As we close out the calendar year of 2017, with the Sabres’ next game in the Winter Classic on January 1, 2018, it’s time to look back on the year that’s passed and some of the more memorable moments of the year when it comes to the Buffalo Sabres.
January 28: Sabres alumni named to Top 100
As the NHL began celebrating its first 100 years, three former Buffalo Sabres were honored by the league. Gilbert Perreault, Pat LaFontaine and Dominik Hasek were named to the NHL100, the league’s top 100 players of all time.
It’s always nice to see former Sabres honored for positive things, and those three absolutely deserve it.
February 7: Sabres pull off incredible comeback
Down 4-1 against the Sharks with almost 11 minutes left in regulation, the Sabres did the seemingly impossible this day.
Ryan O’Reilly’s power play goal at 9:03 kicked it off. Just 2:33 later, Evander Kane closed the gap to one goal. Kyle Okposo tied the game 55 seconds later. All of a sudden, the impossible seemed possible.
It was all capped off with Kane’s goal just 1:05 into the overtime to pull off this incredible feat.
April 3: Nylander makes NHL debut
Another highlight of 2017 was Sabres prospect Alex Nylander making his NHL debut on April 3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs - and facing his brother in the process.
Nylander didn’t get on the scoresheet that night, but played 14:28 and had 16 shifts. He’d play three more NHL games in the next six days. That debut would include his first NHL point, an assist on April 9 against Tampa Bay.
Although there was nothing overly spectacular about Nylander’s debut, it represented something important to Sabres fans: the future.
April 20: Front-office shakeups
In one fell swoop, the Sabres cleaned house, firing both head coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Tim Murray. Was it a surprise? Only a little.
Over time, this would mean bringing in Phil Housley as the team’s new coach, and Jason Botterill filling the GM position.
Although some fans may still debate whether or not these moves were the right ones, there’s no doubt these were some memorable moments.
June 23: Mittelstadt drafted
Many Sabres fans may have been disappointed when the team dropped to eighth in the draft lottery, but Buffalo would end up getting what could be a gem in Casey Mittelstadt.
The 19-year-old is in the midst of his freshman year at the University of Minnesota. In 19 games, he’s recorded 17 points (5-12) and is also tearing it up at the IIHF World Junior Championships here in Buffalo, with six points (3-3) in three games heading into December 31.
June 30: Pominville returns to Buffalo via trade
The Sabres aren’t typically known for making blockbuster trades, so it was a bit of surprise when this one came through the wire on June 30.
Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis were shipped out to Minnesota along with a third-round pick. Coming back - quite literally - was old friend Jason Pominville. Defenseman Marco Scandella joined him, and a fourth-rounder was also part of the deal.
This was Botterill’s first big move as Sabres GM, and it was certainly one of the more memorable off-ice moments of 2017 for Buffalo fans.
July 20: Kyle Okposo returns to ice
Kyle Okposo’s health scare was, well, scary. There was a lot of uncertainty and reports surrounding the Sabres winger over a period of several months, but it was truly a great moment when Okposo returned to the ice for the first time over the summer.
In September, he’d join the Sabres on the ice for the first time in months, He’s appeared in 36 of Buffalo’s 38 games this season so far, notching 17 points (6-11) in that stretch.
October 3: Eichel signs extension
The other blockbuster move of the summer for Botterill: signing Jack Eichel to an eight-year, $80 million contract extension. With this, the Sabres locked up a huge part of their future through 2026.
November 24: Sabres snap seven-game losing streak
What is there to say? The Sabres were in a bad place, having lost seven in a row, heading into this game against Edmonton. Finally, they got exactly what they needed: a 3-1 win over the Oilers to break the streak.
It was by no means an overly entertaining win, but it was a win nonetheless.
December 15: Eichel’s first hat trick
Although the Sabres have struggled late in the year, the highlight of the last few weeks of 2017 had to be Eichel’s first career hat trick against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Buffalo ultimately lost the game in overtime, but Eichel’s hat trick was certainly one to remember - and something we can hopefully look forward to seeing more of in the future.