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Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--The Reserves

September 25, 2017, 9:36 AM ET [1302 Comments]
Michael Pachla
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It was a big weekend for cuts as the Buffalo Sabres sent forward Cliff Pu back to his junior club and 14 players to the Rochester Americans. Pu had an excellent training camp and Prospects Challenge tournament while also impressing the Sabres brass to the point where he stuck with the team for Friday's game in Toronto. Although he missed his London Knights opener, he would come back the next night to record two primary assists, including one in overtime, as the Knights won 3-2.

With the Rochester Americans set to open camp today, 14 players were sent east on I-90:

Forwards: Kevin Porter (subject to waivers), Stevie Moses, Eric Cornel, Vaclav Karabacek, Kyle Criscuolo, Hudson Fasching, C.J. Smith

Defensemen Casey Nelson, Brycen Martin, Devante Stephens, Brendan Guhle

Goaltenders Adam Wilcox, Jonas Johansson, Jason Kasdorf

The Amerks open up their preseason schedule with a back-to-back with the Toronto Marlies this Friday and Saturday.

The Sabres have two more preseason games before they begin the regular season on Thursday, October 5 when the Montreal Canadiens visit KeyBank Center. This weekend wasn't kind to the club as they suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. With the team still adapting to coach Phil Housley's system and Housley himself still adjusting to being an NHL head coach, the Leafs came away with 3-0 and 3-1 victories against Buffalo with three of Toronto's goals coming in the form of empty-netters.

Amongst the positives for Buffalo was the goaltending of Linus Ullmark who stopped 32 of 33 shots in the first game and Robin Lehner who stopped 30 of 32 in the second game. Buffalo's penalty kill also did some yeoman's work as they went 11/13 (84%) while being shorthanded.

Bubble roster players only have two more games to make an impression with the final preseason game normally used as a tune-up for the opening night roster. With a new system being put in place for both clubs, and GM Jason Botterill's commitment to not only proper seasoning for his young players, but also making Rochester more competitive, it's not surprising to see players like Guhle and Hudson Fasching get sent down. And it also may be an indication of who amongst the remaining 12 skaters will stick with Buffalo in a reserve role when the season opens.

Nicolas Deslauriers
26 yrs. old
6'1" 215 lbs.
2009 third-round (84th-overall, LAK)
Acquired from the LA Kings in a trade on March 5, 2104

Career stats: 211 games | 12 goals | 18 assists | 30 points | -54

When former Sabres GM Tim Murray took the reigns of the club in January, 2014, it would seem as if he wanted to build a club in the mold of the LA Kings. The two-time Cup-winning Kings played a physical, heavy Western Conference style of play and Murray went right to the source to snag two "heavies" in Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching in a trade with Los Angeles.

Deslauriers was a converted defenseman playing wing in a bottom-six role. At 215 lbs. he has the heft, wasn't afraid to through that weight around, would drop the gloves and could skate pretty well too. He had a solid first full NHL season in Buffalo registering 15 points (5+10) in a fourth-line role while playing in all 82 games for the Sabres in 2015-16.

However, despite scoring one more goal in 12 less games for Buffalo last season, Deslauriers looked like he took a step back. The big powerforward seemed slow to react to what was transpiring on the ice and as the speed of the game went up, his ice-time went down from 10:20 to 7:25.

Deslauriers has had a good training camp and may have done enough to warrant a spot on the roster in a reserve role.

Justin Bailey
22 yrs. old
6'4" 214 lbs.
2013, 52nd-overall

Career stats: 40 games | 2 goals | 2 assists | 4 points | -2

This might go against what was laid out earlier, but there are a few factors involved in Bailey making the Sabres opening night roster.

The first one is the injury to Evan Rodrigues. The forward was hit hard into the boards over the weekend and his status is up in the air. Although the 24 yr. old Rodrigues wasn't a shoe-in to make the roster, he was having an extremely strong camp and was getting noticed for all the right reasons by the Sabres brass. If he's out there's room for Justin Bailey in the bottom-six in Buffalo.

Second in is Bailey's maturity and his success at the AHL-level. Although only 22 yrs. old, the big powerforward with impressive skating ability he seems to have learned about all he can from the minors with 81 points (43+38) in 122 AHL games.

Thirdly, he's made an impression on the penalty kill during preseason which is something that helped separate him from other roster-bubble players. It's a change in philosophy short-handed that may have given him an in to the Sabres roster. According to Bailey, the coaches want more aggressiveness on the kill. "I'm a big guy and I have a long reach with my stick," he told the gathered media this weekend, "and one of my best assets is my legs, so whether it's a loose puck or a rebound or anything like that they want us to be going hard and physical at the guy."

He's smart enough to realize that if the PK is his ticket to the big club, than so be it.

Josh Gorges
33 yrs. old
6'1" 204 lbs.
Undrafted FA
Acquired from the Montreal Canadiens July 1, 2014

Career stats: 749 games | 17 goals | 105 assists | 122 points | -2

Gorges was part of a veteran trio that Murray brought in on July 1, 2014 to help guide the youngins through what was about to become a very difficult transition. He, Brian Gionta and Matt Moulson all wore letters for the abysmal 2014-15 season and the transitional 2015-16 season.

As a defensive defenseman with some sandpaper to his game, Gorges was a good compliment to young defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen through those years. Although he struggled to keep pace with the best the opposition had to offer as a top-pairing defenseman, he held his own and was especially adept on the penalty kill. In Buffalo's first season out of the basement, the Sabres finished ninth in the league on the kill with a 82.6% success rate.

Gorges slowly moved down the depth-chart last season, and rightfully so, as the speed of the game began to pass him by. At 33 yrs. old and with a lot of wear and tear on his body after playing years as a rugged defenseman, playing on the third-pairing while also playing key minutes short-handed was an ideal situation for him. He's always been dependable but the game has changed and with Botterill bringing in three mobile defenseman who are more to what Housley is looking for, Gorges looks to be the odd man out.

When injuries hit, he'll get the call and there's a possibility that he could end up on the trade block at the trade-deadline next year as he's in the final year of his contract.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville
LW, Zemgus Girgensons / C, Jacob Josefson / RW, Matt Moulson
Nicolas Deslauriers / Justin Bailey

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
D, Nathan Beaulieu / D, Victor Antipin
Josh Gorges

G, Robin Lehner
G, Chad Johnson

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