By Conor Thompson
Heading into March our Buffalo Sabres currently sit in 7th in the Atlantic division with a record of 16-30-8. Going into the season many expected the Sabres and Coyotes to be battling for the achievement of last in the NHL. While being at the bottom is a placement too many Buffaloians have become custom to this past decade, we’ve seen a different Buffalo Sabres team under head coach Don Granato than previous Sabres teams. Under Granato the Sabres have developed an attacking offensive mindset.
The forwards are benefitting most under this system. Tage Thompson was moved from wing to center and is having a breakout season with 21 goals. Jeff Skinner, who many thought had one of the worst contracts in the league with an average of $9 million has 20 goals on the season. Skinner has found his scoring touch under Granato’s system. But the two most important parts of the offense this season is the acquisition of Alex Tuch and the deep pool of prospects. Since receiving Tuch from the Vegas Golden Knights via the Jack Eichel trade, Tuch is averaging a point per game and the Syracuse native is expected to be named team captain next season.
On the blue line the biggest story for the Sabres is 21-year-old Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin was named an all-star for the first time this season and is playing with composure, which is why Dahlin typically leads the Sabres in ice time on a nightly basis. Other than Dahlin there are many questions for the Sabres on the blueline. Veterans Colin Miller, Robert Haag and Mark Pysch are set to be free agents after the season and are expected to be dealt at the trade deadline. Sabres fans should expect to see last year’s first round pick Owen Power on the blueline this season once the NCAA tournament concludes.
Between the pipes Sabres fans finally witnessed Ukko Pekka Luukkonen in action while veterans Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell were expected to be the netminders this season. However, Anderson has been solid when healthy and Dell’s game has suffered and has spent most of the season in Rochester. Which led to the Sabres dressing Dustin Tokarski, Malcom Subban and Michael Houser all this season. Ukko Pekka Luukkonen has looked good so far with a .917 save percentage. Ukko Pekka Luukkonen is only 22 years old but many in the Sabres organization are hopeful is ready to be an NHL starting netminder next year.
For once in what feels like an eternity, there is some hope for the Sabres. With a pool of prospects which ranked first in The Athletics prospect pool and current Sabres getting their touch back, GM Kevyn Adams is setting the Sabres to finally go up.