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Sabres End of Season Awards

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A few members of the DBTB staff got together to select end of season awards for players on the roster

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-20 NHL season is not officially over, but it may be a long shot that it picks up again. Therefore, nine members of the Die By The Blade staff got together to select the end of season awards for the Buffalo Sabres.

Each writer selected the player they felt should win each category and the player with the most votes was ultimately selected as the winner.

MVP - Jack Eichel

We’ll start with the awards that were unanimous choices or very nearly that. Up first is the most valuable player and to no surprise, all nine writers picked Jack Eichel. The Sabres captain had the best year of his career and if the team performed better he may have found him in the discussion for NHL MVP.

He arrived as one of the elite players in the league this season and finally started to get the respect around the league for how special of a player he is. Leave it to the Sabres to waste the best season of his career. Hopefully, they get some talent around him like they’ve failed to do for five years.

Rookie of the Year - Victor Olofsson

The next unanimous choice was Swedish sniper Victor Olofsson for rookie of the year. He technically won it by default since there was no rookie on the roster to challenge him. However, even if there was he still likely would have been the selection.

Olofsson was one of the top rookie performers in the NHL this season. If it wasn’t for an injury in the middle of the season that cost him six weeks, it’s possible he could have scored 30 in his first NHL season.

There’s a possibility he could be a finalist for the Calder Trophy when the season does officially come to an end. It’s unlikely he’ll win the award as that seems to be a two-horse race between defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes at this point.

Best Defensive Forward - Johan Larsson

This award was almost another clean sweep for Johan Larsson, but Kyle Okposo did receive one vote. Larsson was one of the best defensive forwards in the league last season. He was top 10 among forwards to play at least 300 minutes in Evolving Hockey’s GAR model in even-strength defense and RAPM shot quality against per 60 minutes.

He was an undervalued part of the team all season. Larsson often faced difficult matchups on a nightly basis and his line usually came out on top. The Swedish forward even got an opportunity to play up in the lineup with Jeff Skinner and was successful in that role for the brief period he was allowed to play in that spot.

Larsson is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. We’ll see if the Sabres do the smart thing and bring him back next season.

Best Defenseman - Rasmus Dahlin

The freshly turned 20-year-old defender, Rasmus Dahlin was the overwhelming majority selection for Sabres defenseman of the year. Two other players did receive a vote.

No defenseman on the roster really had a complete season. You could argue that Henri Jokiharju and Marco Scandella were the top two defensemen in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, it was probably Colin Miller and Dahlin. Rasmus Ristolainen had a strong start as well but fell off hard starting in January.

While Dahlin went through his struggles early in the season he continued to put up points for his club and when he rounded his game back into form after his concussion, he was the obvious choice for this award.

Comeback Player of the Year - Kyle Okposo

It really was an impressive bounce-back season for Kyle Okposo. Along with Okposo, Curtis Lazar was the other player to receive votes for this award.

Of course, Okposo didn’t play up to the $6 million contract, but he was excellent in the role he was asked to play. He was strong on the forecheck and played great defensively as well. It’s likely the Sabres are stuck with his contract for at least another year or two, if not longer. It’s good that they found a role for him that plays to his strengths and allowed him to be a contributor to the team.

Unsung Hero - Sam Reinhart

This was one of the closer races, but Sam Reinhart received the most votes in this category, just beating out Larsson.

He’s one of the more under-appreciated players on the team. Reinhart had another strong season and was arguably the second-best player on the team this year behind Eichel. The 24-year-old winger is often discredited because of the myth that his success comes from playing with Eichel. He’s not a flashy player but is one of the smarter players on the Sabres.

Reinhart’s contract situation will be one of the highly discussed topics in the offseason.

Amerks MVP - JS Dea

Why not give some recognition to a player from the Sabres AHL affiliate, Rochester Amerks? Four players received votes for this award, but it was Jean-Sebastien Dea that was selected as the most valuable player on the Amerks.

He led the Amerks in points with 39 in 57 games and was tied for the team lead in goals with 15. The 26-year-old forward even got in three games with the Sabres this season but registered no points with limited playing time during those three contests.

Prospect Pool MVP (non-AHL) - Dylan Cozens

The Buffalo Sabres 2019 eighth overall pick dominated junior hockey and is the unquestioned top prospect in the system. Which is why Dylan Cozens was selected as the prospect pool MVP of this season. Two other players did receive votes as well.

Cozens was arguably the best player in the WHL if not all of junior hockey. He played well in the World Juniors on the way to winning a Gold Medal for Team Canada. It’s likely we’ll see him make his jump to pro hockey next season.

Most Disappointing Acquisition - Jimmy Vesey

Four players in all received votes for this category, but it was Jimmy Vesey that received the most.

While it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, Vesey underwhelmed during his one season with the Sabres. He was brought in to provide secondary scoring and fell well short of doing that. He ended the season with nine goals and 20 points in 64 games. Vesey even found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch a few times this season.

He’s an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and it would seem unlikely that he returns for another season with the Sabres.

So, that’s it. Below you can find how each of the nine writers voted in each category. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

DBTB Award Voting

Writer MVP Rookie of the Year Defenseman of the Year Best Defensive Forward Comeback Player of the Year Usung Hero Biggest Acquisition Disappointment Amerks MVP Prospect Pool MVP (non-AHL)
Writer MVP Rookie of the Year Defenseman of the Year Best Defensive Forward Comeback Player of the Year Usung Hero Biggest Acquisition Disappointment Amerks MVP Prospect Pool MVP (non-AHL)
Steve Eichel Olofsson Jokiharju Larsson Lazar Larsson Vesey Dea Cozens
Jason Eichel Olofsson Dahlin Larsson Lazar Reinhart Johansson Pilut Cozens
Alex Eichel Olofsson Dahlin Larsson Lazar Larsson Vesey Malone Cozens
Melissa Eichel Olofsson Dahlin Larsson Okposo Reinhart Vesey Dea Pekar
Calvin Eichel Olofsson Dahlin Okposo Okposo Ullmark Miller Dea Cozens
Anthony Eichel Olofsson Dahlin Larsson Okposo Larsson Frolik Bryson Cozens
Chad Eichel Olofsson Dahlin Larsson Okposo Reinhart Vesey Dea Cozens
Kerra Eichel Olofsson Ristolainen Larsson Okposo Reinhart Vesey Pilut Samuelsson
Erik Eichel Olofsson Dahlin Larsson Okposo Okposo Frolik Pilut Cozens