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Buffalo Sabres 2023-2024 Season Preview

Sep 30, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner (53) celebrates his goal with right wing Kyle Okposo (21) and right wing Tage Thompson (72) during the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Key Additions/Subtractions

The Sabres’ roster remains relatively stable from last season, a sign of the team’s faith in itself and its players. The only real full-time subtraction (loss) was Ilya Lyubushkin, but the team has so much defensive depth, it’s not even funny. They added Erik Johnson & Connor Clifton over the summer and have several young players coming in all around who could make a splash, including Zach Benson and Ryan Johnson. Benson was incredibly impressive in camp and will get (at least) a nine-game tryout before the team decides his long-term fate. Ryan Johnson has been assigned to the AHL, at least for now.


The Sabres are strong on offense, with a lot of skilled producers like Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, Alex Tuch and Dylan Cozens. The defense is maybe a bit more of a toss-up, with strength at the top in guys like Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power and Mattias Samuelsson with more depth at the AHL level, too. The jury’s still out on Jacob Bryson, though, who somehow made the opening night roster over Riley Stillman & Kale Clague. Connor Clifton wasn’t anything to write home about in the preseason, and we only saw Erik Johnson in one game. Did the Sabres do enough during the offseason to shore up the defense?

Biggest Questions

One of the biggest questions for the Sabres right now: goaltending. Heading into the season, they’ve seemingly got a three-man rotation with Devon Levi, Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Levi is the least experienced of the trio, but has also shown incredible promise in his small sample size of NHL play. With that, Luukkonen’s stock seems to have fallen a bit but the end picture is still up in the air. With Matt Savoie still sidelined with injury, the Sabres have the luxury of being able to carry three goalies without having to worry about making a roster move. Perhaps once Savoie is ready to return, Buffalo makes a decision as to whether to keep Comrie or Luukkonen.

The other questions will be, then, regarding the youngsters in Zach Benson and Matt Savoie. Both are in similar, yet different, positions. Benson had a great showing in preseason and should get at least his nine-game tryout. Savoie is recovering from injury and just recently got back on the ice. Either, or both, could be sent back to the WHL’s Wenatchee Wild at some point. The Wild, meanwhile, just terminated head coach Kevin Constantine, who was suspended by the WHL.

Star Players

Tage Thompson will look to have another stellar season after putting up a career-high 94 points in 78 games last season. He played a huge role in Buffalo’s offense last season, and much will be expected of him. The same can be said for Jeff Skinner, who also had a career-best season last year with 82 points in 79 games, and Alex Tuch, who put up 79 points in 74 games.

The beauty of this Sabres team is that there are a number of “star players” based on last season. The depth is there, too, with guys like Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt also all ready to step up.

Under-The-Radar Player Who Could Have an Impact

If you don’t know Peyton Krebs, well, you might want to. On an already-talented team, Krebs is really a depth forward but definitely has some potential. More than just offensively, he’s also a bit of a fireball, not afraid to get physical and throw himself into the different facets of the game, never backing down. Need some evidence? Here he is going up against Sidney Crosby.

Key Rookie/Young Player

Zach Benson, as I’ve already mentioned, is the talk of the town right now. The 18-year-old was drafted 13th overall by the Sabres earlier this year, and could end up being the steal of the draft. He appears to be skilled and confident and hasn’t looked out of place at all in preseason. His play has been consistent, which led to his playing in a whopping six games. In that time, he put up seven points, including four goals.

Yes, of course, this has been only preseason, and the true test will come starting Thursday when the Sabres open the regular season. If Benson plays as well as he has so far, he could find himself with the NHL club for the whole season, and it would certainly be a well-deserved position.

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