Predicting the Sabres’ Forward Lines for the 2022-23 Season

Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams’ approach to building the organization is starting to come to fruition. He has spent his offseasons since being hired, building their prospect pool and creating organizational depth for future success. With some of those players now graduating to the NHL level, and others embarking on the early stages of their careers, it is exciting to think about their potential this season. These players entering the lineup also help the team to fill out a roster that has long been devoid of talent up front, and it gives them four capable lines they can depend on to contribute every night.

Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch

The first line is about as close to a no-brainer as the Sabres have throughout their lineup. Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch were together for 42 games last season and in that span, they were responsible for 28 goals. It was a breakout season for Thompson and this line combination was a big key to his success. Skinner had a bounce-back season in a big way, scoring 33 goals which were more than his previous two season totals combined, and Tuch fit in right away with the team, on and off the ice. He has embraced a leadership role within the organization and he backs it up with his play.

Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabres
Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

They were relentless on the forecheck, with a lot of Thompson’s goals coming from the pressure they put on in the offensive zone. One thing this line could improve on is their defensive play, as they were on the ice for 29 goals against. It was Thompson’s first year playing center and a year’s experience under his belt should come with a better understanding of the responsibilities at both ends of the rink when he suits up in 2022-23.

Kyle Okposo – Zemgus Girgensons – Vinnie Hinostroza

Vinnie Hinostroza should essentially fill the void left by Cody Eakin next to Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons. Okposo and Girgensons are responsible at both ends of the ice shift in and shift out, and Hinostroza adds an element of speed to the unit that Eakin couldn’t provide. They also give head coach Don Granato a line he can rely on in any situation because of how responsible they are on the defensive side of the puck, and their ability to contribute offense at the same time.

The combination of Okposo and Girgensons is a huge part of their leadership group, with Okposo seemingly the leading candidate to get the captaincy. Having the leaders of your team work as hard as they do is a huge benefit to the rest of the lineup, as they are providing an example of what it means to play Sabres’ hockey, using their speed and relentlessness to create scoring chances without sacrificing anything defensively.

Riley Sheahan was signed by the Sabres in August and he could also be a logical choice on this line instead of Hinostroza. He plays a similar game to Eakin, so if they try Hinostroza and it doesn’t seem to click, they could turn to Sheahan. Because of Hinostroza’s speed, he can fit almost anywhere in the lineup, so having them be interchangeable gives the Sabres more depth options at forward.

Victor Olofsson – Casey Mittelstadt – Rasmus Asplund

Another return to something that was deployed a decent amount last season, Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Asplund would comprise a dynamic line for the team. Starting with Olofsson, he has one of the best shots in the NHL, and after a slow start last season he found his game in the latter half of the year, which included scoring six goals in the month of April. He brings a strong offensive game to the line and when paired with a playmaker and skilled passer like Mittelstadt, it creates a traditional playmaker and sniper combination Granato can rely on.

Rasmus Asplund, Buffalo Sabres
Rasmus Asplund, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Asplund adds a whole other dimension to the line, as he is one of the Sabres’ most responsible forwards defensively, but he does not sacrifice creating chances offensively. He is definitely the best two-way forward the Sabres have on their roster, and he even received a few Selke Trophy votes last season, showing the league is starting to take notice of his abilities as well.

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This line covers all the bases for the Sabres and provides a level of depth they have lacked for years. They have infused enough skill into their roster to be able to deploy three solid lines at the top of their lineup.

Jack Quinn – Dylan Cozens – Peyton Krebs 

This line combination provides not only a strong option in the Sabres’ lineup but also a fun glimpse into the future as well. Jack Quinn is ready for a full-time spot on the roster and it will be exciting to see what he is able to accomplish in his first year as a Sabre. Dylan Cozens and Peyton Krebs were effective together last season in a very limited sample size and their minutes together deserve another look in 2022-23.

This line would be a similar structure to the previous trio, a player who excels at shooting the puck in Quinn, a tremendous playmaker in Krebs, and an emerging two-way player in Cozens. It also helps boost their overall roster depth, by providing another viable option this deep in the roster. These players are also a huge part of the Sabres’ future and fundamental pieces of their developing core. Having three players at a similar age playing together should be great for their chemistry and would boost their creative abilities.

Dylan Cozens Buffalo Sabres
Dylan Cozens, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Missing from this iteration of the lineup are JJ Peterka and Anders Bjork, which is somewhat of a good problem to have. Peterka will have every opportunity to make the roster, but there are just too many players in front of him who are at a further stage in their careers. Bjork and Sheahan are good options for them to slide into the lineup due to injury, while Peterka gets top-line minutes in Rochester and is the first call-up option if needed. Brett Murray and Brandon Biro also provide options for recall if they have a rash of injuries.

Looking at this lineup, it is hard not to get excited about where the Sabres are headed. This team is built with both established talent who they can lean on to be productive each game, and young players who are still figuring out what success looks like at the professional level. When combined, it gives them the deepest offensive team they’ve had in a while. They were able to score almost at will down the latter stretch of last season, and there is no reason to believe they cannot improve on that stretch given the improved roster. They are getting better simply by letting their young players develop. When combined with what should be an improved defense core and goaltending, they should be an improved team all around in 2022-23.

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