Buffalo - August 15, 2014 - We’re still about two months out from actual NHL hockey (the horror!), so there’s still a lot of time and boredom left to deal with.
As a Sabres fan, there isn’t a ton to look forward to even when the season starts. Instead, the eye is constantly towards the future. Everyone knows the Sabres aren’t winning any time soon, but the good part of being so bad is that they have a plethora of talented youngsters who will theoretically turn the Sabres into a Stanley Cup contender for many years to come.
We’ll take a look at the top prospects in the Sabres system and all of the dirty details on each, continuing today with a prospect who has quickly become one of the best goaltending prospects in the Sabres system: Linus Ullmark.
How we got him: Selected in the sixth round with the 163rd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Comparable Sabre of the Past: Martin Biron. They come from completely different backgrounds – Biron from the QMJHL, Ullmark from the SHL – and have completely different levels of hype (Biron was a first round pick), but hear me out.
Both are big, butterfly goalies that take away the bottom of the net. I don’t recall Biron being quite as aggressive as Ullmark is, but the similarities overall are there. He’s essentially a more unpolished Biron at this point.
Why he may be awesome: He’s shot up the ranks to become a potential NHL starter thanks to a breakout 2013-14 campaign that saw him lead the SHL in save percentage and win its Goalie of the Year award.
Ullmark has a big frame (6’3”) and he aggressively tries to take away the angles on the first shot. He’s got a good glove hand to boot and is working on improving his lateral quickness. Just as importantly as all of that is the fact that he’s going to be given the time to develop his game. That’s huge for goaltending prospects.
Why he may not be so great: Goalies are crapshoots. It doesn’t matter if you take them in the first round or sign them as an undrafted free agent. Sometimes, you just can’t predict how a goalie will develop.
Ullmark still needs to work on his consistency and side-to-side movement. He’s still raw and a bit of a project at this point, but the tools are there.
Ceiling: Moderate. Sweden is the place to find late-round steals in net (just ask Henrik Lundqvist) and the Sabres may have found just that in Ullmark. He’s got the size and the talent to be a starter in the NHL, it’s just a matter of continuing to develop his game before he comes to North America.
General excitement level: High. I think the Sabres really stumbled onto something here. All reports on him have been nothing but positive and the best thing is that he doesn’t have to rush. When he does get here, he’ll have every opportunity to win a spot on the roster and the starting job may be there for him to take.
What to expect: It’s still going to be awhile before we see Ullmark. He’ll be playing for MoDo of the SHL this season, with a North American arrival set for 2015/16. From there, he could compete for the starting job, but don’t be surprised if he gets a year in Rochester to adjust to the pro game.
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