(Note: This will be a top-ten countdown of the Buffalo Sabres' top prospects. In order to be considered a prospect, the player has be eligible for the Calder Trophy this season, which means they cannot have played more than 25 games in the NHL in any season prior. This removes Corey Tropp, Jhonas Enroth and Cody Hodgson from contention.)
Holding four of the first 50 picks of the 2012 NHL draft, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier had the ability to add a lot of talent to his prospect pool. He did not disappoint.
In the second round, after making a splash by taking two centers, Regier looked to the best player available at pick No. 44, selecting University of Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe. The Sabres already have depth on defense, but this pick made a lot of sense for Regier.
McCabe is a solid skater with great puck-moving skills. In his freshman season at Wisconsin, despite being only 18, he was placed on the top defensive pairing with one of free agency's biggest catches—Justin Schultz. He was also ranked number 47 in NHL Central Scouting's final pre-draft rankings for North American skaters.
So what can be expected out of McCabe in the future?
In the short term, McCabe will return to Wisconsin for his sophomore season and hope to help the Badgers rebound from a lackluster season following a Frozen Four berth two seasons ago. Likely staying on the top-pairing, McCabe will have every opportunity to improve his game in the WCHA.
He will likely spend 2013-14 in Wisconsin as well, but look for him to sign an entry-level deal after that. With his superior defensive zone skills and puck moving abilities, he projects to play in Rochester, but he could challenge in Buffalo depending on the blue line situation at that time.
Despite the depth at the position, McCabe adds another high-end prospect to the Sabres' defensive pool and will form the future of the Sabres' back end along with Tyler Myers, Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk.