Buffalo Sabres PSA: Don’t Fall in Love with Prospects


For starters, let’s do a little exercise. 

Go to Hockey’s Future and take a look at the Buffalo Sabres prospect lineup, including this year’s draft picks. Using those lists, try to come up with a lineup that, at any time in the future, about which you’d feel comfortable saying most, if not all, of its players will be NHL ready. 

If you include the young veterans signed to five more years in Tyler Myers, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennisas well as Matt Moulson, who is also on a five-year deala problem starts to materialize.

There isn’t enough room for everyone.

Construct the list any which way you wantyou will invariably omit a player about whom someone somewhere is excited. 

This, of course, is only a “problem” in the sense that some roster decisions are on the horizon for Buffalo general manager Tim Murray, but that point deserves some extra attention given the Sabres’ flush prospect situation. 

To put it simply, not every member of this highly touted group of prospects will suit up for the Sabresand that’s a good thing. 

By now you’ve heard how good the Sabres’ cupboard is. Hockey’s Future has Buffalo ranked first in its organizational rankings. Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated also has them first. Many more publications that rank prospects will feature Buffalo at or near the top in the coming months. 

But a good prospect pool does not guarantee success in the NHL. It’s certainly a great asset, but it does not ensure the worst-to-first turnaround the Sabres are trying to pull off. 

Instead, Murray will likely use a number of the Sabres’ prospects in any number of trades to add NHL-ready talent to the team, including deals along the line of the Dallas Stars‘ trade for Tyler Seguin last summer. 

Murray has not played down the fact that he’d like to add young, NHL-ready talent to his team in the very near future. You can’t force a blockbuster trade, but Murray and the Sabres are able to at least pry the door open with the trade chips the Sabres hold. 

Some prospects, though, are as untouchable as you can get. Names like Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov should be Buffalo cornerstones for a long time, but others may not have the same shot. 

A prime example may be J.T. Compher

Compher‘s stock has been skyrocketing since the Sabres took him in the second round in the 2013 NHL Draft. It started with an excellent freshman season at the University of Michigan in which he scored 31 points in 35 games and won the Big 10 Freshman of the Year award.

Now, after missing out on skating for the United States in the the 2014 World Junior Championships due to a foot injury, Compher has begun to make the most of his second chance to make the team in 2015. Before sustaining a hand injury that ended his U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp, Compher impressed in scrimmages by scoring and playing a very physical game. 

Those who were watching took notice of Compher‘s play and some, including NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman, believe he will be the second Sabres prospect in three years (Jake McCabe in 2013) to wear the captain’s “C” for the United States in the World Juniors.

When you look at that in summary form, it’s not hard to fathom other GMs fighting at the chance to acquire a guy like Compher. It’s a position Murray should be very happy he’s in. 

This is not to advocate for a Compher trade: The kid can be, and probably will be, a very good Buffalo Sabre. He, conservatively, will be a very good top-nine forward, and he has shown that a top-six landing spot is certainly possible.  

The issue is that Compher is just the most recent example of a Sabres prospect who has impressed the league as a whole and a player who would carry some weight as a trade chip.

Are you pulling a Seguin-like trade with him as the centerpiece? Probably not, but he’d be an attractive piece to go along with some others. 

But even if you were to assume there was no trade to be made, the prospect depth chart is much deeper than an NHL roster can accommodate as it stands now, never mind the three first-rounders the Sabres will add in 2015. 

Of course, there will be the players who just don’t cut it and couldn’t crack the lineup, anyway, but with the amount of talent the Sabres have in the cupboard, it’s hard to imagine enough prospects going that route to make this a non-issue. 

But as the season gets closer to starting and good players begin to find themselves caught up in trade rumors, don’t be surprised to see the Sabres linked to many, if not all of them, given their situation. A rebuilding team not only would welcome an infusion of young, established talent, but would possess attractive assets in the form of prospects and picks to make such a trade happen. 

So, for now, it seems the Sabres depth chart, especially in the prospect ranks, will be in flux for the next couple of seasons with guys coming in and heading out.

That means it’s highly likely that a player who’s made a name for himself with Sabres fans will suit up for another team sooner rather than later, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

All you can do is sit back and watch Tim Murray do his thing, which he has done quite well up to this point. 

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all offseason: @SwordPlay18

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