If there’s anything positive the Buffalo Sabres can take away from this season, it’s the play of some of their rookies. The Sabres saw a lot of faces come in and out of their line-up this season. From Mikhail Grigorenko to Luke Adam, a lot of rookies were showcased and given a shot to crack the roster for next season. Which rookies made the most impact and will crack the Sabres opening day roster next season?
Marcus Foligno- 21
Although Foligno saw time with the Buffalo Sabres towards the end of last season, it was just 14 games. This season was really his rookie year. Although he didn’t have a great season putting up just 18 points in 47 games, Foligno has earned himself a spot on the team or at least a shot to prove himself.
The Sabres haven’t been using Foligno in the right role. He’s still young and can’t be counted on to be the leader of this team or a first or second line star. When I watch the way Foligno plays and the way his game will likely develop, I draw the comparison to Toronto Maple Leafs power-forward James van Riemsdyk. Both players are built the same way at 6 foot 3 and 200+ pounds. They’re big boys, they use their size to over power opponents. When Foligno matures and finds his role in the NHL, it’s likely going to be a power-forward role. Where he drives to the net, screens the goalie, can work along the boards and use his size to has advantage.
Marcus Foligno started using his size more towards the end of the season and looks to be understanding his game and his role more and more. No question Marcus Foligno will be back on the Buffalo Sabres next season.
Brian Flynn- 24
Brian Flynn proved to be a smart pick-up by the Sabres. He was a pleasant surprise for the Sabres this season, playing in 26 games
scoring 6 and adding 5 assists. He had a fantastic season with the Rochester Americans before he got called up, posting 32 points in 45 games.
While no one knows how much more Flynn will improve or surprise, going from the NCAA to the AHL to the NHL in less than a full calendar year is pretty impressive for any rookie.
Flynn can develop into a solid third line player and that’s great for a kid who went through two NHL draft’s without being drafted. Right now he’s an overachiever, hopefully he keeps up his great play. Look for Flynn to get his shot at a full year in the NHL so the Sabres can see what they have.
Mikhail Grigorenko- 18
The Buffalo Sabres top draft pick from 2012 still has a lot of questions to answer. He looked lost in his first 22 games with the club, but when he was returned back to the QMJHL he re-appeared as super-human. Grigorenko needs to find his in between, where he can produce and learn with the Sabres.
For the Sabres management it starts with them moving him to the 2nd or 3rd line with better wingers. The management didn’t want their to be a lot of pressure on the rookie, so they kept him on the 4th line but still wanted him to succeed. In order for a rookie to succeed you need to give him the opportunity and tools to do so.
The Sabres should have a better idea how to handle the rookie next season and it wouldn’t be too far fetched to see a breakout season from Grigorenko.
Chad Ruhwedel- 22
The Sabres signed Chad Ruhwedel from UMass-Lowell the day after they were eliminated from the Frozen- Four. Ruhwedel was named Defenceman and all-American of the year. Although he didn’t score in his seven games with the Sabres, he looked really good on defence. He made the adjustment from NCAA to NHL, very quick and didn’t look out of place at all. He got a little help from Mike Weber who turned out to be his mentor this season.
The Buffalo Sabres organization obviously see something special in Chad Ruhwedel or they wouldn’t have signed him and put him straight in the NHL. Since the Sabres see something in him, expect him to be back with the Sabres at the start of next season. He has the potential to be a stellar puck-moving and fast skating defenceman. Perhaps another Tyler Myers?
Mark Pysyk- 21
Mark Pysyk is an interesting prospect for the Buffalo Sabres. He had a great CHL career with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL and was a member of the team Canada World Juniors in 2012. He’s extremely quick and has outstanding hockey IQ, but the defencive side of his game is lacking and that’s not good news for an NHL defenceman. Right now he doesn’t have a good enough shot to be the key force of the power play on the blue line.
Depending on how this off-season works out for the Sabres there is a possibility Pysyk will crack the squad but another year in the AHL wouldn’t hurt.
Obviously there’s more prospects elsewhere like Luke Adam, Alex Biega, Zemgus Girgensons, Brayden McNabb, Joel Armia and Corey Tropp who will all seriously challenge for a spot on the Buffalo Sabres next season. But the players listed above are the ones who spent a fair chunk of time with the Buffalo Sabres this season and made a solid impact.
What other rookie do you think will crack the Buffalo Sabres roster for next season?