With the Buffalo Sabres suffering through another terrible season in the standings, they have little choice put to concentrate on developing their young talent.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but the Buffalo Sabres are on course to once more miss the postseason. In the process, they will increase their NHL-worst active playoff drought to 11 seasons.
Only three teams have fewer points than the Sabres as of Wednesday morning, with little going right for them this season. They traded away supposed franchise centerpiece Jack Eichel, and fans must be wondering if they will ever see their beloved team return to contender status.
Throughout it all though, there is actually some genuine reason for optimism in Buffalo. The only issue is that it will require even more patience from a — quite rightly — extremely frustrated fan base.
The reason for both the optimism and the need for patience centers on the Sabres’ young talent. As much as 2021-22 is yet another season to forget, there has been plenty of encouraging development from players who represent the long-term future in Western New York.
Sabres’ best player this season
Among the players offering reason for optimism is Tage Thompson, who much has been expected of ever since he first arrived as part of the return package in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. A first round pick in 2016, he was viewed as a versatile and talented player capable of using his size to dominate opponents.
It took time several reasons, but here now in his fourth season with the Sabres, the 24-year-old is finally showing what he’s capable of. He has been galvanized by moving to center, already having a career year and leading the team in goals and overall points.
Arguably the highlight of Thompson’s season to date, was the recent hat-trick he scored versus the Colorado Avalanche. Even though it came in a 5-3 loss, performing so well against the team with the most points in the NHL has to count for something.
The Glendale, Arizona native will be the first to admit he still needs to improve his game, specifically defensively. Regardless, he is more than capable of helping the Sabres turn things around.
For now though, Thompson is just focused on helping the team find a way to win on a more frequent basis during the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign. As reported by Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News, he said on Sunday:
"“Obviously, the results aren’t what we want, but I feel like we’re piecing things together right now and we’ve just got to find a way to have consistency. It’s (got to) be that next step for us.”"