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Preseason Depth Chart

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With the season opening later this week, it is perfect time to look our depth chart.

NHL: Preseason-Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The last time we brought a depth chart to you, this offense looked a little different.

Left Wing

Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary lead the pack here, as they should. Both Skinner and Sheary add to the Sabres inability to score 5-on-5, which will be a nice little addition.

Vladimir Sobotka has shown his versatility within the lineup this preseason but it appears that they have settled on a position for now. He will end up being a nice addition to the bottom six.

The curious case of Zemgus Girgensons continues into this season. We know Girgensons has some talent but his .29 points per game is something that will need to turn around this season for him to continue to hang around in Buffalo.

Scott Wilson currently appears to have suffered a serious knee injury during practice on September 30, but this is most certainly where he would slot in if he were healthy.

Despite having a somewhat quiet preseason, CJ Smith ranks higher than Victor Olofsson in the depth chart here. Smith appears to be very close to being ready but did not do much to stick out of the crowd during training camp. Olofsson’s shot indeed is for real, which might help speed up his NHL debut but his inexperience ultimately had him falling short of making the list above.

Center

Jack Eichel is the first ranked center – no need to explain here.

Patrik Berglund has looked very solid and reliable throughout camp, which explains his placement here on the depth chart. Buffalo was very much hoping Casey Mittlestadt would be ready for the second line coming out of camp but he has understandably had some growing pains.

Berglund’s experience can be relied on here for the time being until Mittlestadt gets his feet under him in the first few games this upcoming season.

Evan Rodrigues came into camp and proved again to be a nice little spark plug that can be relied on at multiple positions. It appears that Housley wants him to center a bottom six position, which is perfectly find.

Johan Larsson was hurt late in training camp, which makes his role hard to determine. Is there a chance he could fill a bottom six role upon his return? Anything is possible.

Rochester will be wealthy with a boatload of young talent. The center position is a perfect example of that. Rasmus Asplund and Andrew Oglevie (not listed) will likely start off in the Americans top six, with their sights set on making it to the big club as soon as possible. Either way, buckle up Rochester, you’re in for a treat.

Right Wing

Things start on the right side with last year’s most improved player, Sam Reinhart.

How can a player be named the “most improved” if he only had a bad first half that he turned into a great second half? Good question – we make the rules up here and we can do whatever we want.

With that being said, we move to Kyle Okposo. Many have moved forward with writing Okposo off. Judging by the Sabres lines, Phil Housley might have reservations about what Okposo will do starting out of the gates. Days away from opening night, Okposo finds himself on the fourth line. Not an ideal start but we are still firm in Okposo being the second best right-winger on this team.

Tage Thompson is the fast-rising prospect on the right side of things. Thompson is expected to begin the season on the second line. Every opportunity Thompson gets early on, he has most certainly earned.

Alexander Nylander is next. Nylander finds himself on the right side because Phil Housley put him there recently. The apparent ability to play both sides should help Nylander’s case to either stick around or at worst, be the first call-up from Rochester when the time comes.

Jason Pominville has fallen a little on this list for multiple reasons, better talent certainly is one of them. This season, Pominville will likely play his 1000th game in the National Hockey League - an incredible accomplishment for the 35 year old forward. This season marks Pominville’s last on his current contract and likely his last with the Buffalo Sabres.

The final name on the list belongs to Justin Bailey.

Years ago, no one would have imagined this player would become organizational depth but things continue to trend in that direction. Bailey was recently waived for the first time in his professional career. While this move does not end his time with the organization, we witnessed what happened with Nicholas Baptiste.

Left Defense

Marco Scandella is the apple of the left defense’s eye. Scandella most certainly did the thing in his first year as a Buffalo Sabres defenseman. Another year paired with Rasmus Ristolainen should help to improve a defense that will need as much help as it can get.

Jake McCabe will be getting a bigger role upon his healthy return to the lineup. After coming off a disappointing season that was filled with injury and inefficiency, McCabe will look to get back to better days under Phil Housley’s tutelage.

Nathan Beaulieu is another one who is looking for a redo this coming season. Beaulieu’s presence on the Sabres roster might come as a surprise to some but the management and coaching staff appears to be high enough on Beaulieu’s game that he finds himself with an opening night role.

Beaulieu’s role most certainly is on thin ice, with Brendan Guhle right under him but Guhle will need to start applying more pressure to crack Buffalo’s top six.

Many presumed Guhle would easily break camp in the Sabres top six but not so fast. He finds himself currently the odd man out but one injury or one player’s ineffectiveness could spark Guhle’s return to the lineup and subsequent shot up the depth chart.

Lawrence Pilut is the wild card here. The game we saw out of Pilut in preseason was almost good enough to force the Sabres hand. He should begin the season anchoring the Rochester Americans defense but it should be noted that Rochester better not fall in love with him – it is hard to believe he’ll stick around the AHL for too long.

Speaking of the AHL, Brandon Hickey wraps up the left defense portion of the depth chart. Hickey is a young, yet talented prospect that many will want to keep their eyes on. If Hickey can hit the ground running in Rochester, nothing is to say he can’t make an impact in Buffalo sooner-than-later.

Matt Hunwick would find a spot in this depth chart but with being a new acquisition and still being out indefinitely with a neck injury, it is hard to predict where Hunwick would line up.

Right Defense

Rasmus Ristolainen is the number one right defenseman – for now. Ristolainen will still log a ton of minutes for the Buffalo Sabres this season and there really is nothing wrong with that.

Rasmus Dahlin rolls into the chart in position number two. Wondering why the right side? Phil Housley has kicked Dahlin over to the right side for the time being, which is where we will rank him at this point. The number one overall pick will be a top defenseman – either on the left or right side – before we know it.

Casey Nelson finished last season off very strong and continued it this preseason. Nelson’s continued success will allow him to fill a role in the top six as the season begins. Despite needing waivers to go to Rochester, Nelson’s role might not be locked in solid at this point. A quick start will push toward helping Nelson stick around.

The next two names on the right side have become usual names among Sabres and Americans fans over the last few seasons. Both Matt Tennyson and Taylor Fedun will provide important organizational depth and might even end up logging some minutes in Buffalo.

Bringing up the tail end of the pack here is newly-acquired Jack Dougherty. We won’t act like we know everything about the guy but what we do know is that Jason Botterill turned a fledgling prospect into his rights. Organizational belief in a player is one hell of a thing.

Goaltending

Looking at the goaltending depth, this appears to be the most secure position for the Buffalo Sabres.

Carter Hutton will play more games than Linus Ullmark but the overall goal is to continue Ullmark’s development into a number one goaltender.

A hot start for Hutton might keep Ullmark under wraps more often than not but we will get a good look at both goaltenders this season.

Rochester will be led by Scott Wedgewood and backed up by Adam Wilcox.