Hey everyone, Sven again with another 31 in 31. Today is all about the Buffalo Sabres!

Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to 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.

Forwards
Jack Eichel – 67GP 25-39-64. Now that he has a bit more of a supporting cast, I believe Jack Eichel is poised to have an electrifying season. This Buffalo team has a lot of potential on paper, and if they are going to make some noise it will flow from the top line down through the lineup. Heck, with some good injury luck this could even be the year Eichel finally makes someone believe that he was “the best player in the 2015 draft”, don’t let McDavid hear that one though.

Sam Reinhart – 82GP 25-25-50. I drafted Sam Reinhart in the 12th round of my main league last year thinking he would have his breakout year. Though I was quite off in my speculation, he did have a hot finish to his 2017-18 campaign. If Reinhart receives first line minutes and plays with Eichel as he did to finish last year, this WILL be his breakout campaign. Look for him as a potential sleeper in your respective league.

Jeff Skinner – 82GP 24-25-49. Though Skinner has certainly regressed from his 63-point total two seasons ago, a change of scenery will certainly benefit the 26-year-old. I expect he can notch 55-60 points if he plays on Eichel’s line and receives some PP time, which is his predicted fate on DailyFaceoff. Certainly a solid pick in deeper leagues despite coming off an off-year.

Kyle Okposo – 76GP 15-29-44. Okposo showed signs of being able to bunch together some points in spurts, however these hot streaks were met with terrible cold streaks last season. Expect more of the same from the 2006 first-rounder, however he is a potential streamer to pick up a few assists.

Conor Sheary – 79GP 18-12-30. It is no secret that the majority of Sheary’s career high-notes have stemmed from playing on Pittsburgh’s top line with Sid the Kid. However, after a head-scratching 23-point regression from 2016 to 2017, a change of scenery may benefit the 26-year-old. Whether he is on the wing with Eichel or Mittelstadt, I take it Sheary will be able to chip in offensively, but don’t expect another 63-point campaign.

Tage Thompson – 41GP 3-6-9. Thompson’s rookie campaign with the Blues appeared to have its frustrations, as he never found his groove with the big club. However, he was able to chip in 18 points in 30 games with San Antonio in the AHL. Now, 6’5 centre that can play wing will look to find his game with a new team where there will be plenty of opportunity to succeed. It is important to note the fact that Thompson was a PP weapon in his days at UCONN in NCAA, setting up on the far dot similar to Stamkos. Keep your eye out for this sophomore to benefit from a fresh start.

Defence
Rasmus Ristolainen – 73GP 6-35-41. Similar to OEL, I believe Ristolainen will be able to chip in more offensively with a little bit of extra support on the back end. It seems as if the play of Scandella, Dahlin, McCabe and the rest of the gang improves, Risto won’t need to spend as much time in his own zone, thus having more time to create scoring chances. He is a safe pick as he is a minute muncher, however I would wait until you’re picking your second or even third defenceman.

Goalie
Carter Hutton – 32GP 2.09GAA 931SV%. Hutton signing as a starter could go one of two ways. He could excel out of the gate with the larger work load, similar to a Martin Jones or Cam Talbot. Inversely, he could crack under the pressure of being “the guy” or from too many starts right away similar to a Scott Darling. The way this Sabres season goes will be directly impacted by the play of Hutton. He has shown he can be “the guy”, outright taking the starter spot from Jake Allen in STL last season. However, can he be “the guy” for a full season? I would certainly gamble on Hutton as a #2 goalie selection for your fantasy team.

Rookies/Prospects
Rasmus Dahlin – SHL: 41GP 7-13-20. There is no question that Dahlin will be a franchise defenceman in the NHL. After going first overall in this past year’s draft and receiving comparisons to all-time greats like Lidstrom and Leetch, he certainly has some large expectations to live up to. If there is anyone that can transition seamlessly into the faster pace of the NHL, it’s this kid. He has shown his confidence and his ability to adapt in the past, and I think he will find his groove on Buffalo’s second D pairing this season. I would try and sneak him late in a regular draft, however if you are in a league requiring a rookie, I have my sights set on another Buffalo player.

Casey Mittelstadt – NCAA: 34GP 11-19-30. Since being drafted eighth overall in 2017, Mittelstadt has proven he can play at just about any level of competition. After posting nearly a point-per-game in NCAA and tallying 11 points in seven games at the WJC, Mittelstadt was called up by Buffalo for the final six games of the regular season, tallying five points. This is a small sample size, however I remember Brock Boeser putting up similar numbers after joining the Canucks for season’s end, and look how he turned out. Mittelstadt will be given every opportunity to find his groove with the Sabres, and I certainly expect big things. I would consider him one of the best rookies available for this fantasy season, and would consider drafting him late even in a non-rookie league.

Alex Nylander – AHL: 51GP 8-19-27. After being selected eighth overall a year before Mittelstadt, Nylander has not lived up to the hype. He has appeared in just seven games with the big club over two seasons, and showing no signs of consistency with Rochester in the AHL. He is an offensively gifted player, there is no doubt in that, however it is unlikely we will see him in the navy and yellow until he starts putting up consistent numbers in the AHL.

Rasmus Asplund – SHL: 50GP 8-20-28. The two-way centre that completes the Rasmus-Trifecta will look to start his first season in North America with Rochester in the AHL. What impresses me the most about this second rounder is his ability to create scoring opportunities. In the limited footage I have seen of him, he uses his speed to push the pace of play before finding an open teammate, and he has the smarts to find a soft spot or sneak back door for a shot. If he impresses in Rochester, I expect him to receive some minutes with the big club.