Ranking Sabres defensemen from worst to best for the 2024-25 season

While I didn’t rate most AHL players last season, Ryan Johnson is an exception, as he played 41 games with the Sabres. And if the Blue and Gold had been able to compete in the playoffs for a while like the Rochester Americans, Johnson may never have finished the year with the Americans.

Still, he’s settled in well in those 41 games, even if his totals seem more insignificant than Jacob Bryson’s. But he hasn’t been on the ice for many goals against at even strength, his total being just 18, rising to 36 in 82 games. If he plays the full year for the Sabres, a more physical team around him could produce even better results in terms of possession statistics.

It should come as no surprise that Connor Clifton landed in the middle of this ranking, as he can go either way here. If the player who emerged later in the season arrives in October, the Sabres will be better off. But he can’t let his opponents catch him in an unfavorable position as often as they did at the start of the 2023-24 season.

Still, 45 goals conceded on the ice at even strength is not bad, even though he was playing behind one of the better goalies in the league, and that with an average ice time of just 16:33 minutes, more than a full minute less than the 17:51 minutes he achieved in his last season with the Boston Bruins.

For Mattias Samuelsson, finding a way to stay on the ice long-term is crucial. Injuries have limited him to just 96 games over the past two years. One could argue that less ice time would benefit him, but in 41 games last season, Samuelsson averaged just 20:30 minutes of ice time per game, over a minute and a half less than he will play in the 2022/23 season.

But even in what could be described as a down season, Samuelsson has found good ways to get the puck up the ice, as evidenced by his 50.3 Corsi For last year. If that number continues to rise this season and Samuelsson stays healthy long-term, the Sabres will have plenty of other scoring opportunities.