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Short summer successful for Canadian hopefuls

Written By Kris Baker on Thursday, July 31, 2008 | 7/31/2008

The scrimmages have come to an end at Team Canada’s Development Camp in Ottawa, and the Sabres trio looking to don the maple leaf at the 2009 World Junior Championships was impressive in their initial run in front of Hockey Canada brass. Of the Sabres prospects, Tyler Ennis made the most noise in the camp’s three games. A speedster in the mold of former Sabres captain Daniel Briere, the Medicine Hat scorer dotted the sheet with an assist in the opening Team Red win before posting a goal and an assist in losing effort the following night. For his effort, he was awarded the 1st and 3rd Stars of the Game on Sunday and Monday. The energetic Ennis was creating throughout, and seems like a lock to be a top-6 scorer for Canada this winter. Another impressive string was put forth by 6’7-1/2 defenseman, Tyler Myers. The Alberta native used his smooth, long stride to assert himself as a controlling presence for Team Red. This is a good sign for Kelowna Rockets fans, as it's possible that Myers will be counted on greatly if teammate Luke Schenn sticks with Toronto. Myers went pointless in the series, picking up a cross-checking minor along the way. It’s expected that he gets a longer look when Canada cuts their pool of possible defenders in December. Paul Byron, despite being left off the sheet in all three games, was noticeable because of his blazing speed and ability around the cage. The 2007 6th round pick was one of seven players in camp standing below 5’10 (his listed height seems to vary between 5’8 and 5’10), but entered the corners with a style befitting a much bigger forward. Still, Canada’s pool of forward prospects is rich in talent, making it difficult for the Ottawa native to gain ground as the cut approaches in late fall. With as many as six invitees potentially sticking with their NHL clubs this fall, it would be wise to leave the door open for all camp participants at this point. From The Ottawa Citizen:
Nobody works harder than Byron. No one handles the puck any better. He also has Groulx solidly in his corner. He might look more like a Team Canada stick boy off the ice, but on the ice Byron looks as if he belongs as he continues with an extremely busy summer. After playing in the Memorial Cup, Byron attended the Buffalo Sabres' development camp June 24-July 3. With the development camp completed, the Olympiques' training camp will be up next in mid-August. "I haven't really had a summer at all," said Byron, who, at 144 pounds, is some 71 pounds lighter than the camp heavyweights, defencemen Luke Schenn and Keith Aulie. It's nice to meet all these great players and compete with them," he said. "It's always tough playing against the best. You have to be prepared every day."
7/31/2008 | 0 comments | Read More

Byron ready to show he belongs

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, July 27, 2008 | 7/27/2008

The Ottawa Sun ran a quick hit in today's edition about hometown star Paul Byron's tryout with Team Canada. Byron forever having to prove himself:
"He knows it doesn't matter how small I am, he's not going to overlook the size of my heart and what I try to do to win," said Byron, a speedy forward who scored 21 goals in 19 playoff games last season. Groulx said Byron "will no doubt one day get a chance to play in pro hockey," but sorry, he'll have to earn his spot on the junior team like everyone else. "He's been invited here because he had a very good season," said Groulx. "It'll be a good challenge to see how he fits among the top guys in the country."
Clocking in well below the average height and weight of most developing NHL prospects, the diminuitive Byron has been dealing with size questions since day one. An Ontario native, it took a QMJHL club to realize his potential as an offensive dynamo after being turned away by the OHL. Two years later, Byron has put himself on the map as one of the CHL's elite offensive forces. Most eyes will be elsewhere this week as Byron enters his first foray into national team contention (fellow Sabres prospects Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis are likely to garner more attention). This should allow the speedster to play his game and stake his claim with Coach Groulx while ramping up into Buffalo's training camp later this fall. Team Red will faceoff against Team White in the first scrimmage of camp tonight at 6:00.
7/27/2008 | 0 comments | Read More

Canadian Development Camp set to kick off

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, July 25, 2008 | 7/25/2008

Sabres prospects Paul Byron, Tyler Myers, and Tyler Ennis are among 44 hopefuls skating at the Canadian junior development camp beginning Saturday at the University of Ottawa. A shorter list of players will be invited to battle for spots on the 22-man roster at the national junior team's final selection camp in mid December in Ottawa. The camp will be thick with talent, as 19 NHL first-round picks are included on the preliminary roster. The participants will be broken up into two squads with Team Red taking the ice for a 5:00 Saturday practice, while Team White will hit the ice at 7:30. The teams will again alternate practice times of 10:00 and 11:15 AM on Sunday and Monday before scrimmaging at 6:00 each day. The practice sessions are free to the public, while a little over 800 tickets will be available for each scrimmage (cash only at the door). With less than half of its 2008 roster returning, Team Canada's selection process is wide open this year. It would seem that 2008 first rounders Myers (D, Kelowna - WHL) and Ennis (F, Medicine Hat - WHL) would have the inside track on claiming spots in the December cut-down camp, but don’t count Byron out either. The 5’10 forward will lead Gatineau’s quest for a repeat visit to the Memorial Cup after a 37-goal campaign in 2007-08, and hot start out of the gate this fall could fuel his chances of wearing the coveted Maple Leaf. It certainly helps that les Olympiques Head Coach Benoit Groulx will also be manning the bench for Team Canada this winter. One of just 10 QMJHL players in camp, Byron dinged his shoulder at the Sabres Development Camp a few weeks back, but is healed and ready to fly. SabresProspects looks to have more camp details as they become available.
7/25/2008 | 4 comments | Read More

Zagrapan showing wares in KHL camp

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, July 16, 2008 | 7/16/2008

At the advice of his agent, forward prospect Marek Zagrapan is currently skating in a tryout camp for Spartak Moscow of the newly formed KHL. Zagrapan has one year remaining on his three-year entry level deal with the Sabres. It is thought that the Slovakian, chosen 13th overall in 2005, will return to North America for 2008-09 (likely in Portland of the AHL) with the European tryout being more of a preliminary assessment for both sides. In 147 games over the past two seasons in Rochester, Zagrapan has 35 goals and 43 assists and has yet to earn a callup to Buffalo. Staying in Europe, Eishockeynews has confirmed that Philip Gogulla will return to Kolner Haie (DEL) in 2008. The 6'2 left wing will still participate in Buffalo's training camp this fall. In other news, forwards Clarke MacArthur and Mark Mancari have signed their qualifying offers with Buffalo. Both have three professional seasons under their belt, and will be subject to waivers on their way to the AHL if they do not make the Sabres out of camp.
7/16/2008 | 4 comments | Read More

Newfie Adam ready for westward expansion

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 | 7/08/2008

The NHL website today posted a nice piece on Sabres 2008 draft pick, C/LW Luke Adam.
Having an edge but not going over the edge … that's what attracted the Buffalo Sabres to the latest top prospect from Newfoundland -- Luke Adam. "I think that describes him well," says Buffalo General Manager Darcy Regier. "Luke has very good skills now and the expectations are that he will build them. With another year or two of development he is going to get stronger and he is going to get more proficient on the scoring side. We need his size and physical play."
Playing next season with Montreal (QMJHL), Adam seems to have a path in mind as he sharpens his scoring skills.
"Ryane Clowe is a great role model for me and he is definitely someone that I look up to for inspiration," Adam said. "Ryane was always nagged about his skating and people said that he was too big and he wasn't going to make (the NHL) but look where he is today. In my opinion he is one of the best power forwards in the National Hockey League. I work out alongside of him during the summers and being able to push along with him is great training. Ryane is in the NHL so I know what it's going to take to get there. It's great to have a role model like Ryane Clowe." "Clowe is a good role model for Luke," McGuire said. "Clowe is a hard-working guy and really contributes well to the Sharks. If Luke sticks with his example and follows his pattern he's got the potential to be a long time NHLer. There's a lot of upside to Luke's game. If he follows Ryane Clowe's lead it will be the work that gets him there and the amount of goals will keep him there."
It appears that Sabres GM Darcy Regier agrees with the Clowe comparison/modeling.
"We'd love to get Ryane Clowe out of him," Regier said. "Ryane Clowe is a very good player. I think that would be a real good deal for the Buffalo Sabres."
7/08/2008 | 1 comments | Read More

Gogulla staying in Cologne?

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, July 7, 2008 | 7/07/2008

Phillip Gogulla today told German news outlet bild.de that he'll likely remain with Kolner Haie of the DEL for one more season, but will make a final decision shortly. Also in the interview, the tired Gogulla spoke of the recent development camp by railing on the camp beds, being woken up at 6 AM, and practicing without breakfast. Gogulla performed well while skating on a line with Nathan Gerbe and Marek Zagrapan at last week's Development Camp. The 6'2, 198-pound wing scored a career best 43 points in 50 games with Cologne last season, and looks poised to eat up top-6 forward minutes with Portland if he decides to come to North America. Regardless of his decision, Gogulla is expected to participate in the Sabres training camp this fall.
7/07/2008 | 0 comments | Read More

Weber in perspective

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, July 5, 2008 | 7/05/2008

With the arrival of Craig Rivet essentially replacing Dmitri Kalinin on the Sabres blueline, GM Darcy Regier yesterday suggested that his club is still looking at bringing Teppo Numminen back for one more season of NHL action. The argument of quality blueline depth will always make sense to Sabres fans. Bringing Numminen back at a reasonable price would accomplish that, but one should wonder if the dollars need to be spent given the fact that Maxim Afinogenov and his $3.5MM salary (3.3 cap) are still idling on the roster. As is, the financially responsible Regier would be wise to wait until training camp to further evaluate his defensive corps and really find out if Teppo is needed. The "wait" isn't all about the dollars. It's about icing your best team. If Andrej Sekera has advanced himself into Buffalo's top-6 ahead of current #7 Nathan Paetsch, it would seem that a Numminen signing would automatically send 21-year old rearguard Mike Weber to Portland (AHL) to start. Weber played well in his 16 games with Buffalo last season, averaging 16:40 of ice time while topping all blueliners with a +12 rating. The healthy bodies of Rivet, Henrik Tallinder, Jaroslav Spacek, and Toni Lydman could indeed mean that Weber's greatest amount of ice time would be had in the AHL. However, the organization as a whole needs to ice their six best defensemen every night in the NHL. Weber's brief audition revealed a guy who was just about there, and you can bet he'll be ready to fight for it moving forward. On the surface, Weber is still young and developing. He emerged as a leader early during his first season with Rochester in 2007-08, mixing responsible play with a little old time hockey to set the pace in the Amerks +/- and PIM columns. Adding him to the group of Mike Funk, Mike Card, Mike Kostka, Chris Butler, and apparently Marc-Andre Gragnani (we still prefer him as a LW) makes the Portland blueline crop more formidable and experienced. At the same time, re-signing Nolan Pratt primarily for AHL duty could offer leadership on the farm, and a chance for Weber to continue growing with the big club. With improved footwork making him more effective at both ends, he's big enough and strong enough to make it happen in camp this fall. The below puts Weber's immediate NHL impact into perspective more than anything else.
2007-08 Top 5 D-men in hits/game* Mike Komisarek - 3.55 (75 gp) Brooks Orpik - 3.07 (78 gp) Zdeno Chara - 2.89 (77 gp) Mike Weber - 2.81 (16 gp) Stephane Robidas - 2.68 (82 gp) *players who appeared in more than one game
Taking it all in, the usually patient Sabres are going to have a hard time sending Weber to Portland if his physical play reflects his first 16 games. Numminen has been an admirable performer for the Sabres, but Buffalo is a blue collar town in need of a blue collar D.
7/05/2008 | 13 comments | Read More

Gold storms back for 8-7 win

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | 7/01/2008

Gassed and ready to break camp, the group of talent assembled at the Buffalo Sabres 2008 Development Camp strapped it on for one last scrimmage on Tuesday. With the lack of hitting promoting wide-open play, the tired bodies still provided some solid action. Jean-simon Allard, Derek Whitmore, and Brady Irwin joined Dylan Hunter, Mike Funk, and Paul Byron on the list of non-participants. Byron developed a sore shoulder last week, and has stayed away from the ice in preparation for Team Canada's Development Camp on the 25th. Team Blue got off to another quick start, leading Gold 4-2 at the half time break, but a nine-goal closing stanza would result in Gold's only win of the weeklong gathering. Depleted up front, Alex Biega, Mike Card, and even Mike Weber all saw time as a forward for Team Gold during the afternoon skate. In a similar vein, Marc-Andre Gragnani assumed Allard's forward spot with Blue, skating on a line with Tim Kennedy and Jacob Lagace. Adam Dennis (Blue) and Nick Eno (Gold) started each half in the nets. Scoring synopsis: Five minutes in, a Tyler Myers wrist shot from the point deflected past Nick Eno to open the scoring for Team Blue. Felix Schutz and Mark Van Guilder were in front, but were crediting Myers with the goal as it appeared to bounce off a Gold defender. The line of Van Guilder-Schutz-Orpik continued to impress throughout the afternoon. One of the prettiest plays of the day was an in/out move by Van Guilder that was stopped by Jhonas Enroth. Moments later, Drew MacKenzie jumped up to work a textbook give-and-go with Tim Kennedy, one-timing the return past Nick Eno to give Blue a 2-0 lead. MacKenzie quietly performed well in camp, showing steady play and a bit of an edge amongst a stacked defensive deck. Just as Enroth was getting set after an on-the-fly goalie change, Andrew Orpik blasted home a Felix Schutz feed to make it 3-0 Blue. Corey Tropp would get Gold on the board, pumping a pass from Tyler Ennis past Brad Eidsness to cut Blue's lead to 3-1. The Ennis-Cepis-Tropp unit gelled in the scrimmages, using speed and nifty plays down low to set each other up. Blue would strike again shortly after Tropp's marker. Tyler Myers took a Marek Zagrapan pass into the zone, and spotted Nathan Gerbe heading toward to the net. Gerbe slid a backhander along the ice inside the right post to score Blue's final goal before the break. Tyler Ennis cut Gold's deficit in half when he took a Jacob Cepis pass into the zone and got off a quick wrister. The puck would deflect off a Blue defender (Dennis Persson perhaps), and get past Eidsness. Ennis continues to remind us of a new-era Daniel Briere. His stick-to-it-ness on every play is reminiscent of the former #48, and he even stands like him in warm-ups. End of 1st - Blue 4, Gold 2 The first and second goals of the back-and-forth 2nd were scored via penalty shot. After a hack by Patrick Kaleta, Nathan Gerbe would skate in on Eno, fake a slapper, then deke three times before finishing it off with a backhand. Brilliant. Nick Crawford would later get it back for Gold, beating Adam Dennis stick side to make it 5-3 Blue. A large Gold presence parked in front of the Blue net, Luke Adam took a Vincent Scarsella look and roofed a backhander from in tight to get the comeback juices flowing. On the next shift, a patient Felix Schutz circled in front of Nick Eno and found an opening to put Blue back ahead by a pair. Unfettered and kicking it up a notch with a win in mind, Gold's Mike Kostka finished off a give-and-go with Kaleta to make it a one-goal game. Felix Schutz would again engage in the game of "top that", going top shelf with a pretty backhand. Mark Van Guilder picked up the assist on the seventh and final Blue goal. With Jhonas Enroth now feeding off the Gold energy, Kaleta one-timed a Chris Butler pass from the left point to make it 7-6. Luke Adam would strike again on the way back down to tie the game, 7-7. Minutes later, Scarsella set-up Josh Vatri for the game winning goal. Final Score: Gold 8, Blue 7 Other notes: In a hurry to catch a 7:00 flight out of town, Chris Butler again showed his ability to take the puck down the ice and get a shot off. The guy epitomizes the term "all-situations defenseman", and will be a rock out of the gate for Portland. At one point, Lagace picked him cleanly and took the puck back the other way. Butler chased him down and shoved him to the ice like a mini-linebacker. Butler's partner Mike Weber also had a decent rush into the zone in the 2nd half, but was quickly shut down in the circle. Tyler Myers was seen wheelin'-and-dealin' at various points, causing Sabres Asst. Coach James Patrick to remark, "Tyler Myers is going to be a very good defenseman". Agreed. Dennis Persson was noticeable in front of both nets today. For the good, he continued to jump into play, causing screens and attracting defenders. He also made a few nice passes into the slot for tip opportunities. For the bad, he had the puck poke checked from him at the edge of his crease by Felix Schutz, resulting in a shot on goal. With Mark Van Guilder showing traits of a steady, dependable forward, fellow invitee Jacob Cepis was equally impressive all week. Cepis was going hard the whole way through, charging to the net expecting a puck. When isolating Alex Biega, you really notice his excellent footwork and his ability to stand up against the rush. Marek Zagrapan sprung Gerbe on a breakaway early, but like many others, was running out of gas late. The tank being on E was also the likely villain when Philip Gogulla made an own-zone giveaway to Mike Card in the 2nd half. The save of the day came when Enroth robbed Orpik with a big glove in the 2nd. Jhonas was flashing the leather late, and his supreme hand-eye coordination was evident by his snaring of several tips throughout camp. More in the comments later.
7/01/2008 | 4 comments | Read More

Returning to Dwyer for the camp finale

After a day off, SabresProspects will again be heading back to Dwyer Arena for the final Development Camp scrimmage between teams Blue and Gold. Be sure to check back later for an update on the day's happenings.
7/01/2008 | 3 comments | Read More