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30 in 30

Top prospects for Buffalo Sabres

Alexander Nylander, Brendan Guhle likely won't be rushed to NHL

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 30 teams throughout August. Today, the Buffalo Sabres.

The Buffalo Sabres have seen a number of prospects move through the organization to become full-time players in the NHL, and the next wave of talent is looking to follow in their footsteps.

Last season, the Sabres had forwards Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart join the likes of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and forward Zemgus Girgensons. Though Buffalo's fate this season rests in the hands of those young players, its future looks strong with a mix of fast, skilled forwards, puck-handling defensemen and big, agile goaltenders. 

Sabres 30 in 30: Season outlook | Burning questions, reasons for optimism | Fantasy outlook

Here are the Sabres' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Alexander Nylander, LW

How acquired: Selected with No. 8 pick of 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Mississauga (OHL): 57 GP, 28-47-75

The son of former NHL player Michael Nylander, the 18-year-old has a combination of size (6-foot-1, 180 pounds), puck-handling ability and a strong shot that make him Buffalo's top prospect.

"If you asked me, 'Could he go back to junior [hockey]?' -- there's a scenario," Sabres general manager Tim Murray said. "If you asked me, 'Could I see him playing wing with Jack [Eichel] and Sam [Reinhart]?' I could see a scenario. If you asked me, 'Could I see him playing in the American [Hockey] League?' I mean, there's all kinds of scenarios and he can fit in any one of them, but he's just high-end talent, high-end skill. He's going to be a real good NHL player; it's just going to be a matter of time."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: Sabres draft F Alexander Nylander No. 8

2. Brendan Guhle, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 51 pick of 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Prince Albert (WHL): 63 GP, 10-18-28; Rochester (AHL): 6 GP, 1-3-4

Guhle, 19, impressed during training camp last season and again caught the attention of Sabres executives at development camp in July. The 6-2, 186-pound defenseman opened eyes with his ability to skate with the puck and his intelligence.

"I don't know if I saw a marked improvement [at development camp] because last year he was quite good," Murray said, "and obviously he played some games here. So I think you see more consistency, so that is an improvement, but he's a talented guy. He's an athletic, talented guy that can skate and has some skills.

"Expectations are high, so it's hard to say I saw a huge improvement, but he's getting better in his game that he prepares properly, things you might not see on the ice. So I expect that he's going to come in here and make a push like he did last year, for sure."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

3. Justin Bailey, RW

How acquired: Selected with No. 52 pick of 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Buffalo: 8 GP, 0-0-0; Rochester (AHL): 70 GP, 20-25-45

Bailey, 21, made his NHL debut last season, and though he has yet to score a point in the League, his first season as a pro went well with Rochester of the American Hockey League. During development camp in July, Bailey (6-3, 210) looked like the best player on the ice more often than not and is expected to challenge for a spot with the Sabres in training camp.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

4. William Borgen, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 92 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: St. Cloud State (NCAA): 37 GP, 1-13-14

People may not have taken notice of Borgen, 19, when he was drafted, but since then, the 6-2, 188-pound defenseman has played for the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship (three assists in seven games) and made big strides as one of the best defenseman during development camp.

Borgen's ability to move the puck and play strong in his own end has helped him become one of the top defensive prospects.

Projected NHL arrival: 2018-19

5. Rasmus Asplund, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 33 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Farjestad (SHL): 46 GP, 4-8-12

The Sabres traded up in the second round of the 2016 draft to get Asplund (5-11, 176), and the 18-year-old impressed coaches at development camp.

"Whenever you're coaching, you always seem to notice your players a little more and [Asplund], I thought, was solid," Rochester coach Dan Lambert said. "He was real good on faceoffs. He's a 200-foot player. He's extremely smart. I thought he played a solid game for us and certainly made some plays. He was trying to implement some of the things [he was taught] as well. That's what you want."

Asplund likely will play one more season in the Swedish Hockey League before coming to North America.

Projected NHL arrival: 2018-19

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