Hey Sabres fans – look to the future. The team’s prospects are up and running in their respective leagues, from the member leagues of the CHL to college hockey and more. Right now, let’s focus on one league: the Ontario Hockey League. The Sabres have seven prospects in the OHL right now, represented on five teams.
The OHL has just over a month left in its regular season.
The Erie Otters remain the top team in the league, with an overall record of 39-10-2-0 and 80 points in just 51 games. Nipping at their heels is the Guelph Storm, just one point shy of Erie with a game in hand.
Three teams – Erie, Guelph and Sault Ste. Marie – have clinched playoff spots so far, but it’s still early.
Leading the way for Sabres prospects in the OHL is right winger Nicholas Baptiste. Drafted by the Sabres 69th overall in 2013, Baptiste is in his third season with the Sudbury Wolves. He’s tied for the team lead in points and has set a personal career high, with 63 points in just 49 games so far. Baptiste is second on the Wolves in both goals (30) and assists (33). Nine of his goals have come on the power play, and he’s averaging 1.29 points per game.
Also averaging 1.29 points per game is center Eric Locke. Locke, drafted 189th overall by the Sabres in 2013, captains the Saginaw Spirit. Locke is in his fourth season in the OHL. Although he missed several games earlier this season due to injury, he remains second on the Spirit in scoring, with 40 points in 31 games. His 17 goals are second on the team, while his 23 assists are fourth on the Spirit.
Joining Locke in Saginaw is another Sabres prospect, center Justin Kea. Kea was drafted by the Sabres in 2012 and, like Locke, is in his fourth OHL season. He has 16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points in 47 games this season. He’s also racked up 80 penalty minutes, third-most on the Spirit. Kea hasn’t played since January 24, missing the past four games for unspecified reasons.
Meanwhile, let’s head back to Canada to look at the other trio of Sabres prospects currently playing in the Ontario Hockey League.
Kick things off with right winger Justin Bailey, who plays for the Kitchener Rangers. Bailey is tied for the team lead in points; both he and rookie Nick Magyar have 36 points in 49 games each. Bailey’s put up 20 goals and 16 assists, including three power play goals. The 18-year-old was drafted by Buffalo with the 52nd overall pick in 2013 and is in his second season with the Rangers. He’s already matched his point total for last season, so it can only go up from here.
Finally, let’s look at a trio of defensemen.
Blueliner Brady Austin has been doing alright with the London Knights since being traded there earlier in the season. In total, he’s notched 21 points (6-15) and is a plus-35 on the season. He might manage to surpass his career high in points – 26, set back in 2011-12 with the Belleville Bulls.
Joining Austin in London is defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Since being returned to the OHL, Zadorov has 17 points in 19 games with the Knights. In his sophomore season so far, he’s got seven goals and 10 assists and is a plus-14. Three of his seven goals have come on the power play.
A new addition to the Sabres’ OHL core is defenseman Alex Lepkowski, who was loaned to the Oshawa Generals on January 10. Since then, Lepkowski has appeared in nine games with the Gens. Although he hasn’t notched a goal, he’s managed three assists and 14 penalty minutes.