Top 20 Buffalo Sabres prospects still full of NHL potential

By Ryan Womeldorf

Photo: Linus Ullmark has a 2.58 goals-against, .915 save percentage through 19 games with the Buffalo Sabres. (Courtesy of Chris LaFrance/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Linus Ullmark has a 2.58 goals-against and .915 save percentage through 19 games with the Buffalo Sabres. (Courtesy of Chris LaFrance/Icon Sportswire)

 

10. (13) Linus Ullmark, G, 7.5 D
Drafted 6th round, 163rd overall, 2012

The 2015-16 season is the first Ullmark has spent in North America and it has been far crazier than he could have expected. The hope was that Ullmark would spend the entire year in Rochester, but a long-term injury to Sabres’ goalie Robin Lehner changed that. Ullmark filled in as backup to Chad Johnson, seeing action in 19 games. He performed admirably, posting a 7-10-2 record with a .915 save percentage and a 2.58 goals against average. Lehner has since returned and Ullmark finds himself competing for time back in the AHL. It was good to see that the youngster wasn’t out of place when thrust into a larger role and it certainly bodes well for his future.

9. (8) William Carrier, LW, 7.0 C
Trade with St. Louis Blues, 2015

Carrier has been something of a disappointment since coming over in the trade that sent Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues. He still possesses power forward size and the willingness to get into the muck, but his offensive game has not progressed as everyone had hoped. In 37 games with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, Carrier has just four goals and 13 points while being passed up by several prospects and new additions to the team. Given his size and physicality, Carrier still stands a very good chance of landing in the NHL one day, but the hopes that he could prosper into a top-six forward seem to be dwindling.

8. (10) Chad Ruhwedel, D, 7.0 C
Signed as a free agent, 2013

The expectation was that Ruhwedel would be ready to compete for a regular spot in the lineup in 2015-16 and though that hasn’t come to fruition, he still remains a promising defender. With the additions of Zach Bogosian, Cody Franson and Carlo Colaiacovo to the back end during the last year, Ruhwedel has been left to hone his craft back in the AHL. Offense has never been the name of his game, though he has shown that he can chip in now and again. Ruhwedel is a solid all-around blueliner and will find a spot in Buffalo’s top-six before all is said and done.

7. (9) Cal Petersen, G, 7.0 C
Drafted 5th round, 129th overall, 2013

Petersen has been the main man in the crease for the University of Notre Dame. Posting a 14-5-7 record while sporting an impressive .926 save percentage and 2.21 goals-against average. A sophomore, Petersen has looked like a star in the making and will be given all the time in the world to develop at his own pace given that the team has placed most of their eggs in Lehner’s basket. Keep an eye on Petersen going forward; if he continues to play well in college, it will be hard for him to be ignored in Rochester and beyond.

6. (7) Brendan Guhle, D, 7.0 C
Drafted 2nd round, 51st overall, 2015

Though he is one of the newest additions to the Buffalo Sabres prospect pool, Guhle might be on the fastest track of them all. Though just a teenager, the Prince Albert Raiders product nearly made the opening night roster and looks as though he will be a fixture in the top four for years to come. His offensive game isn’t outstanding, but he has shown the ability to chip in here and there. His bread and butter has been his steady defensive game and he could play a lockdown role for the Sabres going forward. Guhle is calm, steady and unflappable, something that can’t be said of most players his age.

5. (6) Hudson Fasching, RW, 7.0 C
Trade with Los Angeles Kings, 2015

Tim Murray knew what he was looking for when he acquired Fasching from the Kings and that trade has paid dividends ever since. Fasching has all the makings of a prototypical power forward and has really developed offensively in his junior season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the NCAA. Taking on an alternate captain role, Fasching has potted 15 goals and 27 points in just 25 games this season, besting his career-high for goals and right there for points (30). He’s battled injuries, but he has the size, tenacity and offensive ability to be a force with the Sabres when the time comes.

4. (5) Nicholas Baptiste, RW, 7.5 C
Drafted 3rd round, 69th overall, 2013

Baptiste has seen his share of struggles, posting seven goals and 15 points in 34 games. He has shown flashes of NHL ability in that time, using his big frame to protect the puck and showing a willingness to get into the dirty areas of the ice. Though he isn’t the most talented player on the ice, he plays a smart game and has enough ability to make opponents pay. Like most of the roster in Rochester right now, he is on the young end of the scale and has his best hockey ahead of him.

3. (4) Justin Bailey, RW, 7.5 C
Drafted 2nd round, 52nd overall, 2013

In 2015-16, Bailey seems to be suffering from the same setbacks that have hit Baptiste: adjusting to the professional game with a largely young team that is treading water in the standings. Bailey has been decent in his first professional season, potting seven goals and accruing 18 points in 45 games, good for fourth on the team in scoring. Bailey has the complete package of size and skill, so a slow start in the AHL isn’t particularly troubling. He will be given the time to develop and should begin to deliver on the promise that he has shown to date. The future is bright for Bailey, even if 2015-16 wasn’t.

2. (3) Jake McCabe, D, 7.5 B
Drafted 2nd round, 44th overall, 2012

One of a handful of rookies making their full-time NHL debut with the Sabres in 2015-16, McCabe has been able to slide in under the radar a bit thanks to Eichel-mania. A smooth skater on the collegiate level, McCabe is still finding his offense (three goals, nine points in 47 games) but appears to be finding his footing as a top-four defender at the NHL level. Averaging 18:21 of ice time per game, McCabe is fourth among defensemen on the team and looks more solid each and every night. Hopefully, he can find his offense going forward, but the Sabres have to feel good about what they have in the young McCabe already.

1. (1) Jack Eichel, C, 9.0 B
Drafted 1st round, 2nd overall, 2015

Everything that has been said about Eichel so far has been true. Eichel has been everything Sabres fans have hoped for and more as a teenager coming out of Boston University. With 16 goals and 35 points, Eichel is second both in the league among rookies and on the Sabres in scoring. After a slow start, he has picked up his production and shown a knack for pickpocketing puck carriers in the neutral zone. Destined to be a finalist for the Calder Trophy given to the league’s top rookie, it’s just a matter of where Eichel finishes, not whether or not he’ll earn a nomination. Jack Eichel is ‘The Franchise’ going forward.

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