Buffalo Sabres 17/18 season preview: Defence

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 05: Jake McCabe
NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 05: Jake McCabe /

The Sabres have added a couple of pieces to their defensive puzzle.  Were the additions to the defence enough to help the team make a playoff push?

Marco Scandella

Acquired in the trade that also brought Jason Pominville back to Buffalo, Scandella looks to make a strong push through the Buffalo defence.  The 27-year-old featured in 71 contests for the Wild last season, putting up 4 goals and 9 assists for 13 points.

Scandella’s two-way game could propel him towards top minutes for the Sabres.  At 6’3” and 208 pounds, Scandella can use his body effectively against opponents.  This might come in great use since the Eastern Conference is only getting faster.

The left-shot defenceman could see power play minutes with Rasmus Ristolainen too.  For now, it might be safe to predict Scandella on the second-pair, but will soon have the opportunity to push for top minutes.

Nathan Beaulieu

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Beaulieu had a career year with Montreal last season, notching a career-best 24 assists and 28 points.

Based off his career numbers, the Ontario native is slowly picking up his game as an all-around defender.  The 24-year-old signed a two-year deal worth $2.4 million annually.

Beaulieu will most certainly find himself on the bottom pairing to start the season, but he might find his way into the power play unit to establish more minutes.  Beaulieu will fit right into the Sabres preference of defencemen who can contribute offensively as well.

Viktor Antipin

Antipin terminated his KHL contract and signed a one-year entry level contract with the Sabres.  The 24-year-old won the Gagarin Cup twice and was also a KHL All-Star in 2013.

The left-shot Russian product scored 24 points in 59 games last season, including 11 points in 18 KHL playoff games.

It’s likely that Antipin will play alongside Nathan Beaulieu on the bottom pair, as he’ll have to get use to the NHL playing style.  He could potentially see some the power play and the PK units.  There’s some much deserved optimism with Antipin.  New GM Jason Botterill hopes that optimism turns into success.

Rasmus Ristolainen

Ristolainen and defender Jake McCabe are looking more and more likely to be the future leaders of Buffalo’s defence.  Arguably, Risto is probably the best defender on the team right now.

He deserves the recognition too.  The 22-year-old featured in 79 games last season, putting up 39 assists and 45 points.  Don’t count out Ristolainen’s shot either.  His success on recent Buffalo power play units will result in the Finland native getting the nod for the top power play this season.

Expect Ristolainen to eat a ton of minutes for the Sabres this season.  Buffalo fans should see great things in the future from 55.

Jake McCabe

Another core member of the defensive unit, McCabe will make a push in training camp to try and snatch top minutes this season.

McCabe notched 17 assists last season, which was good for second among those currently active on the Buffalo defence.  At 23-years-old, McCabe can continue to develop into his prime while fighting for a top spot on the defensive squad.

It’s almost a guarantee that McCabe gets slotted into the second pairing, but don’t be surprised if he sees a lot more ice time.  It might be a little harder for McCabe to crack a spot on the PP, especially if Buffalo goes back to four forwards with the returning Jason Pominville.

Zach Bogosian

The 27-year-old enters his fourth season with the Sabres.  Bogosian’s did regress from the 15/16 season, but he also featured in eight less games.

His playing frequency might be apart of the problem.  Bogosian needs to play more to show his full value, it’s as simple as that.  You could argue that +/- is a useless stat, but if you still use it, Bogosian was a -17 last season.

For his cap-hit of around $5 million, Bogosian needs to be on the ice more.  If he can dress those 20 games that he misses, his numbers could potentially go up.  Zach has the potential to be a force in all zones, especially with the use of his body.

Josh Gorges

Sadly, it seems that that game has proven to be too quick for Gorges.  The left-shot defenceman had a huge setback last season, featuring in ten less games than he did in the 15/16 season and scoring less too.

Once a force to be reckoned with, the 33-year-old simply doesn’t carry the value he had when he was brought in.  He’s in the final year of his contract, but his cap-hit for the season will be $3.9 million.

Unless Gorges can get back into the lineup and prove something to the front office, it’s possible that he’ll be gone next summer.  Hope for the best, but the Sabres are going to be carrying around an expensive seventh defender this season.

Next: Buffalo Sabres 17/18 season preview: Goalies

What are your thoughts on the defence going into the season?  Let us know in the comments below!