With the conclusion of the 2015 NHL Draft, it’s safe to say that the Buffalo Sabres are on the fast track to becoming a team to reckon with once again in the NHL.
From the selection of Boston University’s Jack Eichel second overall to the trade that brought in Ryan O’Reilly, the Sabres are a team that is certain to be much better than the last place squad from a year ago. But what exactly will the team look like come October 8 against the Ottawa Senators?
Before going into detail, keep in mind that this is based off what has transpired around the NHL Draft. More moves are likely to be made in the form of signings and trades, meaning things are almost certain to change as the day gets closer.
With the addition of the aforementioned O’Reilly and Eichel, it’s clear as day who the Sabres’ top two centers will be when the season gets under way. O’Reilly is a bonafide number one center, and Eichel has all the makings of that being one in the near future. It’s a near perfect one-two punch for Buffalo up the middle.
The winger depth may be questioned by many, but the first three lines appear to be easy to figure out before any free agent signings, if any, our made. Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis will be on the wing of O’Reilly while Matt Moulson and a moved Zemgus Girgensons will play with Eichel.
Marcus Foligno and captain Brian Gionta will man the third line with Reinhart, giving the Sabres three potential scoring lines after barely having one last season. The fourth line will consist of Legwand, new Sabre Jamie McGinn and Nicolas Deslauriers. With a fourth line like that, Buffalo could have a group that could produce offensively while also being solid in their own end.
Before the trade that sent Nikita Zadorov to Colorado, it was expected that he and Rasmus Ristolainen would continue to blossom as the pairing of the future. With Zadorov gone, Ristolainen will be paired with Josh Gorges while Zach Bogosian will be put with the newly full-time Jake McCabe.
Though Mike Weber should likely be taken off the main roster, he starts the season on the bottom pairing with Mark Pysyk based on the current roster. Should the Sabres go out and acquire another defenseman via trade or free agency, Weber could/should be the one replaced. For now, he’s in the lineup.
General manager Tim Murray went out and traded away the 21st overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to acquire Robin Lehner from the Ottawa Senators, thus making it known that he’s likely to be the guy to start the season in net for the Sabres. At 23-years old, Lehner, should he pan out, could very well be the goaltender of the future.
The backup position goes to Chad Johnson solely due to the fact that he is still under contract. Anders Lindback won’t be back, and Matt Hackett, if re-signed, likely starts the year in Rochester.
So, based on what was discussed above, here’s your opening night lineup for the Sabres.
Kane — O’Reilly — Ennis
Moulson — Eichel — Girgensons
Foligno — Reinhart — Gionta
Deslauriers — Legwand — McGinn
Gorges — Ristolainen
McCabe — Bogosian
Weber — Pysyk
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.