Get familiar with some of the young faces down in the minors, as the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans have some talented players that Buffalo Sabres fans may get to know down the road.
The Well-Known Name: Tage Thompson
For Sabres fans, Tage Thompson is the most familiar name due to the fact that he spent the majority of last season with Buffalo. He was a part of the Ryan O’Reilly deal, coming over from a St. Louis Blues team that couldn’t quite figure out what to do with him.
The same can be said for Buffalo, who has sent Thompson bouncing around in the lineup, and even down to Rochester for the end of last season and beginning of this season. While in St. Louis, he played 41 games for the Blues, and 30 with the San Antonio Rampage in the minors.
Thompson was a stud at the University of Connecticut, compiling 64 points over his two collegiate campaigns. He was a highly-touted sniper, ultimately leading the Blues to spend a first-round draft pick on him. He stands at a towering 6-foot-6 and has characteristics of being a star in the making. It’s safe to say this possibility is still a far ways away, but the shot release and size of him alone give him the potential to become elite someday.
From extensive analysis of Thompson over the past few years, I have come to find that he has gotten the short end of the stick. What I mean by this is that he has not been given an ample opportunity to play with elite players. He spent the majority of last season on the third or fourth line. I see him as a goal scorer, hence his need to play with playmakers, which has been a rare commodity for him.
I tend to wonder if Thompson will ever work out in Buffalo, as he is still in the minors and has not been dominant by any means.
The Other Familiar Face: Lawerence Pilut
Lawerence Pilut is another player that spent extensive time with Buffalo last season. He essentially came out of nowhere, which tends to be the case with undrafted players. With a depleted defense corps, he stepped up and showed some serious potential to eventually become a full-time pro.
By process of elimination, it was clear that Pilut would be starting this season in Rochester. With that being said, I have gotten the chance to see him play in person a few times this season and have been quite impressed. The game has clearly slowed down for Pilut, who seemed overwhelmed at times last season. Now, I understand the AHL is a completely different animal, but I will give credit where credit is due.
Pilut is a smart puck mover and walks the blue line with supreme confidence. His head never looks down at the puck and he rarely has point shots blocked, which is an essential factor for whether a young defenseman survives at the pro level. On top of this, he is responsible in his own end, with an emphasis put on making the easy read.
If Buffalo decides to move on from some of their defensemen, or they become plagued with injuries, I can see Pilut being an option for the Sabres.
Ascending Forwards: Andrew Oglevie & Brett Murray
Both Oglevie and Murray have found success in Rochester this season, in part because of the chemistry the two have developed from playing on the same line.
Oglevie is a former Notre Dame Fighting Irish, with whom he racked up 41 and 39 points, respectively, in his last two seasons at the Big Ten school. He plays with pace and has a nice wrist shot to accompany his slick playmaking skills.
Murray, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-4 winger who found success in the United States Hockey League after two lackluster seasons at Penn State. He possesses a unique blend of skill and physicality, with a willingness to hunt down the puck. This aspect of his game is what impresses me the most, as he uses his size to his advantage to strip players of the puck and create offensive chances off of the turnovers.
From a small sample size, I believe Murray has a bright future to eventually become a regular in the NHL. He already possesses the necessary size, and will only continue to become stronger and faster with his skating. The skill is clearly there with him, and I think his ceiling is quite high.
The main reason I even bring Borgen’s name up is the fact that he offers a tough, bruising element that the Sabres sorely lack.
Borgen is one tough customer. He is not an overly large defenseman, but he plays with an edge that is hard to come by. He has dropped the gloves in two of the three Americans games I have attended.
With the Rasmus Dahlin hit still fresh in our minds I think it’s fair to say that Buffalo would love to add a “Ryan Reaves” to their lineup. Now I’m not saying Borgen is Reaves by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think the Sabres can take something from what they have seen from him.
I don’t expect Borgen to be called up anytime soon, I rather think he simply serves as a reminder of what Buffalo lacks.
As a whole, the Sabres farm team has some high potential players on their roster, and I would suggest familiarizing yourself with them before they one day wear the blue and gold.