Photo: Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was the first of 11 players to have the Buffalo Sabres call their name at the 2013 NHL Draft (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The 2013 NHL Draft was considered by many to be the deepest draft in the last decade, with potential franchise players not just available at the top of the order, but all the way through the first round and into the second.
Photo: Selected 23rd overall in 2010, defenseman Mark Pysyk is one of several talented puck-moving defensemen in the Buffalo Sabres prospect pool. (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)
With only two playoff appearances in the past six seasons, it is abundantly clear the Buffalo Sabres need to retool their roster and head in a new direction. Finishing last in the Northeast Division, the team's worst showing since the 2003-04 lockout, general manager Darcy Regier is preparing to usher in the post-Lindy Ruff era of Sabres hockey.
Photo: Defenseman Alex Lepkowski had a strong playoff run with the Barrie Colts of the OHL. The 20-year-old was a defensive mainstay for the Colts, who finished one win away from a berth in the 2013 Memorial Cup. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL images)
After finishing last in the Northeast Division for the first time since 2004 and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the Buffalo Sabres are hitting the reset button. The first move was saying goodbye to head coach Lindy Ruff after 1,165 games behind the bench, then shipping captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild for two prospects and two picks.
Photo: Brian Flynn has been one of the few pleasant surprises for the Buffalo Sabres this season. An undrafted free agent, Flynn managed six goals and five assists in 26 NHL games this season. (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
It is an ongoing process for the Buffalo Sabres as they patiently wait for their prospects to develop. Most of their young players are already playing for the Sabres or their AHL affiliate in Rochester, and the ones still in college have improved by leaps and bounds. Below are the winners of the Buffalo Sabres Prospect Awards.
Photo: Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau finished the 2012-13 season tied for the lead among NHL rookies with 31 points (courtesy of Rich Kane/Icon SMI)
Hockey's Future presents the top grouping of the Spring NHL Team Rankings, the staff's ranking of each NHL team's system based on the strength of the entire prospect pool. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The ranking is done twice a year, with this edition being an update to the Fall ranking.