A way too early projection of the Sabres 2024-25 lines and pairings

The Buffalo Sabres lines and pairings will look drastically different to kick off the 2024-25 season than they did just one short year ago, so what’s new?
Buffalo Sabres v Florida Panthers
Buffalo Sabres v Florida Panthers / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

The Buffalo Sabres have a bit of a new look this season, something that we can say was completed when they made a decent trade for Ryan McLeod the other day. Following the McLeod trade, it got me thinking, “What will the Sabres lineup look like this season when they ultimately take the ice?”

That led me to conduct a small but fun exercise, one of a few, might I add, of predicting who will predominantly play where in 2024-25. You may see a few surprises listed below, but remember, this is a very rough outline subject to change once we see the team in action for real when the preseason begins. 

But we all need a starting point, so check out what I came up with earlier today and my justifications for where I put each forward, blueliner, and goaltender. 

The bottom-six looks very different from what it did last season

  • Zach Benson - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
  • JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn
  • Jason Zucker - Ryan McLeod - Jordan Greenway
  • Sam Lafferty - Peyton Krebs - Beck Malenstyn
  • Nicolas Aube-Kubel 

While Jason Zucker could end up with a spot on the top-six, Zach Benson’s surge last season and the fact he saw some time with the first line were the two factors that motivated me to peg him in there. The “Kid Line” saw no change, and why should it at this point? 

As you can see, Zucker and most of the newcomers at forward are on the revamped lower lines, with Ryan McLeod taking center and Jordan Greenway serving as the only returning player to snag a spot on the checking line. The fourth line looks promising, with a trio of physical forwards ready to invoke some much-needed edge the Sabres have lacked for a while. 

Lots of youth on the blue line, as predicted

  • Rasmus Dahlin - Mattias Samuelsson
  • Owen Power - Bowen Byram
  • Connor Clifton - Ryan Johnson
  • Henri Jokiharju

This one was the ultimate chess game, as it seemed like the pairings changed far too often last season. But we also know how effective Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson are up front when the two are healthy - especially Samuelsson - so they’re getting the nod. 

Owen Power and Bowen Byram are potential-laden blueliners who could form a terrific tandem if given time to develop alongside one another, while Connor Clifton provides a strong veteran presence alongside Ryan Johnson. Henri Jokiharju will be returning and will serve the team well as a seventh defenseman playing a part-time schedule in 2204-25. 

I wouldn’t expect this three-goaltender rotation to last

  • Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
  • Devon Levi 
  • James Reimer

While I doubt a three-goaltender rotation will be the ultimate answer here, I’m not making any bold predictions on a prospect like Jiri Kulich or Isak Rosen making the big club just yet. That said, we’re getting a goaltending trio in the “way too early” projection, and one that Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will lead. 

It’s still possible Devon Levi ends up back in Rochester with James Reimer on board, but it’s likelier we’ll see Levi reach the point in his development that will make him a true 1B this season. Meanwhile, Reimer will spend most of his days in the press box, barring an injury to Luukkonen or Levi. 

This is the projection most likely to change as the season draws nearer; as I’ve said before that Reimer could wind up as organizational depth in 2024-25. This would become especially true if someone like Jiri Kulich or Isak Rosen played well enough in camp and in the preseason to snag a spot in the Sabres lineup.