Right Wing--Nicholas Baptiste DOB: August 4, 1995 (Age, 22)
Draft: 2013, 3d round (69th-overall)
How acquired: Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed: June 5, 2014 (ELC w/slide,) 3yr./$2.725
Final year of contract: 2017-18
2017-18 Stats: 33 games played | 4 goals | 2 assists | 6 points | -4 | 9:58 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats: 47 games | 7 goals | 3 assists | 10 points | -3 | 9:45 ATOI
What we wrote preseason: N/A
What we wrote mid-season: The third of the big-three forward prospects who have spent ample time in the AHL. Baptiste is in the same boat as [Hudson] Fasching and [Justin] Bailey. He's appeared in four games for the Sabres, but has failed to have an impact. Baptiste is also 22, has had good success at the AHL-level and would make for an interesting add-in trade piece.
Impressions on his play this year: There's a lot to like about Baptiste beginning with his speed (as shown in the highlight below.) At 6'1" 205 lbs. he also has NHL size to work the corners. Baptiste has an array of effective shots which he uses to score in a variety of ways from various places on the ice. In other words, the complete package is there, but it's taking a while for all those traits to come together in a meaningful way.
There's talk that the Sabres organization is moving it's focus more towards a bottom-six, scoring role for Baptiste. Part of that thinking is based upon his inconsistencies in the top-six when he got the opportunity while part of it has to do with his place on the depth chart behind Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo and, for one more season, Jason Pominville on the right side. That could change for a number of reasons and if he does find himself in the top-six for the Sabres, this would be the season to make an impression.
In his first two pro seasons Baptiste skated for Rochester Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy and made definitive year-over-year progress going from .45 points/game his rookie season to .69 pts./gm in 2016-17 but last season under new Amerks bench boss Chris Taylor he dropped back to .50 pts./gm. Baptiste will not be waiver exempt so Buffalo will need to be patient with him, which they should be anyway. He's got too many qualities to bail on at the still young age of 22 yrs. old. But then again, Baptiste needs to grab the opportunity that lays in front of him.
Questions moving forward: Can he develop NHL consistency in a third-line role? Can he use his size and speed more to his advantage in Buffalo? Can he find and/or work for those open spots to release his potent array of shots? Can he take advantage of any opportunity given to him in a top-six role? Should the Sabres entertain the thought of trading a young player who plays a position that's the weakest in the organization? Who's going to guide him in Buffalo?
Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com.