For the last 14 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
This year, due to Dobber’s battle with cancer, he recruited Cam Robinson (of Frozen Pool Forensics fame) to pinch hit. The 15th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Gone – Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Dmitry Kulikov, Anders Nilsson, Derek Grant, William Carrier, Cal O’Reilly, Erik Burgdoerfer, Mat Bodie, Jean Dupuy, Cole Schneider, Tim Murray (GM), Dan Bylsma (Head Coach)
Incoming – Jason Pominville, Nathan Beaulieu, Marco Scandella, Benoit Pouliot, Seth Griffith, Chad Johnson, Jacob Josefson, Matt Tennyson, Kevin Porter, Viktor Antipin, Adam Wilcox, Kyle Criscuolo, Jason Botterill (GM), Phil Housley (Head Coach)
Impact of changes – The summer of 2017 saw major changes occur in upstate New York. The Sabres shipped out their GM and head coach and replaced them with two men who faced each other in Stanley Cup finals as second in commands for their respective teams and positions. With the former defenseman – Housley running the bench – it’s suiting that the Buffalo backend has been bolstered. Incoming Beaulieu and Scandella solidify the top-four, while Antipin, and Tennyson add solid depth. Anders Nilsson was an underrated back up for Robin Lehner but is aptly replaced by Chad Johnson. Ennis’ skill will be replaced by the familiar, Pominville and incoming Pouliot. The Sabres appear deeper and more well-rounded heading into 2017-18.
Ready for full-time – The Sabres’ roster looks pretty well set by mid-summer but that doesn’t mean there won’t be young players pushing the veterans for spots. Brendan Guhle is the bluechip prospect on the back end and displayed his tantalizing potential during an emergency call up last season. The 6’3 left-shot defender is mobile, calm under pressure and has strong offensive instincts. He’s likely to start in the AHL but will be there when injuries or poor play set in on the big squad. Read more about Guhle here.
Alexander Nylander managed to avoid that pesky CHL-NHL agreement and step right into the American league as an 18-year-old last season thanks to being on loan from his Swedish squad during his draft campaign. While at times it was a difficult learning process for the ultra-skilled winger, he did manage to look at ease during four games with the Sabres and was a tournament all-star for the Tre Kroner at the World Junior Championship. Having just turned 19-years of age, it’s probably prudent to let him dominate at the AHL-level before making the jump, but he has the skills and genes to steal a spot with a high-level showing at camp. Read more about Nylander here.
CJ Smith recorded over a point-per-game through three NCAA campaigns with UMass-Lowell and could be a sneaky bet to crack the Sabres’ lineup. The 22-year-old owns loads of skill and could be a nice boost to the team’s bottom six. Read more about Smith here.
Fantasy Outlook – Anytime you have a player like Jack Eichel on your team, it makes all those around him more interesting for fantasy purposes. The dynamic young centre is primed to jump into the top 10 scorers in 2017-18 and will bring a few of his mates along for the ride. Outside of Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo, Ryan O’Rielly, Evander Kane, and Rasmus Ristolainen are the prime skater targets and Robin Lehner showed last season that he’s more than capable of putting up strong save percentage numbers so long as he remains healthy. The Sabres have a strong crop of prospects on the way and bright fantasy future.
Fantasy Grade: B (Last year: B-)
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