Photo: The Hardest Worker award went to Kings winger Tanner Pearson, who skated in his first 25 career regular season NHL games in 2013-14 (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
The Los Angeles Kings had several standout performances this year from the NCAA to the NHL. It was a pivotal transition year for many different players, and it appears that they were indeed ready to step up to the next level.
Photo: Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (55) remains is the top prospect for the Buffalo Sabres. Ristolainen has split the 2013-14 season between the NHL and AHL. (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
With over 40 prospects currently in their system, and at least 10 picks in the first two rounds of the 2014 and 2015 NHL Drafts, the Buffalo Sabres are aggressively re-building. Two players graduate from the fall Top 20 rankings – former University of Maine standout Brian Flynn is now a fixture with the big club and winger Corey Tropp is now a Columbus Blue Jacket after being waived in November.
Photo: Selected in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft, forward Marcus Foligno has carved out a role in the NHL as a big, physical forward who can chip in offensively. (courtesy of Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)
Despite improving their standing in the Northeast Division at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, the Buffalo Sabres found themselves out of playoff contention for the second year in a row.
Photo: Forward Phil Varone currently leads the Rochester Americans with 29 points through 32 games. Varone is in his third year at the AHL level. (courtesy of Abelimages/Getty Images)
The Rochester Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, made their return to the Spengler Cup this winter after placing third in 1996. However, the Amerks were outmatched in the prestigious tournament this time around, allowing 15 goals and losing all three of their games. Participating in the tournament meant taking a 12-day break from AHL play, but three extra games' worth of experience can be beneficial to a young team.
Photo: Forward Zemgus Girgensons is one of four teenagers to play for the Buffalo Sabres this season. The Latvian-born Girgensons was selected 14th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
Currently amid a full-scale rebuild, the Buffalo Sabres have 43 prospects in their system, including seven first-round picks, giving them both quantity and quality at every position. The Sabres also have many prospects already contributing at the NHL level, including forwards Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Johan Larsson.