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Sabres Grades: Jacob Bryson

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Jacob Bryson Buffalo Sabres grades

Now that we’ve covered the prospects and departed players, the Sabres Grades top-24 countdown begins with Jacob Bryson. Bryson appeared in 36 for Buffalo, and 46 games total for the organization. This included a 10-game stint with the Rochester Americans of the AHL.

He leads off our countdown as the lowest-graded Sabres player to finish the season with the team and with more than 10 games with the club. This countdown’s purpose is to understand how each player performed throughout the 2023-2024 season. This will help us evaluate what the team needs to do this offseason to improve next season.

The Grading System

If you missed the introduction to the grading system, I’ve assigned 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

It’s important to understand that these player performance grades are solely based on the algorithm created, with the one exception being a game shortened by injury. A player who missed significant ice time due to injury was not docked for fewer minutes played. This eliminates the confusion of how well a player performs when available.

I went back and graded all 82 games this season for every player. This way, we fully understand the progression of each player’s performance on a game-by-game basis.

Also, a big thanks to Evolving-Hockey for the individual game data. They’re among the best in the business.

Here’s the grading scale in table form, for reference:

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%

Previous Sabres Grades: Casey Mittelstadt, Kyle Okposo, and Erik Johnson

Jacob Bryson

Season Grade: D+

Average: C-

Consistency: B+

Boom %: F [0%]

Bust %: F [25%]

The 2023-2024 season was an odd one for Bryson. He was a mainstay with the Sabres for the two seasons prior, appearing in 132 games for the club. He only appeared in three games for Buffalo in the first half of the season, conceding his job to former first-round draft pick Ryan Johnson.

When Johnson became a regular in the lineup, Bryson was demoted to the AHL with Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Mattias Samuelsson, Henri Jokiharju, Erik Johnson, and Connor Clifton healthy.

Bryson’s season turned around nicely in the second half, earning an everyday bottom-pair role with the Sabres partly due to Samuelsson’s injury and the Erik Johnson trade.

Jacob Bryson Buffalo Sabres grades 2023-2024 season

As you can see in the chart, the trendline points up in regards to Bryson’s individual game grades. Sure, there was some up-and-down play throughout the second half, but in general he earned the trust of the coaching staff.

Grade Distribution

Jacob Bryson Buffalo Sabres 2023-2024 grade distribution

A third-pair defenseman’s ceiling grade is only so high, given the structure of the grading system. Points are docked for fewer minutes played and a sheltered role. Bryson faced a little bit of both at even-strength. He also did not have a significant role on either special teams unit, limiting his chance to bolster his grades.

Is this fair to the player? Well, yes and no.

The coach ultimately determines how to utilize a player, but the player can earn his way into a bigger role by performing exceptionally well. The exceptional games weren’t there for Bryson, rather, only a few good-to-great ones.

Jacob Bryson Buffalo Sabres grade distribution 1st halfJacob Bryson Buffalo Sabres grade distribution 2nd half

With the first half of the season essentially non-existent for Bryson, let’s focus on his second half. Eight of his 33 games in the latter half of the season were above average. 19 were below-average, including seven “bust” games.

The consensus is that Bryson performed admirably in his role, likely due to low expectations for the defenseman. At age 26, the development is no longer a discussion point. What you see is what you get with Bryson, and what you get is a fringe NHL player.

Player Comps

Jacob Bryson Buffalo Sabres player comps

If you want to take positives out of Bryson’s play, it’s that his attributes compare to some pretty solid NHL defensemen. Power, for one, sticks out as a similar player on the same team. Due to their size difference, it’s a little funny, but Bryson and Power are trying to accomplish the same things when on the ice.

Active offensively, mobile skating, and driving the puck up the ice are the focuses of Bryson’s game. He’s not the volume shooter that Ryan Graves or Vladislav Kolyachonok are. He won’t initiate contact as much as Artem Zub. The comparison to Montreal’s Jordan Harris as a two-way bottom-pair defenseman fits best.

2024-2025 Early Outlook

Given the addition of Bowen Byram to the core of the blueline and Samuelsson’s return from a season-ending injury, starting left-side defensive spots aren’t available. Bryson ranks seventh or eighth on the depth chart, depending on where the Sabres rank Ryan Johnson.

He and Henri Jokiharju are restricted free agents, meaning the Sabres retain their rights and are the only team that can sign them to a deal. Should Buffalo choose not to tender Bryson, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

This is the long way of saying that Bryson has a tough road ahead of him to keep an NHL job. Without too many defensive prospects knocking on the door, it’s possible the Sabres plan to use him in a flux AHL-NHL role to bolster the depth.

Riley Stillman is the only unmentioned defenseman under Buffalo’s control with NHL experience, so Bryson could ink a short-term deal to remain in the organization.

A first-callup-type role is probably what Bryson is best suited for at this point in his career.

 

Previous Sabres Season Grades

Prospects and Depth

Casey Mittelstadt, Kyle Okposo, and Erik Johnson

24. Jacob Bryson

23. Tyson Jost

22. Victor Olofsson

21. Eric Robinson

20. Ryan Johnson

19. TBD

18. TBD

17. TBD

16. TBD

15. TBD

14. TBD

13. TBD

12. TBD

11. TBD

10. TBD

9. TBD

8. TBD

7. TBD

6. TBD

5. TBD

4. TBD

3. TBD

2. TBD

1. TBD

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