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Sabres Analysis

Sabres With Star Qualities

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Tage Thompson Rasmus Dahlin Buffalo Sabres elite stars

If you’re watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you’ve seen some of the league’s biggest stars step things up for their respective teams. Despite missing the playoffs, the Buffalo Sabres have players with star attributes compared to the rest of the NHL. Thanks to the work done for PuckLuck.com, we can identify these elite qualities in Sabres players and see who can help carry the team to any future playoff success.

At PuckLuck, players are measured based on 12 different attributes to help determine what type of player they are.

These categories are as follows:

  • Sniper
  • Playmaker
  • Volume Shooter
  • Play-Driver
  • Shutdown Defender
  • Shot Blocker
  • Hitter
  • Enforcer
  • Penalty Drawer
  • Powerplay Specialist
  • Penalty Kill Specialist
  • Faceoff Specialist

The value of each of these categories varies based on opinion, but the model can identify who is elite among their peers doing a certain thing. PuckLuck puts a percentile rank on each attribute. To qualify as a “star” in a category, a player must rank in the 90th percentile or better at his position. In this case, all centers and wingers are grouped as forwards, and the defensemen are graded separately.

Snipers

99.5% – Bowen Byram

95.9% – Victor Olofsson

94.5% – Tage Thompson

92.3% – Jacob Bryson

92.2% – Jack Quinn

Byram topped 10 goals for the second time in two seasons. Only 22 of the 381 defensemen have scored more in that span, despite Byram being pinned to a bottom-pair role for much of his time in Colorado. His 21 goals were also accomplished with 121 fewer shots than anyone ahead of him. This includes 291 fewer shots than Rasmus Dahlin, who has 35 goals in two seasons.

Olofsson’s shooting efficiency is well documented, but with the rest of his game lacking the Sabres will let him explore new opportunities this season.

Sabres Grades: Victor Olofsson

Thompson is no surprise on this list, with defenders now keying on stopping his lethal one-timer on the powerplay.

Bryson has four career goals in 206 NHL games, so his rank raises an eyebrow. He only took 15 shots this season, so scoring one goal above expected can seriously inflate his stats.

Sabres Grades: Jacob Bryson

Quinn has one of the quietest lethal shots in the league. He was very efficient, scoring at over 16% last season. His drag and release put him on trend to be a 30-goal scorer as soon as next season.

Playmakers

No “Star” Sabres

No Sabres reached the 90th percentile in the NHL in playmaking, heavily dependent on primary and shot assists. Dahlin was close in the 89th percentile, along with Alex Tuch and Dylan Cozens in the 88th.

Volume Shooters

98.4% – Tage Thompson

95.9% – Jeff Skinner

93.5% – JJ Peterka

Measuring volume shooters is simple. If they shoot a lot, they qualify. Thompson is in the 98th percentile, which, combined with his shooting efficiency, makes him one of the best all-around shooters in the NHL.

To make this fair to those with less ice time, rate stats are leaned on in the process. This puts Skinner and Peterka in elite company, as they have no issue firing the puck from anywhere and everywhere.

Play-Drivers

92.8% – Rasmus Dahlin

90.5% – Mattias Samuelsson

Play drivers are players who take care of things in their own end and push the play up the ice. Shot attempts for and against are big indicators of successful play drivers.

Dahlin fits the bill naturally and may have carried his defense partner for most of the season, Samuelsson, in the process. One notable honorable mention is Zach Benson, who finished in the 88th percentile as an 18-year-old rookie.

Shutdown Defenders

No “Star” Sabres

The Sabres improved in the defensive end this past season, but no one qualified as a star shutdown player.

Zemgus Girgensons was as close as they come, finishing in the 84th percentile.

Shot Blockers

No “Star” Sabres

The Sabres didn’t structure their defense around blocking shots, so there weren’t many players over the 50th percentile in the category, let alone the 90th.

At 89.5%, Tuch was the only player even close.

Hitters

92.8% – Connor Clifton

As you may have guessed, Clifton is the only player who’s a top-tier hitter in the league. Physicality isn’t a huge part of Buffalo’s game, but Samuelsson, Girgensons, Dahlin, and Eric Robinson are all 80th percentile or better hitters.

Enforcers

95.2% – Connor Clifton

If hitting is deteriorating in the modern NHL game, fighting is nearly extinct. Clifton is the only Sabres player to qualify as a star enforcer with his willingness to drop the gloves.

The Sabres have no issue sticking up for their teammates so Cozens, Robinson, Tuch, and Girgensons are all knocking at the door here.

Penalty Drawer

93.1% – Rasmus Dahlin

One Sabres player drew penalties at a higher rate than Dahlin without enough games to qualify. Isak Rosen was in the 97th percentile, suggesting his speed could be a huge weapon when he’s ready to make the full-time leap to the NHL.

Dahlin, of course, uses his combination of skill and getting under opponents’ skin to give the Sabres an advantage.

Powerplay Specialist

94.5% – Tage Thompson

93.6% – Rasmus Dahlin

92.5% – Alex Tuch

92.2% – Jeff Skinner

90.3% – Dylan Cozens

Buffalo’s powerplay was brutal last season, so it may be a bit of a surprise that five Sabres qualify as powerplay stars. Underlying statistics suggest that the goals will come from this fivesome with some tinkering to the strategy.

With Seth Appert taking over the powerplay duties from Matt Ellis, it would come as no surprise to see the Sabres bounce back with the man advantage next season.

Must Read: How Seth Appert Can Help the Sabres Powerplay

Penalty Kill Specialist

No “Star” Qualifiers

Jordan Greenway helped turn around the penalty kill unit this past season, but his prior lack of success kept him out of an elite grade. There were some strong indicators of quality penalty killing from a list that includes Benson, Byram, and Henri Jokiharju.

Robinson, who the Sabres didn’t use much shorthanded, also showed enough with the Blue Jackets to prove effective in the role.

Faceoff Specialist

No “Star” Sabres

Incredibly, the Sabres only had one qualifying player above the 50th percentile in faceoffs. That player, Girgensons, will likely be gone next season. With three of the four center spots locked up for next season, faceoffs will be a huge focus of Ellis’ with the newly structured coaching staff.