Buffalo Sabres training camp is underway and the regular season is just weeks away. Heading into this year it’s playoffs or bust for most fans, but is the roster talented enough for the Sabres to end its five year playoff drought?
As the regular season draws near, 7ABC will take a closer look at the training camp roster and put together our list of the “Top 20 Talents.”
Here’s the criteria on how the rankings will be established:
-Overall skill level
-Age, improving/declining ability
On to the countdown:
No. 13 RW – Justin Bailey
Why He's Here
When putting together this list I debated whether to put Bailey at 13 and (Hudson) Fasching at 14 or vice versa. Bailey’s play during the Sabres Prospects Challenge made my decision a little easier. He dominated in the only game he played against the Boston Bruins prospects. The 21-year-old spent most of last season in Rochester, finishing with 45 points in 70 games. The Western New York native got a small taste of NHL action towards the end of last season – playing eight games with the Sabres.
Where will Bailey end up? Three months ago I would’ve said that Bailey was the front runner among the young prospects to end up making the Sabres roster. Since, he hasn’t done anything wrong, but some other prospects have really stepped up. At the end of the day, Bailey is still 6’3” and can fly down the ice. That size and speed are hard to find. He’s still young and one or two more years in Rochester could pay dividends -- but a permanent spot with the Sabres could do a lot for Bailey’s confidence.
I think Bailey, Hudson Fasching, Derek Grant and Nick Baptiste are the front-runners when it comes to the young guys trying to make the roster. The last few weeks Baptiste has looked great but I think the Sabres would still lean towards Bailey or Fasching because of their size. Both showed flashes during their stints in Buffalo last season and can provide some physicality. Even if Bailey isn’t on the Sabres opening night roster we will see him in blue and gold at some point this season and wonder -- why hasn’t he been here all along?