Our annual Top 25 Under 25 series serves to find the best young players in the Buffalo Sabres organization, be it NHL, AHL, European or junior leagues. We voted on everyone from Asplund to Willman, and the best 25 players get profiled throughout the month of September. Today's subject: Justin Bailey.
Justin Bailey, RW
Age: 21 Height: 6’3’’ Weight: 210 lb
A hometown boy looking to make it to the big leagues and play for the club he idolized growing up is a story that anyone can get behind, and that story is becoming more and more a reality when it comes to Justin Bailey. A second round pick in 2013, Bailey has shown improvement year over year and opens training camp this season right on the cusp of the NHL.
It’s easy to see why the Sabres drafted the Williamsville native with the 52nd overall pick. He has ideal size at 6’3’’, 210 lb, and he uses that size to play a strong, power forward game. He’s been described as a “linebacker on skates” and that’s a pretty apt description of his frame, especially considering his father Carlton played linebacker for the Bills, among other teams. Bailey’s skating and shot are both, if not elite, very strong among his peers, and those skills helped him pot 20 goals in his first AHL campaign.
As with almost every power forward, Bailey still needs to work on bringing a consistently strong effort every game, and using his size as much as possible to his advantage. He had a very slow start in Rochester last year, but came around with a very strong finish once he made the right adjustments. He even got eight games in with the Sabres last year, putting up an impressive 22 shots on net despite not scoring.
After a strong summer of work and a development camp where he stood out as The Man, Bailey is ready to get more than eight games in the NHL this year. It’s not clear whether he’ll start the season in Buffalo or Rochester, but if he continues along the path he took at the end of last season, he’ll make Buffalo his home sooner rather than later.