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Buffalo Sabres season snapshot awards

Dahlin top defenseman as 19-year-old; Eichel named MVP with 36 goals

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

With the NHL pausing the 2019-20 regular season on March 12 due to the concerns surrounding the coronavirus, NHL.com is taking stock of each of the League's 31 teams.

Today, the award-worthy candidates for the Buffalo Sabres at the pause:

 

The Buffalo Sabres have had their share of disappointment this season. They've struggled after an 8-1-1 start and are 13 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

But that hasn't stopped a handful of their players from turning in some eye-catching individual seasons.

To showcase the top performances this season, here are the top players in various categories:

 

MVP

Jack Eichel has been the leader and face of the Sabres since being the No. 2 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. His 36 goals are an NHL career high, and the center's 78 points are 28 more than Buffalo's second-leading scorer, forward Sam Reinhart (50). Eichel, who is Sabres captain, has been frequently mentioned as a Hart Trophy candidate as NHL MVP, and rightly so; he's averaging 1.15 points per game, a 94-point pace for an 82-game schedule.

Video: WSH@BUF: Eichel bures one-timer from circle for PPG

 

Rookie

Forward Victor Olofsson may be considered an older rookie at 24, and he's played like a veteran. His 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) rank second among NHL rookie forwards to Chicago Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik (46) and is third for the Sabres behind Eichel and Reinhart. He's also shown a penchant for coming through in the clutch. His four game-winning goals are second on Buffalo to Eichel's nine.

 

Defenseman

Rasmus Dahlin doesn't turn 20 until April 13, but he plays far beyond his years. With 40 points (four goals, 36 assists) in 59 games, he's averaging 0.68 points per game, a 55-point pace over a full season. He's second on the Sabres in power-play points with 19, eight fewer than Eichel, who has played nine more games. Dahlin said he's learned how to slow down the pace of the game in his second NHL season and has looked more poised as a result.

Video: ANA@BUF: Dahlin nets wrist shot from distance for PPG

 

Defensive forward

Jimmy Vesey was acquired in a trade from the New York Rangers on July 1 to provide offense, but it's his 200-foot game that has impressed the Sabres coaching staff. He has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 64 games, but the stat that stands out is his plus-12 rating, which ranks second on the Sabres behind defenseman Brandon Montour's plus-13. Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger has not hesitated to put Vesey out against the opposition's top lines.

 

Comeback player

Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was an NHL-worst minus-41 in 2018-19 and was the focus of trade speculation in the offseason. But the Sabres opted to keep the 25-year-old, and he's rewarded them. Ristolainen is minus-2 this season and has 33 points (six goals, 27 assists). He also leads Buffalo in average ice time per game (22:48).

Video: BUF@DET: Ristolainen jams puck home for PPG

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