buffalo sabres

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen of the Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Sabres are a team on the rise, behind young stars like Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen. They’ll be supported by their elite prospects next season, which includes the following players.

The Buffalo Sabres are climbing back to contending status because of their youth. Behind Jack Eichel, the team will now be supported by young players and prospects. Players with NHL experience already include Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Linus Ullmark.

Still, the Sabres will need help from the following prospects over the coming seasons. Some of them will be making immediate impacts this season, and others will take a few years but should be players in due time.

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These players are ranked by their ceiling, NHL readiness, and the chance they play consistently with the Buffalo Sabres. Players with more than 18 games played in a season (Ullmark most notably), are qualified as having had their rookie seasons and are therefore not counted as prospects. Let’s start with the best goaltender in the pipeline.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G [19]

Stats: 24 gp, 2.92 GAA, .909 SV%. LeKi, Mestis

The Sabres believe their goaltender of the future is Ullmark, who will have the next three seasons with veteran Carter Hutton to learn on the job. After Hutton leaves, it’s likely Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will take the backup gig.

The Buffalo Sabres believe enough in Luukkonen to have used a second-round pick on the Finnish netminder, which shows a lot of confidence in what he can be.

Luukkonen did somewhat well against men as an 18/19-year-old, in Finland’s second-best league. He was seventh in save percentage, and five of the six in front of him were older. The only other teenager on the list played fewer games.

He will need to make a good North American transition this season, but he’s still young. There’s time. He has an excellent ceiling, and with not much in the way of competition in Rochester this season, he should be put in a position to learn and grow as a goaltender. He’ll also get access to North American goaltending coaches, and learn how to play in a more offensive league.

Buffalo Sabres: Top 10 Prospects Entering 2018

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