The Buffalo Sabres have a few high profile defensemen, but that has allowed one player to fly under the radar and still be very good this season, and that’s Jake McCabe.
Jake McCabe was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round of the 2012 NHL draft and has worked his way up to being one of the top defenders on the blue line. While it may have gone a bit unnoticed to the casual fan, or other teams, Jake McCabe is putting up some good numbers due to some stellar play at both ends of the ice.
Last season, McCabe was rotated around the defensive lineup from the first to third pairing, but one thing in particular seemed to happen in that time, he meshed well and played some of his best hockey alongside current partner Rasmus Ristolainen. Coach Phil Housley seemed to have taken note of this success and put it in his back pocket for this season, as McCabe has become a staple next to Ristolainen.
Jake McCabe is not known for his offensive flair, or big flashy plays. He plays defense responsibly, covers up holes, jumps into a rush when optimal, and throw big hits at key times. When playing with a defenseman like Rasmus Ristolainen, he must always be aware of the entire ice, as Ristolainen is prone to giveaways and taking the puck from behind his own net to the opponents.
McCabe has a respectable 9 points this season, which is tied for the team lead by defensemen, and it puts him on pace for some of the best offensive numbers of his career.
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Here’s where I’m going to reminisce a little bit. I remember when Buffalo picked Jake McCabe in 2012 and I thought that we had found ourselves a future key defender. He was solidly built, hard working, and overall responsible in his own end of the ice. I knew it wouldn’t be immediately that he would find his way to the NHL, but when the day finally came that he cracked the lineup, I thought to myself, “It’s showtime.” He was one of my favorite prospects at that time (my favorite was Mikhail Grigorenko at that time *slams head against the wall*) and I am so glad that he has turned into the player he is today.
McCabe has a very unnoticeable presence on the ice, but I mean that in the best way possible. He makes the little plays that other players don’t seem to do all of the time, and he moves the puck efficiently and with a purpose. It’s things like these that make him dangerous when he decides to step up into the rush and make an offensive play.
The best thing about McCabe though is his hitting ability. Hands down this is the greatest asset to his game, and he puts it on display at least once per game when he steps into an opposing player for a big hit that gets the crowd going, or gets under the skin of the opposing team. He doesn’t throw dirty hits, he throws big, hard checks that really echo throughout the rink. For instance, that one time he stepped up on star Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine:
While the hit did result in an injury to Laine, it is just one of the examples of the power behind McCabes checking ability. Keep in mind the size differential in that collision. Jake McCabe stands 6’1, 206lbs, while Laine stands 6’5, 210lbs at that time. Thats a big difference to make up, and he got the better of Laine while he was barely moving. It was an impressive hit to watch, and one that really got him some publicity.
While Jake McCabe won’t be the player that is the face of the defense in years to come, he needs to be a regular face on that blue line. His style of play perfectly compliments Ristolainen, and provides a steady hand in pressure situations; something the Buffalo Sabres defense has lacked in many recent years.
How do other fans feel about Jake McCabe and his play? Let us know in the Comments!