Pronman: 'You're starting to see a foundation' in Buffalo

August 31, 2018

It has been a long and difficult road for the Buffalo Sabres over the past several years as they continue to rebuild for the future. The Sabres have added a number of talented players and prospects over the years, but the production on the ice has not helped them get out of the hole they have dug themselves since the team last made the playoffs in 2011.

However, Buffalo has landed two prospects that have caught the eye of many talent evaluators and other hockey people around the league.

In 2017, general manager Jason Botterill landed forward Casey Mittelstadt with the eighth overall pick in the NHL Draft. Since then, some have regarded Mittelstadt as the best NHL-drafted prospect in all of hockey.

This past June, the Sabres landed the first overall selection in the draft and used the pick to select defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. The 18-year-old has been touted as the best defensive prospect to come into the league in several years, and is a player that many teams look to build a blue line around for several years to come.

Corey Pronman of The Athletic, and formerly of ESPN, has been working on a series of the top farm systems in the National Hockey League. On Thursday, it was revealed that the Sabres were No. 1 on his list, and that having Dahlin and Mittelstadt in the fold was a huge reason for why they were ranked at the top.

"The system is relatively deep. I don't think they have a top-end guy to go with [Dahlin and Mittelstadt], but not many teams have more than one or two of those guys," Pronman said with Andrew Peters, Craig Rivet and Kris Baker of on The Instigators Friday morning. "I think when you look at where the Sabres are right now, with those two guys coming to the NHL, I think they add two pillar kind of talents to the roster. I don't think the rebuild is done just yet, but you look at those two with [Jack] Eichel, [Rasmus] Ristolainen, [Sam] Reinhart - you're starting to see a foundation that could be competitive, even in, what is going to be, a very competitive Atlantic Division."

It was the Sabres ranked as the first overall farm system in the NHL, with the Vancouver Canucks right behind them at No. 2.

Vancouver also has a pair of highly regarded prospects in their system, with 2017 first round forward Elias Pettersson ready to make the jump to the NHL and 2018 first round defenseman Quinn Hughes maybe another year away. However, Pronman strongly felt that the Sabres' farm system was well ahead of the Canucks' pipeline of prospects.

"Both of them were clearly the top-two [teams], but I felt Buffalo was clearly above because I think Dahlin has that little bit of extra," Pronman explained. "Mittelstadt and Pettersson are comparable to each other, but I don't think Dahlin and Hughes are comparable. Of course, the rest of the system matters too. It's not just where the top-two guys are, but even with that in mind, I felt that Dahlin just adds so much value to the organization. Cost-controlled stars are how you win in the National Hockey League. I think both Mittelstadt and, especially, Dahlin have the potential to be that."

According to Pronman's rankings, he had Dahlin at the top as a "special prospect" followed by Mittelstadt, who was categorized as an "elite NHL prospect." He also lists a number of other Sabres prospects, including a number of players who will play in Rochester this upcoming season, looking to earn a possible spot on the NHL roster in Buffalo. While the roster in Buffalo may be pretty well set for the time being, Pronman is interested to see how some of Buffalo's prospects will fit in to the equation down the road.

"I don't think there's a ton of impact coming out of Rochester right now, but I think a lot of good players in Rochester," Pronman said. "I think Guhle will play [in the NHL]. I think [Alex] Nylander one day will play. I really think there are some questions now moving forward with how will the roster fill out? Is [Rasmus] Asplund going to be good enough? Is [Lawrence] Pilut going to be good enough? Is [Victor] Olofsson going to be good enough? I don't know if there's a positional question I have because I think they're going to get a goalie in [Linus] Ullmark, they're going to get a couple of defenseman and a couple of forwards. Also, with guys in Rochester, I'm wondering if any one of them can be a real top-six forward or top-six [defenseman]. Right now, I don't think anyone has really stood out and said, 'Yes, I'm going to be that player.'"

Pronman also touched base on a number of players in his conversation with The Instigators on Friday, including defensemen Oskari Laaksonen and Brendan Guhle, and forwards Marcus Davidsson and Tage Thompson.

You can listen to Pronman's entire interview below: