Hey guys! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2019-20 fantasy hockey season. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to streamers, deeper league holds, even to rookie-eligible prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.

Last year my previews went alphabetically, but this year we’re going to go division-by-division, starting with the top team. On our 21st stop on the 31 in 31 tour, we’re shuffling off to Buffalo to talk about the Sabres! 50 years of existence for the Sabres, and what a time it should be to be rooting for them. With some interesting offseason moves to add some much-needed depth, will this be the year Buffalo claws for a wildcard spot?

SURE-FIRE STUDS: Jack Eichel (77GP 28-54-82)

Eich-Daddy keeps getting better every year. A full 82 games for him and his line mates should make for a nice point bump from last season. I would be very happy landing Eichel in the 2nd round.

SVEN’S SLEEPER: Casey Mittelstadt (77GP 12-13-25)

Mittelstadt had some huge expectations coming in last season after his 2017-18 audition with the Sabres (6GP 1-4-5). That being said, he has a full NHL season under his belt and I don’t think there’s anywhere for him to go but up. With no one barking up his tree to get the #2C spot, he should continue to grow and put together a nice season. I’m hoping he sneaks in some PP time to give him legitimate sleeper cred, but until then, he’s a nice bounce-back that I would take a stab at in deep leagues.

HOLDS: Sam Reinhart (82GP 22-43-65), Jeff Skinner (82GP 40-23-63), Rasmus Dahlin (82GP 9-35-44), Rasmus Ristolainen (78GP 5-38-43)

Reinhart is a great mid-round option provided that he plays on that top line. Skinner’s chemistry with Eichel resulted in a new career high in goals. Now that the man is paid, he has to maintain this scoring rate. I don’t see him getting back to 40 tucks, but a little bump in assists should make for about the same point total. We will see no Sophomore Slump from Dahlin… Perhaps even a Sophomore Bump! I think he will get the nod at #1PP in favour of Risto, resulting in more scoring opportunities for the Calder Finalist. Speaking of Risto, it’s hard to consider him a hold given the current landscape of this D corps. That being said, he’s been pretty consistent point-wise these past four seasons and he’s an absolute even-strength horse. I’m going to hold off on him, and we’ll get more into why with the streamers section.

STREAMERS: Jimmy Vesey (81GP 17-18-35), Marcus Johansson (58GP 13-17-30), Brandon Montour (82GP 8-27-35)

The once coveted college free agent has found himself with a fresh start on a new team, and if he impresses early I like his chances to earn a real nice role with this Sabres squad. If they look to spread out the talent on the top line, look for Vesey to sneak on there. Johansson’s stats don’t exactly jump off the page, but he played phenomenal during the Bruins’ playoff run. If he gels with the right line mates, he could put together a nice little season for himself. Now we get to why holding Risto is questionable. The Sabres have recently acquired both Montour AND Colin Miller – in other words, two offensive RHD that don’t necessarily need big minutes to put up points. They will both likely get a crack at PP time, and with Dahlin likely being pushed to be the top guy, this is just a log jam I’m going to stay away from.

Although Henri Jokiharju no longer qualifies as an NHL rookie, he is a prospect worth noting for the Sabres. After they dealt Willy Nylander’s late-blooming brother Alex to the Blackhawks in exchange for Jokiharju, I’m really not sure what their plan with him will be this season. With too many capable NHL defencemen already up with the big club, and much older prospects like Brandon Hickey and Lawrence Pilut grinding it out in Rochester (AHL), it is more than likely Jokiharju won’t be forced to jump up to the NHL, despite looking ready last season.

PROSPECT PIPELINE: Dylan Cozens (WHL: 68GP 34-50-84)

The Sabres seventh overall pick in the most recent draft will head back to Lethbridge (WHL) for his third season. 50 assists as a WHL sophomore is no joke, and the Sabres likely see his high-end talent fitting in well a couple years down the road. I’ll be sure to tune in more to Cozens’ game if he cracks the WJC roster for Team Canada.

Victor Olofsson (AHL: 66GP 30-33-63)

Alright, Dailyfaceoff has this guy listed as #1RW with Eichel and Skinner so I’m gonna do some digging. After three decent seasons in the SHL, this 2014 seventh rounder had a very impressive first AHL season for Rochester. Though I’m not sure if Olofsson will crack the lineup over the log jam of bottom-six, mid-twenty-year-old Sabres forwards, he’s definitely a prospect worth watching this season.

Editor’s Note: Oloffson will definitely be making the Sabres lineup and almost certainly in the top six and on the first power play unit.  That’s why he’s my favorite late round target, as mentioned in my post earlier this week.

Arttu Ruotsalainen (Liiga: 59GP 21-21-42)

Much like Olofsson, Ruotsalainen will head to the AHL after getting a few European league seasons under his belt playing against men. Buffalo actually signed the 21-year-old straight out of Europe, so they are not too concerned with how quickly he develops. He should be able to put together a solid season in Rochester (AHL) while he transitions to the North American game and lifestyle.

  1. Ian says:
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    Thanks for your work Sven! Need wisdom here.
    I draft tomorrow and got 1st pick. Took over a bottom feeder team. 12 team keeper forever (regular) (4 defense).
    My keepers are
    Aho Larkin Huberdeau Keller Meier Ehlers
    Josi Chabot
    Grubauer Saros.
    I’m OK with rebuilding for a couple of years. Go upside I guess and hope I pick the next Auston Matthews or Karlsson.
    Some upside players available are
    Jack Hughes
    Kaapo Kakko
    Filip Zadina
    Cale Makar
    Quinn Hughes
    Just wondering what you would do given the 1st pick. I have gut feeling for Makar but I just don’t know. Maybe if Makar’s 1st, who should my next target be? Any wisdom appreciated Sven. Thanks!!

    • Sven

      Sven says:
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      Looking decent for a bottom-feeder. You’ve got some players to work with!

      I think if you’re looking immediate impact I’d go Kakko or Makar. Those two guys will have the largest roles and have the best offensive opportunities Year 1. I’ve watched Hughes play a good chunk this pre-season and he looks ready to do some absolutely silly things with the puck, but Centre is a much harder position to excel with early on given the two-way responsibility.

      As for other targets, it’s tough given it’s a 12-teamer with a ton of keepers. Guys like Hintz, Kase, and Robert Thomas may be available to bolster your offence if you invest in your D with Makar. As for D, Dante Fabbro has been flying under everyone’s radar but it looks like he’ll have a top-four role early on. A guy like Devon Toews wouldn’t be a bad look either.

      For the future, I like your goaltending situation. Blackwood or Demko might be worth a look, or Hart if you’re lucky.

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