Each year, ESPN’s Corey Pronman releases both organizational and individual prospect rankings, and despite using some of their prospect capital up in recent years, the Buffalo Sabres still appear to be in a good spot.
In his organizational rankings (ESPN Insider required) Pronman ranks the Sabres 11th overall. It’s important to note that any player who’s played more than 25 NHL games in a season or 50 total NHL games is not considered for this list, so a player like Justin Bailey, who played in 32 games for the Sabres last season, is not considered.
Here’s what Pronman had to say about Buffalo’s prospect pipeline:
The Sabres have picked in the top 10 for two straight drafts, bringing in a pair of quality prospects in Alexander Nylander and Casey Mittelstadt. Later picks like Cliff Pu, Rasmus Asplund and Brendan Guhle also had strong 2016-17 seasons. The system is a little thin after the top names, with their AHL affiliate lacking in potential contributors.
I think this is a pretty accurate description of what the Sabres have to work with. Highly talented prospects like Nylander and Mittelstadt buoy many of the players who are either years away from the NHL or are still question marks. As much as I’m excited about prospects like Pu, Luukonen, or Asplund, they’re all likely at least two years away from NHL action, and after them, there isn’t a whole lot of promise in the system, barring some significant developments from certain prospects.
Of course, adding Will Butcher would certainly make things more interesting...
On the individual player side of Pronman’s analysis, the Sabres have four players in the top 100 overall prospects, including two in the top 10 - Alexander Nylander at #7 and Casey Mittelstadt at #10. Here’s Pronman’s analysis of Nylander’s talent and production last season:
Nylander had an up-and-down season. He was great at the World Juniors versus his peers yet again. In the pro levels, he struggled to earn the trust of his coaching staff and was sheltered from tough situations, although he was still a top power-play option. His skill is fantastic, as he makes high-level plays seem routine and is quite creative. I wish he was a little quicker, and his off-the-puck game needs a lot of work, but his offensive upside is NHL top-six level.
Again, accurate. If Nylander can improve his strength and explosiveness, he should have a much easier time handling the competition in Rochester, and potentially Buffalo.
The other two prospects in the top 100 are Cliff Pu at #98, and Rasmus Asplund at #100. Brendan Guhle was also listed as as honorable mention.
The Sabres also have a goalie ranked in the top 20 goaltending prospects, with the recently-drafted and always-hyphenated Ukko-Pekka Luukonen ranked at #18.
Overall, I think this is a pretty accurate analysis from Pronman. While the biased Sabres fan in me would argue that Guhle belongs in the top 100, I think the individual ranks are a perfect example of how the Sabres have some elite talent in the pipeline, followed by a lot of either question marks or players who need a few more years of seasoning before they’re ready to face NHL competition.
Let us know what you think of Pronman’s rankings in the comments.