(Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America)
Defenseman Brayden McNabb is player that Sabres fans became familiar with quite fast last season.
After a strong start in AHL Rochester, McNabb earned himself a call-up in December when the injury bug began to hit the team.
His 25 game stretch in the NHL earned him the respect and admiration of the Sabres faithful for his big hitting and defensive abilities. But now that McNabb has tasted what it’s like to play in the NHL, he wants it full-time.
“I’m going to expect to be in the NHL,” said McNabb.
As it currently sits, McNabb is one of four players vying for the final two spots on the Sabres backline. And in all intents and purposes, unless a deal is made, Andrej Sekera will be the fifth defensemen with Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, and Robyn Regehr as the team’s top four.
It leaves three players battling for that last and final spot. You have Alexander Sulzer, a 2012 trade deadline acquisition that surprised everyone and earned himself a new one-year contract. Mike Weber, who’s been extremely incosistent with his play the last two seasons, but is still a player the team likes.
Then there’s McNabb who is still on his entry-level deal and only 21 years old, but feels his game is ready for the NHL.
“I think it is,” he said. “I played in 25 last year and felt really good. I’ve been working hard this offseason and taking strides. I’m ready for the challenge and whatever happens happens.”
While McNabb appreciates the competetition he gets to go against, he does admit that it’s frustrating seeing the team constantly acquire defensemen which slims his full-time roster odds even more.
“Yea a little bit,” said McNabb about the frustration. “I’m just going to try and go prove myself and earn a spot and do whatever I can each day to get better.”
McNabb is that big-bodied, two-way defensemen more known for his physicality than anything else, which McNabb said is a big part of his game, ”It’s a big part of my game. I’m a big guy, and I need to use my body.”
It’s a playing style that the Sabres have been trying to address, especially this offseason. And with Regehr entering the final year of his contract, it’s not known whether or not he will be back with the team after this season which could open the door for McNabb to step right in into Regehr’s role with the team.
The plan for McNabb, as of now, is to start the season back in Rochester. It’s not something he wants to do, but will do.
“It’s not what I want,” he said. “If I am [in the AHL] I’m just going to work hard to get back here.”