Right Wing is perhaps the position with the most intrigue when it comes to the Sabres, unless you count the cold war era espionage level shroud of potential surrounding their goaltenders.
If you ask those that watch and evaluate prospects professionally, they will tell you that Buffalo has no less than 5 interesting to intriguing Right Wing prospects.
If you ask the faction of non-believers, they will tell you that the current number 1 is nothing special while the other 4 are nothing more than bottom 6 filler.
As always, the truth lay somewhere in the middle, with the reality being that all Buffalo needs is for 2 of it's top 5 prospects at RW to pan out, meaning reach their potential, or close to it, for the team to be set at that position, as they can find a 4th line RW anywhere and find another, if needed, to fill out the bottom 6.
That means the pressure is on the top 5, and the best thing for all of them might be serious compeition with one another in camp the next two seasons.
1. Joel Armia
2. Justin Bailey
3. Hudson Fasching
4. Nick Baptiste
5. Vaclav Karabacek
6. Drew Stafford
7. Brian Flynn
8. Chris Stewart
9. Brian Gionta
10. Judd Peterson
11. Victor Olofsson
12. Colin Jacobs
13. Christian Isackson
14. Patrick Kaleta
I won't spend any more than one sentence on Patrick Kaleta and Chris Stewart by saying I would be shocked if either were with the team next season. The former is an injury machine who cannot stay healthy and is easily replaced while the latter is essentially an empty uniform whose impact rates somewhere between once every 5 to 7 games when he should be impacting at least every other game with his abilities.
Jacobs projects to be a heart and soul bottom 6 guy while Isackson is a more skilled, lanky playmaker who both needs to fill out and improve his skating. Isackson's peak is that of a supplementary scoring option, meaning bottom 6, at best.
Brian Gionta is on his last legs, and by the time the team is actually good, he will be on his last leg.
The only way I see Drew Stafford coming back is if he is willing to take a short term deal for higher than expected dollars, or is he is fully committed to this team for the remainder of his career and is willing to take less money over a longer term. There are worse options as your sometimes scoring 3rd line RW.
Peterson and Olofsson comprise a duo of potential surprises. Peterson was scoring machine in high school while Olofsson has talent and is playing with Sabres prospect Gustav Possler in Sweden on a trainwreck of a team. One or both could be a major shock and make an impact, or you could never hear from either again after next year.
Brian Flynn deserves some time and some kudos. He seems to never be in the wrong spot on the ice. He would be an ideal 4th line RW that would have every opponent, and opposing fan bases, wondering after every game where he came from, whether he scores or not, with his effective play. He is part of the solution, and not the problem.
Now we come to the golden 5, taken in reverse order.
Karabacek will not wow you with his skating, but he will impress you with how he always seems to find the open space in the offensive zone and his nack for finding the back of the net. He has improved immensely in his last season plus of play. Very much feels like an improved version of Matt Moulson.
Easiest description of Nick Baptiste: he could turn into Wayne Simmonds, and if he does, he will be beloved by Sabres fans. He has that kind of potential. He will go through a brick wall on the ice for any reason necessary at the time with no questions asked.
While not the dynamic skater that Chris Kreider is for the Rangers, Fasching is similar to Kreider in terms of talent and ability. He is a power forward in waiting and has been showing off his skills in the WJC, even showcasing some quality passing while opening up serious space for all the other players he is on the ice with. If he can learn to bring it every shift, which he is getting closer and closer to doing, he will make an impact.
You can ring the consistency bell with Justin Bailey as well. Another prototypical power forward in training. He has a strong stride and even thoug he may not be fast, he can be a beast when at top speed. He compliments the number 1 RW quite well, and that brings me to...
Joel Armia, who seems to be something of a lightning rod with Sabres fans. He has been manhandling compeition down in Rochester for most of the year. The fact that the Americans have been an ugly mess for weeks now is not helping the luster of his diamond. Another 6'3 power forward with serious skill.
While the Sabres don't have any Ferrari's in the prospect pool at RW, what they have in Armia, Bailey, Faasching, and Baptiste is the potential to have 2 to 4 RW players that will make life miserable for the opposition in a myriad of ways that compliment each other quite well.
If Buffalo can hit on 2 of the top 4/5 at RW, they will be in very good shape going forward.
The Sabres have got to start drafting speed and quickness. Too many mediocre skaters in the system to compete with the Lightning, Red Wings, and Rangers in the East.
To your point, the plan seems to be drafting the most talented, best skating big guys they can find, and then banking on their skating coach to up their skating abilities after they are drafted.
definitely looking to copy the LA Kings
I also thought Olofsson had a higher ceiling than what you alluded too. I will have to look into that. Enjoying the articles.
Olofsson does have a higher ceiling but the possibility that he actually hits it is the giant question mark.
Bailey at 2 and higher the fasching is a joke. Kid couldnt even make the World Junior evaluation camp. Bailey needs to put on 25 pounds to be the power forward they envisioned when the drafted him.