Line 1: Jeff Skinner – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
The top line for the Sabres should be the easiest to project. In the early stages of last season, this was one of the hottest lines in all of hockey. To start, Jack Eichel can make everybody around him even better with his abilities. Pairing a proven 40 goal scorer in Jeff Skinner with him immediately results in massive production. Sam Reinhart on the right side only makes sense, he has built up a lot of chemistry with Eichel and as a two-way forward, it adds a perfect blend to the top line.
Line 2: Marcus Johansson – Casey Mittelstadt – Victor OlofssonEmbed from Getty Images
After the top line you can get creative. Marcus Johansson was one of the biggest free-agent acquisitions to the Sabres. Pairing him with second-year center Casey Mittelstadt could really boost his development. Adding a veteran presence to Mittelstadt’s line could make a lot of sense, Johansson can easily achieve 40 points when healthy. Victor Olofsson gets his shot in the top-six with his goal-scoring ability. The Sabres have high expectations for their younger players and hopefully get a good amount of success with the line combination.
Line 3: Jimmy Vesey – Evan Rodrigues – Conor ShearyEmbed from Getty Images
Newly added left-winger, Jimmy Vesey, can make an impact with center Evan Rodrigues and winger Conor Sheary. Sheary can play on his off-wing, it is something he did a lot with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the past. This would balance out more scoring on the third line. This line could also add a lot of speed to the lineup. The Sabres need to get better as a whole, and having a speed/scoring line could definitely benefit them heading into the season.
Line 4: Girgensons – Larsson – OkposoEmbed from Getty Images
This will be one of the biggest weaknesses for the Sabres headed into the season. Girgensons and Larsson can be solid contributors on the penalty kill, however, the scoring is simply not there. If Okposo can replicate what he has done in the past offensively the Sabres bottom-six would be scary. This is unlikely, as this line is going to need to boost its scoring in order for the Sabres to continue to make strides to get back into the playoffs.
Pair 1: Dahlin – MillerEmbed from Getty Images
The 19-year-old sensation is going to need somebody he can really build chemistry with. Rasmus Ristolainen paired up with Dahlin didn’t cut it, he wasn’t his greatest with D Brandon Montour as well. 20 of Dahlin’s 44 points came on the power play last season, he didn’t find a pairing all that beneficial to him. Newly acquired D Colin Miller could be a perfect fit. Just like Jack Eichel, anybody’s game can be elevated with Dahlin. Miller is a great puck-moving defenseman who can also make up for some of the mistakes Dahlin may still make in his own zone
Pair 2: McCabe – RistolainenEmbed from Getty Images
As of right now, it doesn’t seem like Ristolainen will be dealt. It is pretty safe to assume that he will serve his role in the top four to start out the season. Taking away Ristolainen’s ice time could really benefit. He can have the chance to use less of his energy and produce for the Sabres. Jake McCabe can be a great match because he has a really solid defensive aspect to his game. This allows Ristolainen to have more comfort leading to more success.
Pair 3: Scandella – MontourEmbed from Getty Images
With injuries to D Zach Bogosian, and D Lawrence Pilut expect Marco Scandella to step in for a while. Having Brandon Montour as a third-pairing defenseman is fantastic. He has been able to consistently put up solid numbers in his brief career so far. This balances out the scoring more on the defensive side and adds a bit of juice to that third pair.
Hutton – UllmarkEmbed from Getty Images
This is where the biggest weakness lies on the Sabres roster headed into this season. Hutton nor Ullmark has been able to prove themselves as a legitimate number one goalie. Let’s hope the Sabres’ revamped defense can give either one the boost to send the Sabres back to playoff contention.
Ben Ressler is a Buffalo Sabres contributor at Overtime Heroics. Follow him @ressler_ben
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