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31 in 31

Buffalo Sabres fantasy preview for 2017-18

Eichel has potential to finish among top 10 overall; Lehner out to prove he's worthy goalie

by Ben Zweiman @BZweimanNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. Fantasy-relevant players are listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. Today, we look at the Buffalo Sabres.

 

[SABRES 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the numbers]

 

FORWARDS 

Jack Eichel, C -- A high ankle sprain during training camp derailed what could have been a top 10 finish in Yahoo fantasy last season. Despite missing 21 games, Eichel had 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists), 24 power-play points and led the NHL in shots per game (4.1) with 249 in 61 games. If the 20-year-old can stay healthy, there's no reason he can't finish with around a point per game, 30 PPP and 300 shots on goal this season.

Ryan O'Reilly, C -- Outside of Eichel, there's not a more consistent fantasy forward on the Buffalo Sabres than O'Reilly. He's had at least 55 points, double-digit PPP and 157 SOG in each of the past four seasons. O'Reilly covers every category well except plus/minus, which should improve considering the Sabres' offseason moves for defenseman Marco Scandella, forward Jason Pominville and goalie Chad Johnson.

Evander Kane, LW -- The 25-year-old reinvented himself last season by becoming a category specialist of sorts. He came close to scoring 30 goals (28) and was seventh in the League in penalty minutes among forwards (113) with 260 SOG in 70 games. He's a great late-round draft target if you're lacking in each of those categories.

Kyle Okposo, RW (INJ.) - He's expected to be ready for training camp after a concussion hospitalized him at the end of last season, his first with Buffalo. Similar to Eichel, had it not been for the injury Okposo would have finished among the top 100 overall in Yahoo last season. Health will be a concern when drafting Okposo, but he could be a steal with upside for 20 goals and 60 points with solid category coverage.

Sam Reinhart, C/RW -- The No. 2 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft has improved in each of his two full seasons in Buffalo. Reinhart set NHL career highs in assists (30), points (47), PPP (17) and SOG (178) in 79 games in 2016-17. He's another potential late-round sleeper who could experience a breakout under new coach Phil Housley.

Video: TOR@BUF: Eichel pots backhand goal on breakaway

 

DEFENSEMEN

Rasmus Ristolainen -- The 22-year-old defenseman was among the top PPP producers in the League last season, finishing 18th with 25 points (one goal, 24 assists) in 79 games. He'll assume his role again as the point man on the top-ranked PP from last season (24.5 percent). Ristolainen isn't going to score goals often, but he was a top 15 defenseman in Yahoo in 2016-17 and should continue that trend this season.

Viktor Antipin -- The Sabres signed Antipin to a one-year contract out of the Kontinental Hockey League on May 25. The rest of Buffalo's defense lacks fantasy appeal, but Antipin's numbers in the KHL suggest he could be this season's Nikita Zaitsev. The 24-year-old had 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) in 59 games, and 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 18 KHL playoff games for Magnitogorsk Metallurg.

Video: BUF@CBJ: Ristolainen beats Bobrovsky with a wrister

 

GOALTENDING

Robin Lehner -- The 26-year-old goalie signed a one-year "prove yourself" contract on July 25. This is his shot to show Housley and the Sabres that he can be a No. 1 goaltender. He's shown flashes of that potential the past two seasons, with a .924 save percentage in 2015-16 and .920 in 2016-17. With all that in mind, and Buffalo's improvements this offseason, Lehner is worth considering as a low-end No. 2 with upside.

Others to consider: Jason Pominville (RW), Nathan Beaulieu (D), Matt Moulson (LW/RW), Alexander Nylander (RW), Jake McCabe (D), Chad Johnson (G)

Video: BUF@FLA: Lehner makes unreal pad stop on Huberdeau

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