Thursday, July 19, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Buffalo Sabres

4th on the list are the Buffalo Sabres.

1. Cliff Pu - Kingston Frontenacs
Pu started the year with London, but was dealt to Kingston near the trade deadline to help them with their playoff run. Overall, Pu had a solid year and was excellent in the playoffs for the Frontenacs, even though they came up short against the Bulldogs. This was an improvement from the year prior where Pu had a very disappointing playoffs with London. Pu remains at his best off the rush, dictating pace with his size and speed combination. He accelerates to top speed very quickly, especially as he cuts through the neutral zone, picking up speed to gain entry to the offensive zone. Is willing to drive the net and puts defenders on his back. Pu's two-way game has improved a lot over his OHL career too, making him more prepared for the pro game. I found that his vision and playmaking ability off the rush took a step forward this year. Didn't see as many turnovers from him trying to force things; that classic tunnel vision issue. Moving forward, there are things that he will need to continue to work on. His play in the offensive zone when the game slows down, is still slightly erratic. The hockey sense and vision can sometimes be lacking here. Being able to prolong possession through the cycle, and be the first man in on the forecheck to gain possession are areas that never really hit that elite level in his time in the OHL. His shot will need to continue to improve too. But he's a solid prospect with a shot at developing into a solid #2 or #3 center for Buffalo. He'll start his pro career next year. Former teammate Janne Kuokkanen put up 40 points this year in the AHL as a rookie and I would expect Pu to be around that same mark.

*Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen - Sudbury Wolves
One of the first picks of this year's CHL Import Draft, Luukkonen has a chance to be the starting netminder for an upstart Sudbury franchise looking to restore itself to glory on the back of much hyped first overall pick Quinton Byfield. Signed by Buffalo, one would wonder if this is a serious option and could be a smart move to get him some confidence and playing time for a year before turning pro in North America. If he's in the OHL, I would expect him to have a good season. Sudbury won't be amazing, but if he could post an above .900 save percentage and get them to the playoffs, that would be huge.

**Matej Pekar - Barrie Colts
A 4th rounder by Buffalo in 2018, Pekar played last year in the USHL and has a commitment to Miami University next year. But Barrie rolled the dice by taking him in this year's Import Draft. If they can convince him to join the Colts and forgo his scholarship, he could be a solid top 6 forward for Barrie. The Colts will likely be a middle of the pack team and he would get playing time in all situations. A point per game season would not be out of the question.

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