As the ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and the AHL's Rochester Americans, the Jackals are tasked with developing prospects throughout the organization. The Road to the Show provides details on how those prospects are progressing.
Buffalo Sabres (NHL) – With another strong week to end the season, the Sabres ended their 2015-16 campaign with a 35-36-11 record, only one point shy of a .500 season. The Sabres ended the season with 81 points, a 27 point increase from a season ago. In the last week of the regular season, the Sabres defeated the New Jersey Devils, 3-1, lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-1, and defeated the New York Islanders, 4-3, in overtime, which helped force the Islanders into a Wild Card position, in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs. Notably, in the final game of the season, Evan Rodrigues recorded his first NHL goal, assist, and multi-point game, while Hudson Fasching tallied his first NHL assist. On Friday night, Jason Kasdorf made his NHL debut, in goal, while Cole Schneider made his NHL debut, at forward, in a losing effort against Columbus.
While the Sabres season ultimately ended without a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were a panoply of reasons for optimism. Ryan O’Reilly, who was acquired from the Avalanche in a draft day blockbuster, last June, led the Sabres with 60 points and 39 assists. He also ended the year tied for the team lead with eight power play goals. Less measurably, O’Reilly also provided veteran leadership, at the young age of 25, for the young and constantly improving Sabres.
Maybe the biggest reasons for hope, in Buffalo, were the stellar rookie campaigns of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Eichel, the 2nd overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, led the team with 24 goals, and finished second on the team with 56 points. He also finished tied for the team lead with five game winning goals. He accomplished this all at the tender young age of 19. In addition to playing well all season, Eichel did not hit the proverbial ‘rookie wall’, as he ended the year on a five-game point streak. Meanwhile, Sam Reinhart, the 2nd overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, also enjoyed a breakout rookie season. He ended the year with 23 goals, second on the team, and 42 points, third on the Sabres. After playing nine games for the Sabres at the end of last year, the 20-year-old Reinhart improved by leaps and bounds, in his first full NHL campaign. Both men ended the season tied with Ryan O’Reilly with the team lead of eight PPG.
On the blue line, the standout performer of the season was another young player, the 21-year-old, Rasmus Ristolainen. The young Finn was a steady performer all year for the Sabres. He was the only player to play in all 82 games for Buffalo this season. Ristolainen ended the year tied with Jack Eichel for second on the team with 32 assists. He also finished fourth on the Sabres with 41 points. With the top picks from each of the last three drafts, Eichel, Reinhart, and Ristolainen, the Sabres are poised for great things in the future.
While the Elmira Jackals did not have any alums make their debuts for the Sabres this season, there were four former Jackals who played in NHL games this year, all for the Ottawa Senators. Mike Hoffman, who played in four games for the Jackals during the 2010-11 campaign, with three assists, led the Senators with 29 goals on the season. The fifth round selection, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, also finished third on the team with 59 points, and tied for fourth on the team with 30 assists. The 26-year-old Hoffman improved on last season’s career year, and is quickly becoming the most successful NHL player with ties to the Elmira Jackals.
On the Senator blue line, former Jackal, Chris Wideman made his NHL debut on October 17, 2015. A fourth round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Wideman played in five games for the Jackals during the 2012-13 campaign, recording five assists as a Jackal. In his first NHL season, Wideman played 64 games, scoring six goals, and seven assists. Two of his goals were game winners. His impressive play also earned him a contract extension and a projected place in the 2016-17 Senators lineup.
For the second consecutive season, former Jackal, Chris Driedger made an appearance in one game for the Ottawa Senators. Driedger played in four games for the Jackals during the 2013-14 season, going 1-2-0, with a 3.92 goals-against-average and .893 save percentage. He stopped all 11 shots he faced in 32 minutes of action against the Montreal Canadiens in a game on December 12, 2015. He has now turned aside all 21 NHL shots he has faced in 55 minutes of NHL action.
Finally, Buddy Robinson, who played one game for the Jackals during the 2013-14 season, made his NHL debut on Tuesday night, against the Penguins. The undrafted Robinson spent most of the past three years playing in Binghamton before earning his first NHL call-up. The Bellmawr, New Jersey native, scored the game winning goal in his second ever game, against the Florida Panthers, on Thursday night, and registered his first NHL assist on Saturday, against the Bruins, in a lopsided win, which knocked Boston out of the playoffs.