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Sabres Grades: Samuelsson, Jokiharju Not Enough

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Mattias Samuelsson Sabres grades

The Buffalo Sabres lost a low-event game to the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 on Saturday. Turnovers by Casey Mittelstadt and Alex Tuch ended up in the back of the net in the first period, and Buffalo couldn’t recover. While the blips remain etched in the fabric of Saturday’s game, there’s a full 60 minutes to assess in today’s Sabres Grades.

Must Read: Sabres Cough One Up to Lightning

If you missed the introduction to the new grading system, we’re assigning letter grades to each Buffalo player based on game performance. The letter grades are assigned based on statistical computation, taking into account the following factors:

  • Production
  • Quality of offense
  • Quality of defense
  • Volume of offense
  • Volume of defense
  • Powerplay performance
  • Penalty kill performance
  • Penalties drawn and taken
  • Role
  • Minutes played
GradeLower LimitUpper Limit
A+92%100%
A85%92%
A-77%85%
B+69%77%
B62%69%
B-54%62%
C+46%54%
C38%46%
C-31%38%
D+23%31%
D15%23%
D-8%15%
F0%8%

Studs

Rasmus Dahlin

Grade: A-

Production: C-
Offense: A+
Defense: D-
Special Teams: C

Overshadowed by Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s recent run and the lack of Sabres scoring is the fact that Dahlin has been a mainstay in the “studs” category of Sabres Grades. A lot has been made of the focus on his defense, but it’s been Dahlin’s ability to drive and create offense that is earning the accolades.

Previous Sabres Grades: Luukkonen Tops Again; Girgensons Steps Up

You want your best players to be your best players night-in and night-out, and Dahlin is certainly doing that. It’s the supporting cast that is weighing him down, including his own defense partner. More on that in a bit.

JJ Peterka

Grade: B+

Production: B
Offense: B
Defense: A-
Special Teams: B+

Peterka is drawing the toughest opponent matchups each game and still able to flip the ice in his favor for the most part. He’s taken an impressive step forward offensively, recording the primary assist on Buffalo’s only goal of the game.

He and Dylan Cozens were tasked with shutting down the star trio of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov. They held Tampa’s top line to only three shots combined, and a goose egg in points.

Casey Mittelstadt

Grade: B

Production: D
Offense: B+
Defense: C+
Special Teams: B-

Mittelstadt earned yet another promotion to the top line from head coach Don Granato in hopes of creating more offense. He’s consistently putting up “B” quality games for the Sabres, which is all you can really ask for from the third center on the depth chart.

There’s been some trade speculation recently surrounding Mittelstadt with his future in Buffalo uncertain, but he’s carving out a role with the team. An offensive third-line center who can jump up on the wing with the big guns and play top powerplay is an attractive asset to any NHL team.

Must Read: Mittelstadt Rumored as Trade Deadline Option

Duds

Henri Jokiharju

Grade: D

Production: D+
Offense: D-
Defense: C+
Special Teams: F

Deployment and injury status play a role in what we can expect from Jokiharju, but he can’t have games like Saturday’s and expect to stay in the lineup. On a pair with Connor Clifton, Jokiharju is expected to be the one to drive play up the ice, and he simply did not do that.

To his credit, Jokiharju did a good job limiting quality chances in his own zone. The team needed a push offensively, however, and there’s not a single defenseman past Dahlin and Owen Power on the roster that Buffalo can rely on to give them that push.

Zach Benson

Grade: D+

Production: C-
Offense: D
Defense: C-
Special Teams: C+

It was Benson’s time to really grasp a top-six role and prove he can be the complementary winger the Sabres need. His top line duty was instead taken away from him in the third period, with Granato leaning on Mittelstadt instead for offense.

He retained his top powerplay role in the third, and took a crucial penalty with the man-advantage to negate a chance at tying the game. It was a very questionable call, sure, but it did the team no favors.

Mattias Samuelsson

Grade: D+

Production: F
Offense: C
Defense: C-
Special Teams: C-

File Samuelsson in the same category as Jokiharju in terms of deployment and injury questions. Where his evaluation differs, though, is that he was on the ice for the third-most minutes for the Sabres and provided nothing of substance offensively, defensively, and on special teams.

Dahlin needs to be paired with someone who can complement his game, not someone anchoring him. It’s too much onus on Dahlin.

Look at the top teams in the league: Quinn Hughes has Filip Hronek, Charlie McAvoy has Matt Grzelcyk, Josh Morrissey has Dylan Demelo, and Cale Makar has Devon Toews. I could go on with Miro Heiskanen and Ryan Suter, Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez, Aaron Ekblad and Gustav Forsling, and Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren.

Those are the top pairs on the top eight teams in the NHL currently. Samuelsson simply isn’t on the same level as any of those complementary defensemen.

Sabres Grades

PlayerPositionPercentileGrade
Rasmus DahlinD78%A-
Jj PeterkaF76%B+
Casey MittelstadtF68%B
Owen PowerD64%B
Dylan CozensF61%B-
Kyle OkposoF59%B-
Ukko-Pekka LuukkonenG50%C+
Jack QuinnF48%C+
Ryan JohnsonD48%C+
Alex TuchF47%C+
Peyton KrebsF46%C+
Jordan GreenwayF42%C
Tage ThompsonF42%C
Zemgus GirgensonsF39%C
Victor OlofssonF37%C-
Connor CliftonD32%C-
Mattias SamuelssonD29%D+
Zach BensonF28%D+
Henri JokiharjuD22%D