Photo: Forward Nick Baptiste was one among the Buffalo Sabres’ most improved prospects in 2013-14. Baptiste managed 89 points in 65 OHL games this past season, more than his previous two junior seasons combined. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
If the decline of the Buffalo Sabres had to reach its darkest depths before progressing upwards, the 2013-14 season was certainly the franchise's lowest point. At various points throughout the season, the team was in a state of flux, either in the front office, behind the bench, or on the ice.
Photo: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ top pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, is one spot away from breaking into HF’s top 10 prospects (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
The Spring edition of the Hockey's Future ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects continues with the prospects ranked 11-20. This particular section of the rankings features a bevy of talented defensemen, led by Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart.
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: London Knights defenseman and Buffalo Sabres prospect Nikita Zadorov didn’t look out of place during seven NHL games played in the early portion of the 2013-14 season, but returned to the Knights following the 2014 World Junior Championship (courtesy of Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
The OHL has long been known for its ability to pump out marquee offensive talent, but don’t sell the league short on the blueline. This year’s elite draft-eligible defensemen, like Aaron Ekblad and Roland McKeown, have a number of role models within the league whose path they can follow to the draft podium and beyond.
Photo: Team Russia forward Pavel Buchnevich celebrates his clinching goal in the 2014 WJC quarterfinal match vs. Team USA, a game won by the Russians, 5-3 (courtesy of ANDREAS HILLERGREN/AFP/Getty Images)
For the second year in a row, Team Russia came back home from the World Junior Championship with a bronze medal, once again beating Canada to earn that medal. If this can’t be considered a disaster, it cannot be considered a great success, either.