ESPN pimps Gragnani

Sean Allen of ESPN.com ran a story last week about AHL players positioning themselves for NHL call-ups. Included on his list was Amerks rookie Marc-Andre Gragnani, whose 25 points (4-21-25) currently ranks 12th among AHL frst-year players. In the story, Allen paints a picture of an exciting rearguard poised to aid a struggling Sabres squad. He's got it half right. The Sabres are indeed struggling. Known for his vision and puck moving skills as a junior with PEI, the rangy 6'1 Gragnani signed with the Sabres this past offseason. After registering a league-worst -20 rating through his first 23 games on the blueline, the Sabres 2005 third-rounder found himself thrust into a forward costume right around Halloween. "Grags" continued to split time between wing and the blueline, with most of his defensive work coming with the man advantage. To date, he is one of two Amerks (Mark Mancari is the other) who has appeared in every game this season. It became clear in December that the skilled Quebecois' future (at least for the rest of the 2007-08 campaign) was as a "defenseman-turned-forward". His play has spiked since the switch, giving a boost to fellow Sabres properties and frequent linemates Marek Zagrapan and Mark Mancari along the way. Gragnani now has nine points in as many January games, and his 21 assists lead the team. He's also been an even or plus player in every game throughout the stretch, adding further proof that the move was a good one. It all adds up to a welcome turn of events from his first quarter as a pro. With a depressing cloud of negativity surrounding what appears to be the final year of the Rochester-Buffalo relationship, consider Grags' moving in a positive direction as a sign that not everything is going horribly down on the farm. If Allen's speculation is on point, Grags will be dialed to produce and create by season's end. It's just that it will be from a wing, and not from the blueline as suggested. -------------------- One other Amerks note: Mancari, who himself is a defenseman-turned-forward, was Rochester's nominee for AHL Player of the Week after scoring goals in each of his last five games. The award was given to Quad City's Grant Stevenson who continued his eight-game scoring streak with four goals against Rochester yesterday.
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