Though I am biased as a hardcore Sabres fan, I think few will debate the fact that Buffalo has one of the best farm systems in the NHL. In the past few years, we have seen guys like Paul Gaustad, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek come up through the ranks and be very successful at the professional level. Buffalo has a knack for developing young talent and the Sabres appear to be stacked again this year, despite the loss of Drury, Briere and Zubrus.
This is likely the reason why Buffalo has focused on locking up young talent during the offseason, as opposed to fishing in the free agency market (though some signings and/or trades are still possible in the coming weeks). Most people are already aware of up-and-coming winger Drew Stafford, who had a breakout season last year with Buffalo. However, below are some names that may be less familiar to you.
Clarke MacArthur – C/LW
MacArthur has played at the junior, major junior and minor professional levels. He also saw limited action with the Sabres last year. As a result, his transition to the NHL should be a relatively smooth one. MacArthur possesses good offensive skills and has the potential to be a 40-55 point guy. Despite his smaller frame (roughly 6’0 and 180-190 lbs.), MacArthur does not mind picking up penalties. Buffalo lacks toughness on offense and needs more depth on the left side, which means MacArthur should fit right in. I see him as a potential third or fourth-line winger.
Nathan Paetsch – D
The Sabres must see something in Paetsch after signing him to a three-year deal this offseason. What I see is a solid all-around player. Paetsch possesses intelligence and leadership, which is something the Sabres lost when Chris Drury went to the Rangers. Paetsch’s most notable skills – skating and passing – make him a great power play quarterback, which should increase his ice time and numbers. Paetsch is a possible 25-35 point guy (nice as a defenseman) and should see third-line action on defense.
Daniel Paille – LW
Paille is not an offensive juggernaut (probably a 25-35 point guy right now). However, like Paetsch, Paille is a good two-way player. Paille’s puck and stick handling ability, along with his blazing speed, make him dangerous on counterattacks. He also adds depth on the left side. On the defensive end, Paille can kill penalties, which is a welcome attribute after the loss of Drury. Paille is a potential third or fourth-line winger who should see more action this year as a result of his all-around play.