NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Buffalo Sabres.
[Sabres 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]
1. Is Carter Hutton a No. 1 goaltender?
Hutton had a 2.09 goals-against average and .931 save percentage with the St. Louis Blues last season, each first in the NHL among goalies who played at least 30 games. The 32-year-old played 32 games, his second most in six NHL seasons, before signing a three-year, $8.25 million contract with the Sabres on July 1.
"We were very impressed with Carter's work ethic and his consistency as goalie," Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill said. "Not only last year but over the last couple years. We think he's ready to get that opportunity and run with it."
Video: 31 in 31: Buffalo Sabres 2018-19 season preview
2. Can Kyle Okposo rediscover his game?
Okposo had 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) in 65 games in 2016-17, but his season ended March 27, 2017, because of a concussion and a reaction to sleep medicine that led to a stay in an intensive care unit. Last season, the forward sustained another concussion and had 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) in 76 games, his worst production in a full NHL season since 2010-11, when a shoulder injury limited him to 20 points in 38 games.
The Sabres need the 30-year-old back at his pre-injury level, and Botterill said he is confident he'll have a bounce-back season.
"Kyle has had a great offseason so far," Botterill said. "Kyle was disappointed, like a lot of our veteran players were, how the season progressed last year. Kyle is such a true professional, he really builds a lot of his confidence through his offseason training, and that gives him confidence going into the season. The fact that he's going to have an entire summer of training hard, getting his body in the best shape possible, I think will allow him to get off to a great start."
Video: BUF@TBL: Okposo cashes in on power play to take lead
3. Who is the No. 2 center?
The trade of Ryan O'Reilly to the Blues on July 1 left an opening at second-line center behind Jack Eichel. Rookie Casey Mittelstadt could take the spot, but the Sabres don't want to put too much pressure on the 19-year-old with other options on the roster.
"So many of our players have that versatility, being able to play center or wing," Botterill said. "[Sam] Reinhart, [Patrik] Berglund, [Vladimir] Sobotka, [Zemgus] Girgensons, [Evan] Rodrigues, [Johan] Larsson, even Tage Thompson. We have a lot of players that we feel can play center or wing."