The season is over, and we’re going to rate every player who played more than 20 games this season on their performance the same way we were all graded back in the day - on a report card scale of A to F. We’re taking a look at everyone from Bailey to Rodrigues in our 2016-17 Buffalo Sabres Report Cards.
Contract: $670,000, under contract through 2017-18
Introduction: Justin Bailey is a prospect that Sabres fans have long been hoping becomes a contributor to the NHL club. Not only is he a local kid (a Williamsville native) but Bailey brings an exciting blend of size, speed, and skill that has too often been absent from the Sabres roster.
This season, Bailey got his first extended crack in the NHL after going point-less in eight appearances last season. And while he may not have lit the world on fire in his 32 games, he did show flashes of that offensive ability that has had Sabres fans so excited to see him.
Key Stat: 23 vs. 2. That’s the number of goals Bailey scored in the AHL this season in 52 games versus the number of goals he scored in his 32 NHL games. After scoring 20 goals last season in Rochester, Bailey now has 43 goals in 122 AHL games, good for a goal every 2.8 games. In the NHL, he has two goals in a total of 40 games, or one goal every 20 contests.
Bailey has shown he has legit scoring ability in the AHL, but so far that ability hasn’t translated to the NHL, though admittedly he was only getting about ten minutes of ice time a game. At 21 years old and with now half a season of NHL games under his belt, Bailey will need to show he can take his offensive skills to the NHL next year, or he might end up as the next Mark Mancari.
Thumbs Up: Despite his lack of production, Bailey has all the physical tools to succeed in the NHL. He added a good jolt of speed to the Sabres lineup, and at 6’3’’, 214 pounds, he has ideal size to be a power winger in the big leagues. Bailey had the highest +/- of any Sabres forward this season who played more than 20 games, finishing at an even 0. Bailey’s speed and aggressiveness saw him draw the second-most penalties per 60 minutes on the team, and he was also good at staying out of the box, taking just two minors this season.
Thumbs Down: Despite the potential, Bailey simply needs to score more at the NHL level to justify having him here. Shooting more would certainly help, as he averaged barely over one shot per game, but giving him some special teams time on either side would probably help as well - he only played eight seconds of power play time all season. He was used mostly as a bottom-six guy, and his terrible Corsi numbers and zone starts reflect that. Having the second-lowest Corsi on the team (ahead of only Nic Deslauriers) is, shall we say, not good.
Memorable Moment: Bailey scored his first career NHL goal this season, and it was pretty impressive. Pouncing on a turnover, falling to the ice, and putting the puck past Henrik Lundqvist? Not a bad way to start your NHL scoring career.
Voting: Using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with a grade of A representing a great season, a grade of C being the performance you expected, and F a very poor season, rate Justin Bailey on his performance this year.
Grade Justin Bailey on his 2016-17 season.
This poll is closed