Sunday, October 27, 2013

No player on the 2-10-1 Buffalo Sabres should be deemed untouchable. But...

there are a group of youngins that will constitute the future of the Sabres and are about as close as you can get.

21 yr. old defenseman Mark Pysyk is one. He has the look of a top-four, possible top-pairing d-man, is smart and steady in his zone and looks like a future leader on the team.

Another 21 yr.old rookie, Johan Larsson, has smarts, grit, and plays a solid, edgy two-way game. He may not have the top-end skills to be a top-six contributor, but he should be able to contribute in a number of ways in the top-nine.

Those are two good building blocks.

And there are a few teenagers that look to be a part of the "new core" going forward as well.

Zemgus Girgensons played in the AHL last season. His hard work and hockey sense allowed him to ramp up as the season went on and was deemed by his coach as the best player on the ice in the Amerks playoff loss to the Toronto Marlies last season. He had three goals in three games in that series (Larsson assisted on all three.)

Girgensons, "The Latvian Locomotive," is playing a strong game in his first taste of the NHL. He's doing what he did last year--keeping his legs moving and soaking up every aspect of the pro game. He has an aire about him, plays the game the way it was meant to be played and oozes leadership qualities. He's 19.

Two 18 yr. olds, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, were drafted this year and are getting a good taste of playing defense in the NHL.

Ristolainen had played the last two seasons overseas against men in the Finnish Elite League and was deemed the most NHL-ready defenseman not named Seth Jones at the 2013 Draft. His is a smooth, polished game with a bit of an edge and he needed all of that steadiness being paired early with Mike Weber earlier this sesaon. He's been given a good dose of responsibility and has responded well save for some typical rookie mistakes.

Zadorov is quickly becoming a fan favorite because he is one physical S.O.B. And he has some offensive acumen as well. Although he finds himself out of position going for the big hit right now, it's expected he'll refine that as he learns the pro game. In addition, and maybe more important than his on-ice play, he has an infectious, child-like demeanor that's a breath of fresh air for the Sabres.

Another teenager, Mikhail Grigorenko, got off to a slow start last season being caught in the morass that was the 2012-13 Sabres. And he got off to a slow start this season as he bounced from line to line. "Grigo" recently bottomed out on the fourth line and seems to be climbing up the ladder. In the last two games he's been shifted to wing in a top-nine role and it looks as if it he has some life in him.

All but Larsson were drafted by Buffalo in the first round. Larsson was a second round pick of the Minnesota Wild.

Joel Armia is with the Sabres as his broken hand heals. The 20 yr. old RW just came to North America this year from Finland and was a first-round pick in 2011. The book on him is that of a big, talented winger with sniper skills and a wicked wrister. It looks as if he'll get some time with the Sabres, but will probably end up in Rochester getting a good taste of the North American pro game.

Marcus Foligno is not a first-round pick, but he is the elder statesman of this "new core" group and looks to be an integral piece of the future.

Unlike the others, he was drafted in the fourth round, pretty much as a favor to an all-time Sabres-favorite, his father Mike Foligno.

A big, strong, gritty winger, Foligno is logging top-six minutes. He lost his way after an impressive 2012 spring for the Sabres when he scored 13 points in 14 games giving him a false sense of being the reincarnation of John LeClair. He's back down to earth playing a rugged game, scoring at a .60 pts./game clip and contributing on a nightly basis.

As his draft position would indicate, he is not a player that will succeed on talent alone. It's how he plays the game, his hard work and willingness to do whatever's necessary on the ice that makes him so important to the team. He sets a good example of how to play the game squeezing every ounce of talent he can from his game.

Over the next two drafts the Sabres are intent upon adding more to this group. They have two first-round and five second-round picks as of right now. And more will be on the way as they move the likes of Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller.

The Sabres are intent upon rebuilding with as many first and second round picks as they can horde and this year should they finish near the bottom of the league, they'll be adding a top-three pick to the process. Hopefully adding top-notch quality to the mix of 10 present first-rounders.

Other than the group above, and maybe Cody Hodgson who was just signed long-term, anyone on the Sabres should be available for the right price.

Or if you're Hank Tallinder, any price.

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