Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-10-2017
23 yrs. old
6'1" 209 lbs.
2012, 44th overall
Career stats: 167 games | 7 goals | 28 assists | 35 points | -4
It's pretty clear that when Buffalo GM Jason Botterill made the deal for Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella that he was trading for Rasmus Ristolainen's partner on the top pairing. Although Scandella wasn't logging those minutes with the Wild, there's the belief that he will be able to step up his game and help anchor the Sabres blueline.
Ristolainen has been the Sabres workhorse the last two seasons and it showed as signs of the wear and tear became visible in his overall game. Along the way, Buffalo's top defenseman was paired with a number of players and the one he had the most success with was 23 yr. old Jake McCabe. The duo anchored the Sabres defense for most of the last season.
Automatically putting Scandella on the top-pairing may prove to be a disservice to McCabe as training camp and the preseason will sort things out, but having him on the second pairing will certainly help solidify the top four should things be laid out as such.
McCabe has taken the long, steady road to a spot in that top-four group. The Eau Claire, Wisconsin native spent three years in his home state playing four the Wisconsin Badgers before leaving for the pros. He got and a taste for the NHL with a seven-game stint in Buffalo at the end of the 2013-14 season and left Boston's Daneil Paille his calling card:
After spending all but one game in the 2014-15 season plying his trade in Rochester, McCabe would play one game for the Amerks the following season before being called up to Buffalo for good. At 6'0" 214 lbs. he always had a pro-ready frame but it took a while for his skills and hockey smarts to catch up to the pro game. McCabe isn't without faults and he's had his fair share of blunders, but one of the things he's always been able to do is bounce back from a mistake and rarely does it happen again.
Former Sabres coach Dan Bylsma had McCabe on the second pairing with Zach Bogosian in 2015-16 and the rookie lead the team with a plus-six rating while averaging 19:07 minutes/game. Last season that time was upped to 20:42 min./gm and he finished a minus-7 against much stiffer competition while playin on the top pair.
It would seem as if we're starting to find a sweet spot for his ice-time and a more well-defined slot in the d-corps, although he still has upside. McCabe will continue to learn and grow and tighten his defensive game but we shouldn't discount offensive upside, especially with new coach Phil Housley taking the reigns of the team.
McCabe has a knack for sneaking in from the point and finding that open seem in the slot as shown here in Team USA vs. Team Canada at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia:
(Thank You, BigHockeyMoments)
That was the opening goal of the semi-final matchup that propelled Team USA past the rival Canadians and into the final where they won gold. McCabe was the captain of that team and the coach was Housley.
McCabe has continued to show that knack for finding open space at the NHL-level but has been unable to put the puck in the net with any consistency. He has seven goals in 167 career games with a shooting percentage of 4.9%.
Regardless of his offensive output to this point in his still young NHL career, McCabe has gotten a good handle on the speed of the NHL and is solid in his zone, which seemed to be his major area of focus these first few seasons. He's got an old-school mentality and doesn't say a lot, preferring to let his play speak for him. And, McCabe still has that calling card, something he laid on Winnipeg Jets star winger Patrick Laine back in early January:
(Thank you, Sportsnet)
Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:
LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
G, Robin Lehner
Follow me on twitter @boosbuzzsabres