Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Justin Bailey

Published by, 5-22-2018

Forward--Justin Bailey
DOB:  July 1, 1995 (Age, 22)
Draft:  2013, 2nd round (52nd-overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  November 2, 2014, 3yrs./$2,682,500 (1 yr. entry-level slide)
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  12 games played | 3 goals | 1 assist | 4 points | -2 | 11:17 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  52 games | 5 goals | 3 assists | 8 points | -4 | 10:56 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  Although only 22 yrs. old, the big powerforward with impressive skating ability he seems to have learned about all he can from the minors with 81 points (43+38) in 122 AHL games.

[Bailey] made an impression on the penalty kill during preseason which is something that helped separate him from other roster-bubble players. It's a change in philosophy short-handed that may have given him an in to the Sabres roster. According to Bailey, the coaches want more aggressiveness on the kill. "I'm a big guy and I have a long reach with my stick," he told the gathered media this weekend, "and one of my best assets is my legs, so whether it's a loose puck or a rebound or anything like that they want us to be going hard and physical at the guy."

He's smart enough to realize that if the PK is his ticket to the big club, than so be it.

What we wrote mid-season:  Bailey impressed early in his call-up but faded. He has all the tools which includes size and speed, and he's shown he can score at the AHL-level, but he hasn't been able to do it consistently at the NHL-level. The 22-yr. old Bailey will probably have outgrown the AHL come next season and it's time for him to put up or shut up. Would make for a very interesting addition in a trade for an upper-level player.

Impressions on his play this year:  Bailey was drafted as a right winger out of Kitchener in the OHL but was eventually moved to the left side as the Sabres organization found themselves bereft of left wingers. He was also looked at as a potential top-six/top-nine powerforward but as he's plied his trade at the pro level, expectations have been pared back for him as his production-level hasn't hit those parameters.

Bailey has mad speed and at 6'3" 210 lbs. has intimidating size that he uses, somewhat. And there's the rub. He, like Hudson Fasching and Nicholas Baptiste, among others, has the tendency to come on strong when called up but fade a couple games later as they depart from the qualities they were drafted for. Why that's been happening frequently with Sabres players is hard to say. Players have the tendency to show their strengths when called up as they're full of adrenaline, but perhaps it's not all their fault for the drop off. The Sabres of the past five seasons have struggled even when they weren't tanking and perhaps the atmosphere isn't conducive to bringing out the best in their prospects on a consistent basis.

Regardless of the possible reasons above, Bailey needs to get the job done this season. It's assumed that Buffalo will offer him a bridge deal of one maybe two years and direct Bailey's focus in a bottom-six/fourth line defense/penalty kill role. His days as a scoring prospect are waning and he'll need to do something with the big club as he's out of waiver options. That said, he still has a solid set of skills and that speed/quickness will get him to open areas but in order to move up from what looks like a designated defensive role, Bailey will need to produce, something he hasn't done to the fullest as of yet.

Questions moving forward:  What kind of term are we looking at? How much will he embrace that defensive role? Can he contribute offensively in that role, say 10 goals 10 assists? Will he use his speed and strength more often? Who's going to guide him at the NHL-level?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

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