Through five games, the Buffalo Sabres have compiled a 1-4-0 record but they have shown many encouraging signs. The sample size of games played is small but the Sabres are trending toward the middle of the pack when it comes to goals scored and goals allowed. This is a step in the right direction considering the club’s offensive and defensive woes from just a season ago.
Defenseman Jake McCabe has played in three of Buffalo’s five games. McCabe has played a solid defensive game while making some contributions on offense. The 22-year-old was selected in the second round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Sabres. McCabe spent some very limited time in Buffalo prior to this season appearing in nine games over the past two seasons. If he continues his strong play, McCabe will earn a more permanent role with the Sabres.
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Jake McCabe’s Early Hockey Years
McCabe is a native of Eau Claire, Wis. and hockey was an important aspect of his life from an early age. According to Haley Zblewski of The Spectator, Jake and his brother Andrew both embraced the game in their own way. The brothers are a few years apart in age so they didn’t play hockey together on the same team. However, both skated for Eau Claire Memorial High School and later went on to play hockey at the collegiate level.
In 2009, Jake McCabe joined the US National Team Development Program where he played through the 2010-2011 season. Chadd Cassidy was on the coaching staff of the US National Development Team while McCabe was a member of the squad. Cassidy, of course, was the head coach of the Rochester Americans where McCabe spent time last season.
After two seasons with the US National Development Team, McCabe attended the University of Wisconsin. McCabe played three seasons for the Badgers where, according to eliteprospects.com, he scored 14 goals and 58 points in 100 games. In 2013, McCabe served as captain of Team USA during the World Junior Championship and led his team to a gold medal. McCabe decided to forego his final year at the University of Wisconsin to sign his first professional contract with Buffalo in April 2014.
McCabe’s Early Success in Buffalo
An injury limited McCabe in the early stages of the 2014-2015 season. He spent much of his time last season playing in the AHL for the Rochester Americans. McCabe scored five goals and 29 points in 57 games for Rochester last season. According to NHL.com, McCabe’s 29 points were the sixth most points tallied by AHL rookie defensemen last season.
McCabe is very collected on the ice and has demonstrated his ability to slow the tempo down during transitions this season. McCabe also has shown good hockey instincts putting himself in position to make defensive plays. He is playing with confidence and this was on full display during Wednesday’s game against the Florida Panthers. McCabe joined the rush with Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons, skated toward the net, and he was rewarded with his first NHL goal.
McCabe played over 12 minutes in his first game against the Blue Jackets. His strong play is making an impression with his teammates and head coach Dan Bylsma who as steadily increased his role. McCabe saw an increase in ice time against the Florida Panthers where he played more than 14 minutes.
The young defenseman saw another increase in ice time playing in more than 16 minutes against Tampa Bay. McCabe did have a mishap where he lost control of the puck which led to a breakaway goal by Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov. However, in an overall sense McCabe had a strong game and he was given the opportunity to play in key minutes at the end of the third period when the Sabres attempted to the tie game.
McCabe is off to a good start in Buffalo. If he can continue to build on his solid play, McCabe will secure a more permanent role with the Sabres this season. There will be plenty of opportunity for McCabe to emerge as a top defenseman in Buffalo as the club moves forward from its rebuilding phase and works toward a return to the playoffs.
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