By John Giustino
The Buffalo Sabres will begin their set of six preseason games on Monday, September 18th against the Carolina Hurricanes. This, in addition to training camp and practice sessions is closer to a set of warm-ups for the regular faces who play every year, but there are some new Sabres who intend to crack the roster.
During the offseason, Marco Scandella was traded to Buffalo from the Minnesota Wild. Scandella, 27, is a defenseman coming off of a solid season where he helped push the Wild to a top spot in the Western Conference. It is important to note that Scandella is not the type of player to deliver many points, but is a solid defender who is exceptional at shot suppression, a talent the Sabres welcome with open arms. In addition, Scandella has put up stable and reliable even strength possession metrics since entering the league. Whatever defense pair he ends up on will benefit from his consistent play, limiting the opposition’s shots, both low and high-danger. Entering his prime as a National Hockey League player and with playoff experience, Scandella should be an exciting player to watch for those interested in the Sabres shoring up their defense, delivering smooth and clean game efforts.
Brendan Guhle, another defenseman is possibly the most exciting prospect within the Sabres organization who looks to make the team out of camp. Guhle exhibited great speed and control in both the offensive and defensive ends in the prospects tournament and had already gotten a small taste of what playing in the National Hockey League entails during the 2016-2017 campaign. Part of that included well placed shots and excellent situational awareness in all three zones. His passing was commendable and was a large part of the scoring chances the Sabres had. With a strong performance last week and with a play style that would be fitting for Phil Housley’s fast paced and aggressive system, Guhle may be closer to a roster spot than some may realize.
A player not often discussed who could make a case for a position is Evan Rodrigues. Rodrigues, 24, has already played for the Sabres and Americans for two seasons and signed a new two year deal this summer. While his defensive game left a lot to be desired, the young forward has a golden opportunity to show improvement to the new coaching staff and management. Defensive zone play was the most criticized; if he finds a way to solidify that, Rodrigues may very well have a stall with his name on it as a middle or bottom six winger.
General manager Jason Botterill will have a variety of assets to evaluate during the span of the preseason to choose who will make the starting roster opening night. With the amount of competition that will be present throughout there will surely be players that stand out and may be deserving of wearing the Sabres crest.