Instead of bombarding you with an article longer than a CVS receipt, I’ve decided to take five players per day at random and give them a goal (or two) for this upcoming season.
I do want to point out that these aren’t my only goals for the player. They vary from rather vague to oddly specific and mostly reflect my first reaction when looking at the name.
The plan is to follow up to see how well these players achieved these goals in my eyes. I also plan on whiffing mightily of some of these, but this is to get the mind back to hockey and what I’d like to see over the course of the season.
There are some players that are technically in the Sabres organization still, but I’m confident they’ll never play a game for Buffalo or Rochester so I left them out.
Lastly, this should go without saying, but any point total I mention is based on the player playing all 82 games.
Without any further delay, here are my goals for the first five players in the Sabres organization.
Offense. Plan and simple. I defended the 20-year-old center plenty this past season, as many did, due to his tough situation. His wingers were usually brutal and it was evident he was heavily focused on the defensive end, which he will need to continue to work on, but it’s time to break out a bit.
Without setting expectations too high because that’s burned fans once already, I think it’s fair to expect 45 points from the to be 21 year old.
I’d much rather see Mittelstadt surpass 45 points and find my goal wasn’t steep enough than say 50-55 points and watch him just fall short. He’s still a kid likely expected to play a 2C role in the National Hockey League (check out Austin’s debate on this), but I’m not sure the Sabres improved enough around him offensively to double his point totals from a year ago.
If he can find chemistry on a line with Johansson/Sheary on the left and Reinhart on the right, surpassing the 45 points goal I set for him can certainly happen
Produce a full, quality season for Rochester. There is no hiding the fact that the start of his first year in North America did not go so well. He picked up the pace in the second half and I want to see that translated over an entire season.
Potting 10 goals and 31 assists is nothing to be ashamed of at all, especially after his slow start, but I think he can put up 20 goals and 40-45 assists with a full season in Rochester. If he’s on that pace, don’t be surprised if he gets a look in Buffalo later in the season.
While it’s important to hone the skills of a bottom 6 forward for when he moves up to Buffalo, I want to know guys in the bottom 6 can produce. Secondary scoring is at an all time premium and something the Sabres desperately need.
I view Cederqvist as a project (hot take, I know…), so I’m not going set a super high goal for him. I think asking him to play a full season in the SHL and hover around 15 points, that’s a decent year for the to be 19 year old.
Finding a playing style that will translate well into a bottom 6 role in the NHL is where his focus should be. Points don’t mean everything for a player like Cederqvist.
I was going to mention is rather unorthodox skating stride, but it seems to work for him and that’ll be an area of focus before coming over to North America anyways.
Much like Jimmy Vesey and Evan Rodrigues for the forwards, I want to see Miller become the Swiss army knife for the defensive core. While it’s suggested by NHL pundits that Miller shouldn’t play top pairing minutes, if he can move up and down the pairings, adapting to different partners while contributing on the powerplay, that’s a quality year for Miller.
Also, I don’t think there is much of a choice who can play on the top pairing with Dahlin. It’s either Miller or Montour, Ristolainen isn’t a top pairing defenseman and Jokiharju isn’t at that point yet. Miller is under contract until 2021-22, so the plan in my head says let him settle in and see how he contributes, then change expectations accordingly.
As a 19 year old in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, Laaksonen produced .52 PPG, including three goals 21 assists in 46 games. In December 2018, Laaksonen signed a two year extension, good through Spring 2021.Whether he’s able to come to North America after this coming season or if he has to wait until his contract expires, I don’t have a definite answer.
Regardless of his situation, there are two goals that should be within reach of achieving.
First, assuming Laaksonen plays all 60 games for Ilves, I think it’s fair to expect at least 36 points out of the 20 year old. That’s a .60 PPG pace. While I believe he can surpass that, I really want to see him clean up critical errors when trying to do too much.
He’s very creative, but there have been instances where a preventable mistake was made and it costs his team a goal. I’m not saying this is all the time, he’s not out there just turning pucks over constantly, but simplifying his game at times will help his progression into what Sabres fans hope is a top-4 defenseman.
If Laaksonen can achieve both of these, it’ll only add to my intrigue of the once unknown prospect.