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Top 25 Under 25: #5 Jake McCabe

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One of the most pleasant surprises of last season, Jake McCabe sneaks in to our top 5.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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: Jake McCabe.

Jake McCabe, LHD

Age: 22 Height: 6’0’’ Weight: 214 lb

Jake McCabe is a perfect example of how good drafting and development can reap rewards down the road if done properly. Taken in the second round in 2012, McCabe has steadily shown he can handle better and better competition while maintaining his production.

First it was at the University of Wisconsin, where he was awarded First Team All-Big 10 in his final season. Then it was on to captain Team USA at the World Juniors, where McCabe scored six points in seven games. The next season, McCabe finished seventh on the Rochester Americans in scoring despite playing in just 57 games, and last season he earned his spot in the NHL, performing admirably in a second-line role most of the year in what was his first full season in the big leagues.

From a second round pick in 2012 to a full-time NHL player who still has room to improve in 2016, McCabe is one of the bright spots along the Sabres blueline, and his continued development this season will be key to leaping past the Eastern Conference’s playoff contenders.

The 22-year old plays a defenively sound, physical game, and lays down some the biggest hits on the team, but he’s not just a pylon on the ice. His skating and passing are both smooth, and his offensive production in college and the AHL suggest that there’s more growth to be had in that area.

McCabe needs to improve his consistency and keep getting stronger to handle the true big boys of the NHL, but if his journey to the Sabres roster is any indication, he’ll prove he can handle anything thrown his way, and more.

Top 25 Under 25 so far -

#6 Johan Larsson

#7 Zemgus Girgensons

#8 Justin Bailey

#9 Hudson Fasching

#10 Brendan Guhle

#11 Linus Ullmark

#12 Will Borgen

#13 Casey Nelson

#14 Evan Rodrigues

#15 Rasmus Asplund

#16-20 William Carrier, Cal Petersen, Nick Baptiste, Eric Cornel, Giorgio Estephan

#21-25 Dan Catenacci, Casey Fitzgerald, Anthony Florentino, Cliff Pu, Jason Kasdorf