Don't look now, but all of the sudden the Buffalo Sabres are fielding the youngest team in the NHL. At an average age of 26.41 the Sabres have quickly flipped into develop the future mode. After this season with the likely departures of Jochen Hecht (35), John Scott (30), Ville Leino (29), Adam Pardy (29), and Ryan Miller (32), then put onto the roster possibly Mikhail Grigorenko (18), Zemgus Girgensons (18), Johan Larsson (20), Matt Hackett (24), Brayden McNabb (22), Chad Ruhwedel (23), and/or Joel Armia (20) the Sabres could be younger next year. With youth however comes a growing process and mistakes. Sabres fans will deal with games where they will want to pull their hair out, but will also have games where the team will give promise.
It's not likely that all of the kids I just mentioned will turn out to be great NHL players, but I would rather be in this postion than a team stuck in mediocrity. The Sabres are on pace to miss the playoffs for the 4th time in 6 years and as this season comes to end I feel they are in a better place now than at the end of any of those six seasons. Now the Sabres need to watch what is happening in Edmonton and remember to surround your youth with good veteran players. The Sabres already have some good vets in place with Ehrhoff, Ott, and Vanek. Next season those three players could very well be the three players with letters on their jerseys.
As the season comes to an end a few players are making strong strides to secure roster spots next season. One of the players is Brian Flynn. Flynn turns in a strong performance every night and you never walk away sayin that the 24 year old didn't put in a lot of effort. Flynn has 10 points in 21 games, which would be on pace for around 40 points in a 82 game season. Flynn won't be a top line winger, but will be a good player that can provide secondary scoring and kill penalties. Newest Sabre Chad Ruhwedel has played well in his two games so far. Ruhwedel is a smooth skater and shows great poise. He stepped right into the NHL from the college level and didn't blink an eye. The most exciting perhaps is defenseman Mark Pysyk. Pysyk also shows great poise in his own zone. He is not a flashy player, but he makes smart and quick decisions. The 21 year old defender is seeing time now on the PP and becoming more of a pressance in the offensive zone with his increased ice time. A pairing of Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk should have Sabres fans excited for their future.
Mikhail Grigorenko joined the Sabres today after his team was eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs. Grigorenko will not play tomorrow in Boston, but will play the final 4 games of the season with Buffalo before joining the Rochester Americans in the NHL playoffs. Grigo will get his second look of the season in likely a 2nd line role this time with Drew Stafford and Steve Ott.
I can say personally I've had more fun watching this kids play with speed and energy than the team the Sabres entered the season with. Hopefully Buffalo can finish strong and build toward next season.