Dom Lunardo | April 25th, 2020
It’s been five seasons since the Buffalo Sabres drafted Massachusetts-born star centerman, Jack Eichel, second overall during the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. One pick behind Connor McDavid, who many tout as the very best hockey player in the world today. Eichel has been spectacular in a Sabres uniform and has been one of the most dominant players in the NHL. However, Eichel needs help, and lots of it if the Sabres are to make some noise and finally clinch a postseason berth in a very competitive Eastern Conference. Are reinforcements on the way in the Queen City?
Light at the End of…Buffalo
Buffalo, New York. “Hey, ey-ey-ey, Hey, ey-ey-ey”. If you’re like me and frequent Bills and Sabres games, you know how common those song lyrics are for anybody in the Buffalo and Western New York area. On the hockey side, things have been anything but smooth over the last several years. In fact, it’s been eight (going on nine) seasons since the Sabres last made the NHL postseason. Thankfully for the Sabres (and their passionate fan base), they have a few good pieces in the minor ranks on the cusp of the NHL. Led by talented forward, Dylan Cozens, there’s a silver lining in the sky with some of their youngsters. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at the top-3 prospects “in the system” for the Buffalo Sabres.
Number 3: Erik Portillo, Goaltender, University of Michigan (NCAA)
Erik Portillo starts us off as a goaltender who will be pushing for starts in the Sabres crease before you know it. The Swedish-born netminder has committed to Michigan next season to play for the Wolverines (Go Blue), as the next stage in his development. At just 19 years of age, Portillo has excellent rebound control and is able to battle through traffic in front of him. He was a member of Team Sweden during this past winter’s 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Portillo stands a whopping 6’6, 210 pounds and has a real presence in goal that Sabres general manager Jason Botterill was quite impressed with. The Sabres have high hopes for Portillo and hope that he can be the long-term answer between the pipes at KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo.
Number 2: Mattias Samuelsson, Defenseman, Western Michigan University (NCAA)
Mattias Samuelsson comes in at number two, as a future stalwart on the Sabres blue-line. Born and raised in Voorhees, New Jersey, Samuelsson captained Team USA during the 2020 World Junior tournament. He also wore the “C” at Western Michigan, where he currently plies his trade. There’s a lot to like about the 6’4, 220-pound blue-liner, who should be donning the Gold and blue of Buffalo as early as next year alongside Rasmus Dahlin, Jake McCabe, and Rasmus Ristolainen. Samuelsson can skate, move the puck and plays a steady game in his own zone. Samuelsson is agile, good on his edges, and has an active stick which he uses to good effect. He’s not flashy by any means, but he looks a lot like Andy Greene/Niklas Hjalmarsson. Samuelsson should be a welcome addition to the Queen City with his ability to read and anticipate plays at a high level.
Number 1: Dylan Cozens, Right-Wing/Center, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
The undisputed number one on our list is talented forward Dylan Cozens from the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Where do we even begin with Cozens? Drafted last summer by the Sabres in the first round, 7th overall, Cozens is a gifted playmaker with a real nose for the net. He loves to make plays, plays with a real competitive edge, and possesses a high hockey-IQ.
Cozens is a shoo-in to make the Sabres out of camp in the fall. He should slot comfortably within their top-6 forward group. Cozens tallied nine points in seven games with Team Canada during the 2020 World Juniors. The Whitehorse native brought home a Gold Medal at that tournament. He also scored 85 points, including 38 goals this past season in Lethbridge. Cozens is the real deal and should have Sabres fans chomping at the bit to see him live.
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