If you handicapped who you thought would end up wearing the captain’s “C” in Buffalo this season, where would you have Jason Pominville in your rankings? We didn’t have him as a thought at all when analyzing the vacant captaincy last month but that just goes to show we’re a bunch of jerks hammering stuff out on a keyboard in our mother’s basement.
While Buffalo is kicking off their season in Europe, they announced that Jason Pominville will be the team’s new captain. The Sabres’ previous captain was Craig Rivet last season before Rivet was waived out of town. Helping Pominville shoulder the load and the expectations in Buffalo will be four alternate captains: Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, Paul Gaustad, and Derek Roy.
All five players have been with the Sabres their whole career and given what they’re trying to do in Buffalo now with Terry Pegula’s money helping attract new blood, the stakes are higher than ever in Buffalo and the fans are eager to see the Sabres run deep into the playoffs.
Pominville’s best leadership can come to Buffalo by getting back to being a 30-goal threat this season. Five seasons ago, Poinville potted 34 goals. Since then he’s been a steady 20-25 goal per season guy. Getting those goal numbers to jump would go a long way to helping the Sabres succeed. With the crew of forwards Buffalo has, however, scoring shouldn’t be too much of a problem this season.
With the start of the regular season just around the corner, it looks like Robby Fabbri will not only make his NHL debut on Thursday, but also get meaningful minutes.
During Sunday’s practice the 19-year-old forward played alongside Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Nothing is set in stone, but that combination did gel.
“I think we want to look at what the combinations look like now rather than do it at the start of the season,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re looking at a hard match line and we’re also looking at taking advantage of speed and skill off the rush.
“I really liked what I saw today. I really liked Lehtera’s line, they looked very dynamic off the rush.”
The top line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Vladimir Tarasenko seems like a good bet to play together for the time being. Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz will stick together on the second line while Dmitrij Jaskin and David Backes can expect to be regular partners on the third unit. The X-factors will be Fabbri and Troy Brouwer as Hitchcock has left the door open to alternating between the two of them on the second and third line depending on the opponent.
Fabbri was taken with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to make the leap after a brief stint in the AHL last season. At the OHL level, he’s been a dominate force with the Guelph Storm, scoring 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games in 2014-15.
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.