Sabres’ Future Bright After Final End of the Eichel Era

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the Jack Eichel saga in Buffalo. General Manager Kevyn Adams traded the superstar center to the Vegas Golden Knights for veteran winger and New York native Alex Tuch, prospect Peyton Krebs, and conditional first and second round picks. The Sabres will also part with a third round pick in either 2023 or 2024. The timing of the picks is based on Vegas’ final standings this season.

For the Sabres, was never going to be of equal value to one of the most talented centers in the NHL in the prime years of his career. However, Adams was able to secure a top level prospect, a talented NHL player and a third first round pick in the 2022 draft (provided Vegas’ pick is not in the top 10). This return puts Buffalo in a solid position to build a core that will be ready to seriously compete in 2 to 3 seasons.

Peyton Krebs is the key prospect in the deal. The 20-year old Alberta native was the 17th overall pick by the Golden Knights in the 2019 draft. He has had limited time in the NHL and AHL playing only 13 and 7 games in the respective leagues over the past two season. In 7 AHL games with the Henderson Silver Knights, Krebs has recorded 10 points (1 G, 9 A). But while his professional career has barely started, his amateur career is what makes his pro prospects so intriguing.

Krebs was the first overall pick in the WHL draft in 2016. In his second season he was named captain of the team. Over the next three seasons, he scored a total of 61 goals and added 164 assists. In his final WHL season (2020-2021), which was shortened to just 24 games due to the pandemic, he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player while notching 43 points.

He also led the Canadian U18 team in points (finishing one point ahead of Dylan Cozens) in 2018-2019 World Juniors and followed that up with 8 points (second to Cozens 16) on the U20 team in 2020-2021. That team also included Sabres prospects Jack Quinn, who is currently third in AHL scoring, and Devon Levi, who was just named Hockey East Goaltender of the week for his play at Northeastern.

With these junior performances, it is easy to see why Krebs was considered a top prospect heading into the 2019 draft. He wasn’t able to participate in the draft combine due to an achilles injury, which caused him to drop slightly in the draft, but was still picked 17th overall by Vegas.

Elite prospects describes Krebs as a smooth, shifty skater that plays in all three zones. He is noted to play an intelligent defensive game, keeping himself in good position with an active stick. Craig Button called him a Ryan O’Reilly type player with a brilliant mind.

Krebs is the latest addition to a stockpile of Sabres prospects that are performing well in multiple levels and leagues. As mentioned, Jack Quinn is following up on a excellent NHL Preseason performance by leading the Rochester Amerks in scoring and currently sitting third in the AHL. Playing with J.J. Peterka on his opposite wing, the duo is showing a growing chemistry and top level skill set.

At the NHL level, the Sabres are performing better than expected due in part to the growth of young players like Tage Thompson (24 years old), Victor Olofsson (26 years old), Rasmus Asplund (23 years old), and Dylan Cozens (20 years old). While Rasmus Dahlin has struggled this season, he has flashed elite level talent at times. Casey Mittlestadt and Henri Jokiharju have each been limited to just 1 game this season, but are still key pieces for the team’s future.

Owen Power, as expected, is dominating for Michigan as their season gets underway with 8 points in 8 games. It is likely that the Sabres will get a look at Power at the end of the NCAA hockey season this spring. Devon Levi, acquired from Florida in the Sam Reinhart trade, is posting a 0.940 save percentage for Northeastern.

In all, the Sabres rebuild appears to be in good shape with potential to add significant pieces in the 2022 draft with 3 first round picks in hand. Some may remember that in 2015, when the Sabres draft Eichel second overall, they also held 3 first round picks. Then GM Tim Murray opted to trade prospects and picks to try to build quickly around Jack. In hindsight, it was perhaps that decision that resulted in his departure 6 years later.

While the departure of Captain Jack, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Linus Ullmark mark the end of the previous era of hope in Buffalo, the new crop of potential core players looks to be solid. Time will tell if Kevyn Adams has the Sabres on the right path to a bright future and fans will have to be patient. It has at least been fun though seeing this current scrappy iteration play beyond expectations early this season. Let’s hope that culture continues to grow as the big club gradually welcomes their young prospects aboard.

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