The Buffalo Sabres have a youth movement going on in their organization that leaves no stat line to an easy prediction. With so many players moving around the lineup and with a number of young prospects graduating to the NHL level, they have a lot to look forward to as far as production is concerned. This year will be about winning more than anything else; for players to take that next step in their development and turn a winning attitude into a winning habit.
If the Sabres are going to win more games this season, then they will need some big performances from their top prospects along with last season’s top forwards. With rookies Jack Quinn and Owen Power ready to spring into the lineup, it will be a great scoring jolt for both the offense and defense. Continued production by players like Alex Tuch and Kyle Okposo will be instrumental for the Sabres’ success, but they will be more of a set of cogs in a well-oiled machine than the leaders of specific categories.
Sabres’ Goals, Assists, and Points Leaders
Buffalo had a handful of players that eclipsed the 20-goal mark and had two that broke the 30-goal threshold in 2021-22. As things progress into the 2022-23 season, it is safe to say that one of these players will be the leading goal scorer. Jeff Skinner is an obvious candidate as he scored 33 goals last year, but he will not be at the top of the list. Just like last year, the goal-scoring leader will be Tage Thompson.
Thompson scored 38 goals during his breakout campaign, and that landed him his very recent seven-year, $50M contract as a result. He will be motivated more than anyone to reach that 40-goal mark this year as he fell just short of it before. He will have plenty of help along the way by means of the Sabres’ top passers, as the assists leader will be the player that distributes the puck better than anyone on the team.
Rasmus Dahlin led the team in assists last year with a total of 40. Finally breaking out of his Ralph Krueger shell and becoming the offensive dynamo he had the potential to be, Dahlin will continue to progress, and his assist number will climb this coming season. His overall points will climb as well, but where he made a name for himself was in his ankle-breaking moves and creative setups. With more confidence than before, and internal competition with Owen Power to be the future top defender of the franchise, he will take his game to the next level.
Where there are goals, there are not always assists that come with them. One-dimensional players exist all across the league, but the Sabres are developing a group of players that can be versatile and lethal in any position they play. Thompson once again comes into play here as the best option for the overall points leader. He has the skill and capacity to score from almost anywhere in the offensive zone, but he does possess some underrated passing ability. Having a finisher like Jeff Skinner on his wing will only benefit his total points, but he will ultimately be the one who takes the overall scoring crown in Buffalo (with Dahlin fresh on his heels).
Sabres’ Goaltending Leaders
Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski both were serviceable goaltenders last year as the Sabres were in full development mode. They were still reeling from the loss of Linus Ullmark to the Boston Bruins, and for what they paid for the tandem, it was well worth it. Prospect Ukko Pekka Luukkonen was not fully ready to take the starting mantle just yet, but he also showed promise during his nine games with Buffalo.
For this season, they brought in a low-risk/high-reward type goaltender via free agency in Eric Comrie. He had yet to make a full NHL impact until last year with the Winnipeg Jets as a backup, but the numbers he put up were promising enough, and the skills he put on display were enough for GM Kevyn Adams to sign him to a short-term deal. Anderson remains in a Sabres uniform as well, so he will share the net with Comrie, but it will be the latter that gets the lion’s share of the starts.
Anderson will be a serviceable backup as long as his age does not become a problem, but Comrie will be the one who stands above the rest with the most games played, wins, save percentage, etc. Luukkonen will get an opportunity to show off what he can do as well at points during the season, but unless something drastic happens, he will not be the named starter just yet.
Sabres’ Power-Play, Hits, and Rookie Scoring Leaders
The power play has been a great source of offense for Buffalo the past couple of years, and last year, Thompson led the charge as the top goal scorer. He was followed by the likes of Kyle Okposo and Victor Olofsson, and one of those two players will unseat him as the new power-play (PP) goals leader for 2022-23.
Olofsson has been a power play specialist for years, and it is high time that he takes his rightful place back on the right side to start clapping bombs from the circle opposite of Thompson. While he may lead in the goal category for the PP, Dahlin will once again take the crown for most PP points. He led the team last season with 21, and as his production increases this year, the special teams points will go up as well.
Physicality is not something the Sabres have been known for in recent years, but they did not shy away from the hits last year either. Dahlin led the team with 121 hits, followed by John Hayden and Mattias Samuelsson. The defense has gotten notably larger this year, and that will increase the physicality. Based on his playing style and how he will be used in the lineup, Samuelsson will lead the way in hits this year for Buffalo. He is great at separating opposing players from the puck and is one of the best options they have when working along the boards in their own end. Do not be surprised if Power gives him a run for his money as he develops his game this season as well.
Quinn and Peterka are the two names that keep coming up as the best rookie scoring options that Buffalo has, and for good reason. Both had incredible years in the minor leagues, so it makes sense that their skills will translate to the NHL level. The question that remains is, which of these two will win the team rookie scoring title? There are arguments to be made for both, but the edge goes to JJ Peterka.
While Quinn is a more gifted goal scorer and has the potential to chase the likes of Thompson and Skinner in future years, the one thing that causes hesitation is his history. Quinn has the track record of playing in a new league one year and scoring very little, and then by the next season, he has it figured out and begins to score at a consistent rate. He did this at both the junior and minor league levels, and it is safe to assume it can happen again in Buffalo. Meanwhile, Peterka had a consistent and massive year in Rochester without any injury problems tripping him up. He has a lot to prove, and he has the skills to accomplish it as a playmaker and goal scorer.
Predicted Numbers for the Sabres’ 2022-23 Leaders
A full season and a packed house will have this years team itching for success. The numbers will reflect their determination and hustle, and coach Don Granato will keep them in winning shape as things progress throughout the year. With that said, here are the predictions for each of the stats leaders for the 2022-23 NHL season:
- Goals – Tage Thompson – 43
- Assists – Rasmus Dahlin – 55
- Points – Tage Thompson – 75
- PPG – Victor Olofsson – 14
- PPP – Rasmus Dahlin – 25
- Rookie scoring – JJ Peterka – 17G – 30A – 47 P
- Hits – Mattias Samuelsson – 215
- Wins – Eric Comrie – 28
- GAA – Eric Comrie – 2.73
- Sv% – Eric Comrie – .909
There are a lot of other stats that go into a team’s success, but these major categories are the ones that make the biggest difference on a nightly basis. These predictions are a mere taste of what fans are in store for this season, as the rest of the players like Dylan Cozens and Peyton Krebs are poised for breakout years as well.