Sunday, September 28, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--The Reserves

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz,com

Before we finish up with the roster, some quick notes, via Bill Hoppe of

--The Sabres sent winger Justin Bailey to his junior team, the Kitchener Rangers.

--Former Sabres' defenseman Henrik Tallinder is slated to hit the ice with Toronto this evening as he is on a tryout basis with the Leafs

--Sabres forward Tim Schaller, who was profiled here, will make his Sabres debut tonight. 'This is a dream come true,' Schaller said, 'I’ll bring my A game, that’s for sure.'

--Schaller, according to Hoppe, skated between Brian Flynn and Cody McCormick on one line

--The other lines were: Tyler Ennis/Matt Moulson/Drew Stafford; Cody Hodgson/Sam Reinhart/Brian Gionta; Marcus Foligno/Torrey Mitchell/Chris Stewart.

--The defensemen are: Jake McCabe, Andrej Meszaros, Tyler Myers, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mike Weber, Nikita Zadorov.

Thank you, Mr. Hoppe.

And onward we go.

Probably the most difficult decision when it came to building the roster was what to do with Johan Larsson. The easiest thing to do would be to send him Rochester in that he's waiver-exempt.

Larsson has been a real professional throughout his stint in North America. Since coming over from his native Sweden he's played in 120 AHL games over the course of the last two seasons, and in those two seasons he did what he's always done, progress as a hockey player.

In his first AHL season, one that was split between Houston (MIN) and Rochester, he scored 16 goals in 69 games and scored at a .60 ppg pace. Last year he played 51 games exclusively with the Amerks scoring 15 goals and 41 points or a .80 ppg pace.

It was the same for him in Sweden. His first year in Swedish Junior he scored 4 goals in 33 games, the next season, 15 in 40 games and the following season six goals in 10 games before he was promoted to the next level. He produced four goals in 43 games his first season with Byrnas, then followed that up with 12 goals in 49 games the next season.

That's a trend.

Larsson is one of my favorite players coming up the system right now. He stands at 5'11" and weighs in at 206 lbs and he uses every bit of that to completely annoy the opposition. As you watch one of his games unfold, one minute he'll be battling and skating away, and the next thing you know an opposition player is coming after him.

I'd asked long time Amerks announcer Don Stevens just what Larsson did that would anger the opposition. "First of all, he doesn't quit," replied Stevens. "He just goes, goes, goes until somebody has to try and stop him somehow.

"It's like he turns the other team to focusing upon him because he's a non-stop kind of player."

Stevens is quick to point out that at the age of 22, Larsson's a pretty young player, "It's hard to believe [he's that young] because he plays like he's 26 or 27 years old."

Kevin Oklobzija, who follows the Amerks for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, echoed Stevens' sentiments on Larsson, "He works and just hounds the puck," said Oklobzija. "I don't think he'll be a big scorer in Buffalo," he continued, "but he's a third-line guy who can play that checking role, kill penalties and do a lot of things that aren't glamorous, but a team needs."

Where Larsson starts this season just might be dependent upon what the team does with 2014 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart. Up to this point Reinhart has shown glimpses of what he has to offer, but he's yet to hit the scoresheet in four Traverse City games and two preseason games. Tonight will provide a golden opportunity for that as he's slated to be between Cody Hodgson and Brian Gionta.

Should Reinhart stick with the club into the season, Larsson might be the one who gets sent down as he does not need to clear waivers. If he does get sent down, being the pro that he is, he'll probably just continue to progress and make sure that the next opportunity in Buffalo will be the end of his AHL career.

I had a similar problem with defenseman Mike Weber and where to place him.

Yeah, Weber's been much maligned, and the criticism thrown his way is at least somewhat warranted. But there's something to be said of a guy with the stick-to-itiveness that he's shown his entire career. Lord knows he isn't the most talented player on the team, but he's got a heart the size of the jumbotron and he's willing to do anything for the team.

Perhaps he hit his peak back in 2011 during the playoffs when he used Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo as a ragdoll anytime he came near Ryan Miller. Overall the game was a bit different back then and Weber was in a bottom-pairing role facing a team that was known to be, shall we say, somewhat aggressive. The Sabres that year actually out-muscled the Flyers to the point that it actually got some press, and Weber was a big part of that.

But times are changing.

I like Mike. I think at least for this season he has a mean streak and provides physicality that no other Sabres d-man can provide. But, he shouldn't be considered anything more than a bottom-pairing/depth d-man at this point. In those few short years since that Flyers' playoff series, the game of hockey seems to have hit another gear, and Weber's having a hard time keeping up.

One thing he can also supply is leadership--not because of his skill, but because of the work he's done and continues to do trying to overcome his lack of skill.

Finally, there's forward Torrey Mitchell, who came over in the trade of Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick to Minnesota in March.

Mitchell looks to have been a throw-in in that deal, the type of depth player that the Wild could easily part with for a trade-deadline/rental-type deal. At one point after signing a three year contract in July, 2012, Mitchell found himself with the San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL less than six months later.

The 5'11" hard-nosed forward can provide quality depth on this team while adding $1.9M of salary to the Sabres payroll, which is something to consider as the team sits a little above the NHL salary cap floor.

All-in-all the Buffalo Sabres are in the very early stages of building for the future while still in the process of an organizational reset. Some of the vets on the roster may be considered placeholders and others are being given an opportunity yet all of them are here to make sure the foundation of the future is a solid, hard-working one.

Also this year where every player is being evaluated as to where they might fit in down the road, vets and youngins alike. During this reset, any prospects or vets not ready for prime time should and will be sent to their respective leagues to continue their development.

It might just be the best way to approach what's sure to be a trying season.

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Matt Moulson/C, Tyler Ennis/RW, Drew Stafford
Cody Hodgson/Zemgus Girgensons/Brian Gionta
Brian Flynn/Marcus Foligno/Chris Stewart
Nicolas Deslauriers/Cody McCormick/Patrick Kaleta
Johan Larsson/Torrey Mitchell

LHD, Josh Gorges/RHD, Tyler Myers
Andre Benoit/Rasmus Ristolainen
Andrej Meszaros/Mark Pysyk
Mike Weber

Goalies--Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth

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