June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Mikhail Grigorenko poses for a photo after being selected as the number twelve overall draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres in the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Which Rookie Will Make The Team Out Of Training Camp

Keep in mind this column is all hypothetical, and would be rendered utterly useless if the Buffalo Sabres make another significant move to drastically alter their roster before training camp. With Tyler Ennis and Patrick Kaleta both RFAs, both of whom I fully expect the Sabres to resign, that leaves the Buffalo Sabres roster one legitimate NHL center short on their pre-camp roster. Here are the forward lines I predict starting day one of camp:

Line 1: Vanek-Hodgson-Pominville

Line 2: Stafford-Ennis-Foligno

I can’t see Lindy messing with the Stafford-Ennis-Foligno line, and with the solid development camp that Hodgson had, I see him providing the solid two way play that will free Vanek and Pominville need to be able to focus on the offense that this team needs to be competitive.

For lines 3 and four, it becomes a lot more guesswork and speculation, but with the players that are currently on the roster here is what they might look like.

Line 3: Ott-Leino-Gerbe

Line 4: Kaleta-McCormick-Tropp/Scott

I know what your thinking. “They already tried Leino at center! Look how that worked!” and I agree with that objection 100%. Leino is much better suited for the wing, last season proved that to us with complete certainty. With that being said however Leino is the only player out of the rest that has any positional flexibility on that third line.

Now if you factor in the two centers the sabres just drafted, Girgensons and Grigorenko, who will both be at training camp, playing their hearts out to make the squad, I see lines three and four looking like this

Line 3: Ott-Girgensons/Grigorenko-Gerbe/Leino

Line 4: Kaleta-McCormick-Tropp/Scott

From this pool of players you have some much more attractive line combinations to play around with. With both Girgensons and Grigorenko both natural centers it would seem like a natural fit for either of them to step right in and win that job right out of camp.

Now, I promised you a prediction as to which rookie will make the team right out of camp, and here it is, Girgensons. With the first two lines set, the gaping hole is at third line center. I do think that both of the G-Men have the skill set and tenacity to play that third line center role, but for me Girgensons has the edge, for two reasons. First, his physical style of play, and Point A to Point B skating have him as a better fit for that third line center role. In addition, the clock on his entry level contract starts this year either way, whether he starts with the Sabres or the Amerks, whereas if Grigorenko doesn’t make the Sabres he returns to his junior team, effectively pausing the clock on his contract, and allowing him to play top line minutes in the QMJHL.

With all that being said, the third line combination that provides the sabres with the most upside is Ott-Girgensons-Gerbe. That line would be phenomenally tough to play against, and with the added offensive upside that trio could bring to the table, would be able to bang in some tough nasty goals for the sabres as well.

Just something to think, and perhaps even dream about….

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres Drew Stafford Jason Pominville Mikhail Grigorenko Training Camp Zemgus Girgensons

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