The Buffalo Sabres road trip will be the first one for several young members of the Blue and Gold, and it may determine their futures.
The Buffalo Sabres have three young players whose futures could be sorted out by the end of this road trip. Each rookie listed below has looked good at times, but they have also had some downers, which is to be expected.
Either way, look for the Blue and Gold to reach or at least come close to carving out a verdict by the time the Sabres return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins.
3 Buffalo Sabres players whose immediate futures are on the line
1 – Zach Benson, F
Zach Benson has three more games to show us he can withstand the demands of the NHL, and he’s looked okay so far. His tenacity has been on display in nearly every contest, and he’s even made some big plays with the puck, drawing in opponents, and creating open passing lanes.
The downside is that he’s so undersized, he’s not outmuscling anyone in this league and that won’t be the case for a while. However, if the Blue and Gold feel Benson can help this team win in 2023-24 and serve them well in the top-six, he’s sticking around.
Prediction: Sticks around UNLESS the Sabres sign Patrick Kane.
2 – Ryan Johnson, D
Of the three players listed, Ryan Johnson is the one who will most likely stay in town. He should have made the Sabres lineup out of camp, but hey, better late than never, right? Johnson has also shown that he can play on the top-four, so unless he struggles through three horrific outings this weekend and on Wednesday, he’s a Sabre.
In practice this past week, we saw Johnson pairing with Owen Power, and that could be a fun unit if we see them in a game during the road trip. Regardless of where Johnson lines up, however, expect him to keep impressing the Sabres.
Prediction: Sticks around.
3 – Devon Levi, G
Devon Levi hasn’t taken the league by storm, but let’s be honest: How many goaltenders making the direct jump from the NCAA to the NHL can say that? Very few, and Levi is the likely odd man out in the three-goaltender rotation. Not because his numbers have been pedestrian at some times (he HAS had his moments), but because the Buffalo Sabres won’t need to place him on waivers to put him in Rochester.
However, if Levi has a game like the one he had in Boston during this road trip, in which he may start one of the three games if he’s not allocated to Rochester sooner than that, then he may find himself in an Amerks uniform. Once again, this isn’t as much about his numbers as it is about him going there to make room for another on the 23-man roster.
Prediction: Goes to Rochester.