Now that the NHL lockout and the World Junior Championships are behind us, Buffalo Sabres fans have a lot to look forward to. Four of the Sabres top prospects participated at the World Juniors and one could crack the Sabres lineup as early as this season.
- Joel Armia – The 19 year old right wing was drafted 16th overall by Buffalo at the 2011 entry draft. He represented his native Finland at the World Juniors, and though he did not earn a medal, he had a very impressive performance. Armia tailled 6 goals and 6 assists for a combined total of 12 points in just 6 games at the world juniors. He tied his fellow countrymen Markus Granlund for 2nd in points at the tournament with 12. The only player who scored more was Canada’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with 15 points. Armia was also 2nd in goals scored at the tournament with 6. U.S.A.’s John Gaudreau managed to score one more goal than Armia, but also played in one more game. The Finnish forward is under contract with Assat Pori of the Finnish Men’s league for one more season. When that contract expires he will be free to join the Sabres in Buffalo.
- Jake McCabe– The 19 year old defensemen was selected in the second round of the 2012 entry draft by the Sabres, 44th overall. Not only did McCabe win a gold medal with team U.S.A. at the World Juniors, but he also captained that gold medal team. McCabe was the 3rd highest scoring defensemen at the tournament with 3 goals, 3 assists, and 6 points. The only defensemen to score more points were his teammates Jacob Trouba(9 pts) and Seth Jones(7 pts). Their offensive confidence at the blue line seemed to come from coach Phil Housley, the veteran American-born defenseman who is No. 1 among American blueliners with 1,232 points. Additionally, McCabe also boasted an impressive plus/minus at +8 over 7 games. He finished the tournament tied for 2nd in plus/minus with Finland’s Petteri Lindbohm, just behind Finland’s Ville Pokkaat +10. Currently, McCabe will return to the University of Wisconsin to finish the NCAA season where he has 9 pts in 16 games so far.
- Mikhail Grigorenko– The 18 year old Russian centerman, drafted 12th overall in 2012, is perhaps the most NHL ready Sabres prospect. He earned a bronze medal with team Russia and had 2 goals and 4 assists for a combined 6 points over 7 games at the World Juniors. Grigorenko is expected to one day be a force in the NHL and is currently the only prospect listed here to be invited to the Buffalo Sabres training camp this season. If he doesn’t make the team this season he will return to the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, where he currently has a dominating 50 points in 30 games, including 29 goals.
- Andrei Makarov – The 19 year old Russian goaltender was undrafted in the 2012 NHL draft, to the surprise of many. He was signed by the Sabres after the draft as one of the top undrafted prospects, and accompanied Grigorenko and team Russia to the World Juniors. While he only got 3 starts at the world juniors, he did post a strong .933% save percentage and 2.99 goals against average with 2 wins and 1 loss.
While Grigorenko may be the only Buffalo prospect at the World Juniors that will get a chance to crack the Sabres lineup this year, the other prospects performance at the World Juniors show that Buffalo has a lot to look forward in the next few years.