid in the Sabres' development camp. Last season he scored 22 goals and 44 assists between Cape Breton and Drummondville of the QMJHL.
Jonas Johansson- Despite being a third-round pick, Johansson has gotten plenty of praise since being taken by the Sabres at this year's draft. Johansson has already appeared on many of the Sabres top prospects lists, including the top ten list released by NHL.com this week. He played in 34 games with the Brynas U-20 team last year, posting a 2.32 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
Dropping out of last year's rankings, in addition to those already mentioned, were Justin Kea (20), Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (21) and Kevin Sundher (22).
So who will be number 25 in our rankings? Check back tomorrow for the first installment.