Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Buffalo Sabres have five left-wingers on the roster as listed by their website. One of them, Johan Larsson, has played a ton of center in the system dating back to when he was with the Rochester Americans, was their third-line center for the better part of the season last year and there's no reason to think that he'll be moving to the wing in the near future either. The left side of the Buffalo lineup includes one top-six/top-line LW in Evander Kane, a bottom-six left-winger in Marcus Foligno, energy winger Nicolas Deslauriers who is clinging to a fourth-line role and an enigma on the left side in Matt Moulson.
In light of the poor year that Moulson had, the drop-off on the depth chart from Kane to Foligno is significant with center Zemgus Girgensons placed in a top-six role but producing very little. Yett the consensus at the foot of Washington St. seems to be that the Sabres will fill the wings with converted centers while they take time to find and develop natural wingers in the system. It's a sound philosophy that will be used even more should Buffalo be able to land center Steven Stamkos via free agency as there will be even more center-to-wing shuffling.
In looking at the system as it stands right now, the high water mark for left wingers consists of one bottom-six projection and a bunch of question marks. Good thing Buffalo has centers who can convert to the wing.
Carrier was a part of the first deal Tim Murray made as new GM of the Buffalo Sabres. Goalie Ryan Miller was the key piece in the trade with St. Louis while one of the pieces coming back was Carrier.
The La Salle, Quebec native was drafted with the 57th pick in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Blues and chimes in at 6'1" 201 lbs. He's one of the "heavies" Murray was enamored with early on but Carrier has surprisingly good speed for his size and uses it to go full bore on the forecheck. Lest one would think he's simply a plugger, Carrier does have skills and upped his production last season. He went from 21 points (7+14) in 63 games his rookie year in Rochester to 30 points (13+17) in 53 games last season. But, there's the rub. Carrier has missed significant time due to injury because of his playing style.
That said, Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com/sabres.com has him ranked as the fifth best prospect in the Sabres system and Carrier looks to be a strong candidate to hit the NHL in a bottom-six role as a rugged, two-way player should he continue to progress the way he has so far and stay off IR.
I remember sitting with Baker at Sabres Development Camp talking about Catenacci and his speed. Unfortunately that at Dwyer Arena on the Niagara University Campus some five years ago.
To say it's been a struggle and a long journey for Catenacci would be an understatement. His points/game production has steadily increased from minimal to decent and late in the 2014-15 season it looked like he was finally going to breakout in Rochester. Last season was better and he finally got his shot with Buffalo for 11 games, but he failed to register a point.
Catenacci is a restricted free agent and whether the Sabres sign him or not is up in the air.
The cool part about drafting a player from Europe is that there's extra time for player development as a decision doesn't need to be made for an extra couple of years. The not so cool part is that the organization is far away and has little if any control over his development and/or said player may not feel inclined to travel overseas to play in the NHL.
And that may be where the Sabres and Gustav Possler are at right now.
Possler had a major impact the season after the Sabres drafted him while playing for MODO Hockey Ornskoldsvik of the Swedish Hockey League, the top league in Sweden. As a 19 year old playing against men, Possler had 15 points (8+7) in 22 games but was felled by a knee injury that may or may not have had an affect on the years that followed. In the last two seasons he's upped his point-total only slightly but it took him over twice as many games.
Being on one of the worst teams in the SHL hasn't helped either as MODO was relegated to tier-two level last season. Possler ended up signing a two-year deal with Djurgardens to keep him in the SHL but the Sabres will need to make a decision on Possler next year.
Baker's take, "What happens next is honestly unclear. He could be a serviceable AHL performer as soon as next year, but all signs point to him playing at least the first year of his new deal with DIF. The Sabres hold his signing rights for one more season, but Possler has to be dedicated to working his way up through the ranks. Some guys get comfortable with both professional and social life in their homeland, happy with the money they can make there. I'm not saying that Possler falls into this category, but we'll find out in due time how he sees himself as a professional hockey player."
Others: Max Willman (2014, 121st-overall); Jack Nevins (2013 FA, MTL)
Overview: That's about it on the left side but the same premise of moving a center to wing that the big club uses works in the system as well. Jean Dupuy is an example of that as he played left wing for Rochester last season. And don't discount a right-winger making the switch to the left side either.
Evan Rodrigues is a right-handed shot who played on his off-wing in college playing on Jack Eichel's line at Boston University. He's listed as a forward in many places, a right wing in some, a left wing in others. Fact is, the kid has game. It took him a while to figure out the AHL but he seems to have gotten it.
While talking with Amerks broadcaster Don Stevens, he mentioned how some players have difficulty adapting to the AHL because it's so helter-skelter, as in players oft-times aren't where they're supposed to be on the ice. A forward like Rodrigues who has plenty of vision and hockey sense expects a defender to do the logical thing but ends up doing something completely different and it can throw a player off. It's a weird scenario that actually makes sense.
What it comes down to on the left side is that Buffalo doesn't seem all that concerned about who's going to fill the left wing slots as they can be filled by a player whom ends up being described as a forward. Unless they have the opportunity to land Matthew Tkachuk at the draft, they probably won't reach for a winger even if it's ever so slightly and even though the pool on the left side is extremely thin.