When taking a look at the Buffalo Sabres’ roster for the upcoming season, it is difficult to select breakout candidates. This is not necessarily because they don’t have any, but more because they have too many to choose from. They are starting to see some of their recent high-round draft picks graduate to the NHL level, one of the latest exciting developments for the franchise as they look to take the steps forward to becoming more competitive. This increased level of talent will give their younger players a tremendous freedom to display what skills they have and show why they will be important players for the Sabres moving forward.
One of the centerpieces of the Jack Eichel trade, Peyton Krebs joined the Sabres in December after a short stint with the Rochester Americans. He showed immediately that he was ready for the NHL level, showcasing his playmaking ability and vision on the ice to create scoring chances for himself and his linemates. The only issue was relative inconsistency, which was to be expected for his rookie season and after being traded midseason.
While the flashes of potential were certainly there, he now has the chance to become a very important player for the Sabres, and can do so on a consistent basis. They have a lot of players who excel at putting the puck in the net, but having a player who can facilitate their offense and set-up scoring chances for their goalscorers will be great not only for Krebs, but the players around him as well. He will receive increased ice time this season, which will give him more opportunities to rack up points, and he should be a main cog on their power-play units allowing him to showcase his puck-moving ability in the offensive zone. With their roster being the deepest it’s been in recent seasons, no matter where he is placed in the lineup, he will have an opportunity to play with good players, which will increase his chances at a breakout season.
Perhaps the Sabres’ most highly-touted prospect outside of Owen Power, Jack Quinn made his NHL debut last season, albeit in limited fashion. He played in two games total for Buffalo, and was able to score his first NHL goal and assist in one of those games. While playing for the Americans he was on an absolute tear last season, scoring 26 goals and 35 assists in his 45 games in the American Hockey League (AHL). His stellar play earned him AHL rookie of the year honors, and he is now primed for a full-time role in Buffalo this season.
Quinn stands out as a breakout candidate due to his stellar shot and skating ability. There is a chance he ends up on a line with Krebs, and those two paired together would give them a one-two punch of playmaker and sniper who can play further down the lineup. Having less of a reliance on their younger players to consistently produce should bode well for him, as some of the pressure to produce will be taken off and he will be afforded the opportunity to simply go out and play. His skills should also translate well to the higher level of play, and he should slot into the lineup nicely from Game 1 on.
Last season was somewhat of a minor breakout for Mattias Samuelsson, but this season his play will really stand out. Predicting what a breakout will look like for him is difficult because of the nature of his play. He is purely a defensive defenseman, and thus the point totals will never really be there for him. The impacts he makes on the ice come from disrupting the opposition’s offensive attack, and being a stable presence for the more offensively gifted defensemen the team has.
His impact was most pronounced when paired with Rasmus Dahlin last year, and there is no reason to believe that shouldn’t continue to be the case. We all know how skilled Dahlin is offensively, and he needs a partner capable of supporting the defensive side of the game while he is free to use his creative and skating abilities. Samuelsson can be the defensive stalwart the team has needed for years now. He can be put on the ice in crucial situations where the team needs to close out a game and on the penalty kill as well. Last season started his ascension into a stellar defensive defenseman but this season will cement him as one of the best in the league.
Some other players who are primed to become crucial players for the team are Rasmus Asplund, Dylan Cozens, Owen Power and many more. The roster is filled with young players the organization has invested heavily in, and this season is becoming an increasingly important one for the development of this young core. They will be afforded every opportunity on the ice to prove they can be a key piece for the organization in the future, while also providing an early return on investment this season. Krebs, Quinn and Samuelsson are the prime candidates that stick out when considering their circumstances, and having them take that next step will be beneficial to the Sabres overall performance this season.