Former first-overall pick paces Tier II in the Top 24 and under Sabres of 2024

One player dramatically disappointed a contingent of Sabres fans in 2023-24, but they nonetheless achieved and deserved a top-five ranking.
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The Buffalo Sabres have a miscellaneous bunch of players in Tier II who many may have never believed would comprise such a group when the 2023-24 season started back in October. By far, this is one of the more mysterious units out there because it involves one player who, just 13 months ago, we thought might never sign with the organization. 

Another one listed wasn’t even part of the system when the season began, and a third player is someone who we all may have thought would have risen into the Tier I ranks. Actually, there are two mentioned in this piece that may have ended between a No. 1 and No. 4 ranking had they lived up to their expectations. 

But they also didn’t perform poorly enough to backslide too much, even if those ranked in Tier I either made major leaps or didn’t fall backward so much that they dropped into the No. 5 through No. 8 rankings. Speaking of No. 8, who snagged the bottom spot in Tier II, and who is leading the pack and raring to prove they belong in the top four?

8: Ryan Johnson, D/Rochester/Sabres

Scoring goals is how you win hockey games, and unfortunately, Ryan Johnson had zero despite playing in 41 NHL games. But Johnson’s niche isn’t goal-scoring, and you can even argue that he would still make an impact - whether in the AHL with the Amerks or in the NHL with the Sabres - if he scored zero total points, thanks to the way he excels in about every stat that isn’t shown in the box score. 

There is a chance Johnson never puts up over 25 points in a single season in the foreseeable future, but it shouldn’t matter. If he continually helps the team score goals by retrieving the puck to set the foundation for sequences that will make their way into the offensive zone, he’s doing his job, and the Sabres at least have a chance to score. 

If there is one player in these rankings who won’t be in Rochester next season, barring an unforeseen setback over the summer or in camp, it’s one of the organization’s most exciting prospects. Sure, there is one player splitting time between Buffalo and Rochester, ranked ahead of Johnson, but they just have a little more upside in these 24 and under rankings.