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3/31 Recap: Ennis, Schiestel advance

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | 3/31/2009

In a WHL game seven, Tyler Ennis (+3) had a pair of assists as Medicine Hat advanced past Swift Current, 4-1. An Ennis shot on goal was pounced on at 1:29 of the first period to get the Tigers running, 1-0. His second helper came on the clinching empty netter with 1:48 to play. The Tigers move on to face either Brandon or Calgary. In the night's other game seven, Drew Schiestel (+1) had an assist as Niagara closed out their first round series with a 4-3 OT win over Ottawa. After getting beat on the first 67's goal, the Hamilton native shot on goal helped cash a power play with :19 left in the first period for his fifth point of the series. After a two-goal comeback in the third, 2009 eligible Andrew Agozzino ended it with a wrister just :13 into overtime. Fellow '09 Andrew Shaw also put forth a solid effort for Niagara. With the career of 67's coach Brian "Killer" Kilrea coming to an end, the Dogs start preparing for the Belleville Bulls in round two. On Monday, the 67's shut the Dogs out 4-0 to set up the loser-goes-home showdown. Schiestel was even in the loss.
3/31/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Western Wildcat recruit gaining traction

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, March 30, 2009 | 3/30/2009

Out in British Columbia, a big, skilled forward has been developing quietly under the radar over the the past two seasons in the Junior "A" BCHL. Actually 'off the radar' would be more appropriate, as the emerging talent was ignored on North American Central Scouting's mid-term rankings. Cam Reid of the Westside Warriors is a 6'2, 185-pound center who finished his 17-year old season with 40 points in 58 games. After scoring 6-17-23 in 41 games for the Victoria Grizzlies, the Delta, BC product hit for a point-per-game after a January trade, and stayed hot through the BCHL playoffs with four goals and three assists in eight games. With the makeup of a fine skating power forward, Reid's consistent, playmaking game earned him a full scholarship to the University of New Hampshire back in October. A late August birthday (8/25/91), Reid was initially slotted to have minimal impact as an 18-year old freshman in 2009-10 until Ryan Bourque spurned his Wildcats commitment to instead prepare for the pro game with Quebec of the QMJHL. Now, it appears the early ice will be there for the taking if he adjusts quickly. Reid is a scoring, two-way pivot with loads of potential. He combines equal parts passing, skating, and stick skills with a team-first desire to get his hands dirty. In Hockey East, using his size and strength on his way to the net could give him game-breaking ability by the time he's an upperclassmen. The scheduled four-year gig will offer Reid ample time to add mass while rounding out his physical and defensive sides of his game. If the skill set sounds enticing, you just might be a Sabres watcher ready to re-stock the center position with size and skill. Here's a 17-year old sleeper with a strong foundation that should fall in the late rounds, or according to some scouting services, not at all. Five BCHLers made the 2009 mid-term rankings, and it looks like the table may be set for an under-scouted sixth to creep into the '09 mix. The league had six players drafted in 2008, after seven in 2007, and five in 2006. While the Regier-era Sabres have never selected a player from the BCHL, they are proponents of using late-rounds to maximize the longer developing college route, and are wise enough to look at a kid who has earned a full-ride to a reputable D1 program. It's worth noting that Buffalo's WHL scout (and Kelowna Rockets Asst. Coach) Kim Gellert has likely been watching more BCHL puck while his son, Alex, plays out his junior seasons with Cowichan Valley before joining Alaska-Anchorage of the WCHA in 2010.
3/30/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Felix feelin' it, Persson points as Pirates produce

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, March 29, 2009 | 3/29/2009

Felix Schutz had a goal and two assists, while Tim Kennedy scored the late game winner to go along with an earlier helper as Portland defeated lowly Springfield, 4-3, to earn their first three-game win streak since January. Playing in his second career AHL game, Dennis Persson received the only assist on Kennedy's goal while Nathan Gerbe and Marc-Andre Gragnani also chipped in an assist each. Jhonas Enroth made 33 saves to collect his 23rd win of the season. The Rundown: Schutz: 1G, 2A, +1 Kennedy: GWG, 1A, 2 SOG Gerbe: 1A, +1, 5 SOG Persson: 1A Gragnani: 1A Kostka: even Zagrapan: -1 Whitmore: -1 Mancari: -1 Enroth: 33 saves, W On Saturday, Marek Zagrapan had three assists as the Pirates rode a Colin Murphy hat trick past Manchester, 5-2. Gragnani had a goal and an assist for Portland, while Gerbe potted his 26th goal of the year. The Rundown: Gragnani: 1G, 1A Gerbe: 1G, -1, 7 SOG Zagrapan: 3A, +1 Mancari: 1A, +1 Whitmore: even Kostka: 2 SOG Persson: -1 Schutz: -1 Enroth: 24 Saves, W
3/29/2009 | 1 comments | Read More

3/29 Recap: Ennis helps Tigers claw to game seven

In the WHL, Tyler Ennis (+1) had a pair of assists as Medicine Hat staved off elimination in a 3-0 home-ice shutout of Swift Current. With the Ennis line seeing loads of time despite his six minutes in penalties, the quick-footed Edmontonian remains atop the WHL playoffs in goals (8) and points (11). The clubs will travel back to Swift for Tuesday night's deciding Game Seven. T.J. Brennan (-1) had five shots on goal and three of his team's five blocks as Montreal advanced to the second round of the QMJHL playoffs with a 4-2 win over Rouyn-Noranda. The New Jersey native had 10 points (4+6) in the six-game set, good for second in playoff scoring for Q defensemen behind '09 eligible Dmitry Kulikov (12). Winning the series by a 4-2 count, the Juniors move on to face #1 seed Drummondville. In the NCAA, Vermont anxiously watched as top-ranked Boston University got a goal with :15 to play to edge UNH, 2-1. The Terriers win advances them to Washington, DC for the Frozen Four national semifinals where they will square off with first-year defenseman Drew MacKenzie and the Catamounts on Thursday, April 9th.
3/29/2009 | 1 comments | Read More

3/28 Recap: MacKenzie, Cats skate into Frozen Four

In the East Region Final, Drew MacKenzie was +1 as Vermont earned a ticket to the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time since 1996 after a 3-2 double overtime win over Air Force. The freshman rearguard made a key defensive play in the first OT to keep the Cats in it when he slid across the slot to knock the puck from an otherwise unabated attacker. The winning goal came after a 12-minute review that determined that a Dan Lawson shot a few minutes before the stoppage in play entered and exited the Falcons cage. The Cats will play the winner of Sunday's battle between Boston University and New Hampshire. In a Northeast Region semi-final, Brad Eidsness made 28 saves as North Dakota gave up a two-goal lead in their stunning 6-5 OT loss to New Hampshire. UNH's Thomas Fortney shoved a puck past Eidsness with just .01 left in regulation, before Peter LeBlanc completed the thriller just :45 into to overtime to end the Sioux's season. Eidsness ends his freshman year with a 24-12-4 mark, a regular season title, and two games of valuable NCAA tourney experience. In St. Catharines, Drew Schiestel was -1 as Niagara defeated Ottawa 4-3 in a pivotal game five. With a 3-2 series edge, the Dogs will look to cancel out the 67's Monday night in Ottawa. In the QMJHL, defenseman Jordon Southorn had three shots and five hits as PEI's season came to end with a 4-3 loss to Moncton. The Rocket had trouble getting past a firm Wildcats defense to drop the first round series 4-1. Southorn was -2 with two assists in the five postseason games.
3/29/2009 | 1 comments | Read More

Enroth guides Pirates to key victory

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, March 28, 2009 | 3/28/2009

Resuming our AHL coverage, Jhonas Enroth made 39 saves on Friday in Portland's 3-2 win over Lowell. Tim Kennedy (15th), Marek Zagrapan (19th), and Marc-Andre Gragnani (8th) scored second period goals to end the Pirates' three-game losing streak and keep them in the thick of the playoff hunt with nine games to play. Dennis Persson joined the Pirates earlier in the week, and should see his first AHL action over the weekend. The Rundown: Kennedy: G, +1 Zagrapan: G, +1, 5 SOG Gragnani: G, 3 SOG Mancari: 2A, +1 Gerbe: -1, 6 SOG Schutz: -1 Kostka: 4 SOG Whitmore: 1 SOG Enroth: 39 saves
3/28/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Schiestel eyeing the pros

On Friday the St. Catharines Standard ran a story on Drew Schiestel as he wraps up his OHL career with the Niagara IceDogs. IceDogs head coach Mario Cicchillo has been more than pleased with Schiestel’s play in the playoffs. “He’s shown why he’s a high draft pick in the NHL and he’s become a real good leader,” he said. “He came in here as a young kid and he’s become a young man. “Our organization should be proud of him because he’s going to have a real good career.” Schiestel was a plus-two heading into Thursday’s game before he was done in by turnovers by teammates and being on the ice for an empty-net goal. The 2005 IceDogs third-round pick was a team-worst minus-29 during the regular season, but that was an unfair representation of his play. “People can look at it and think what they want, but from the amount of minutes I’ve played, and when you’re missing key guys with injuries and being at world juniors, and with two rookie goalies at the start of the year, that’s tough,” he said. “And those empty-net goals will kill your plus-minus.”
3/28/2009 | 2 comments | Read More

3/27 Recap: Brennan picks up pace

In the NCAA East Region semi-final, Drew MacKenzie was even as #3 seed Vermont defeated #2 Yale, 4-1. With their first tourney win in 13 years, the Catamounts have a Saturday date with an Air Force club fresh off a victory of top-seeded Michigan. In Montreal, T.J. Brennan had two goals and two assists in the third period for another #1 performance as the Junior erupted for six goals in the final 20 minutes in their 7-0 shutout of Rouyn-Noranda. The output gives Brennan 10 points in the series, good for seventh overall in QMJHL playoff scoring, after a 34-points regular season. The win gives the Juniors a 3-2 series lead over the Huskies. Elsewhere in the Q, J.S. Allard had a goal and an assist as Quebec closed out their opening round series with a 7-1 trouncing of Baie-Comeau. With two goals and six assists, Allard has registered at least a point in each of the Remparts' first five playoff games. Paul Byron had an assist and a game-high nine shots on goal as Gatineau needed overtime to defeat Bathurst, 4-3. The five-game series win moves the Olympiques into the second round. Byron leads the team in scoring with nine points. In the WHL, Tyler Ennis scored his eighth goal of the playoffs as Medicine Hat suffered a 5-3 loss at Swift Current. Now trailing the series 3-2, the Tigers will look to force a game seven on Sunday. Ennis' eight marks sits atop the WHL leaderboard.
3/28/2009 | 6 comments | Read More

3/26 Recap: "O" defenders goal it up

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, March 27, 2009 | 3/27/2009

Thursday in the OHL, Drew Schiestel scored for Niagara in their 6-4 loss to Ottawa. The power play snapper was Schiestel's second of the playoff season. The 67's win evens the first-round series at two games apiece. In Guelph, Nick Crawford scored a short-handed empty net goal as Saginaw defeated the Storm, 4-1. The win gives the Spirit a quarterfinal sweep with the second round opponent yet to be determined.
3/27/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

3/25 Recap: Ennis trick bucks Broncos

In Wednesday WHL play, Tyler Ennis (+3) notched a hat trick as Medicine Hat defeated Swift Current 5-3 to even their first-round series at two games each. With seven goals in four games thus far, the speedy Tiger is saying goodbye to a junior career with style. Tyler Myers (+1) put forth another dominating performance with a goal and an assist as Kelowna closed out Kamloops, 5-3. The Rockets sweep of the Blazers sets up a second round match-up with one of Seattle, Spokane, or Tri-City. In the QMJHL, Paul Byron had a goal and two assists as Gatineau pitched a shutout of Bathurst, 4-0. The win puts the Piques ahead 3-1 in their first round series. Jacob Lagacé scored a goal and an assist as Chicoutimi saw their season come to an end with a 4-3 loss to Rimouski. The overmathced Sags were swept by the Nics, 4-0. J.S. Allard set-up the game winning goal as Quebec defeated Baie-Comeau, 5-2. The Remparts win puts them ahead 3-1 in their best-of-seven. Jordon Southorn had an assist as PEI defeated Moncton, 5-4. Trailing three games to none, the Rocket staved off elimination with the home-ice win. T.J. Brennan had three shots on goal ans Montreal dropped a 3-2 decision to Rouyn-Noranda. The loss evens the series at two games apiece.
3/27/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

3/24 Recap: Brennan engine as Juniors take lead

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | 3/25/2009

T.J. Brennan scored the game winning goal and added a pair of power play assists as Montreal defeated Rouyn-Noranda, 4-1. Brennan's first-star performance helped the Juniors get out to a 2-1 series lead heading into Wednesday's game four. Tyler Ennis scored his fourth goal of the playoffs as Medicine Hat lost to Swift Current, 5-2. The Tigers now trail the Broncos two games to one in their opening round series. Tyler Myers was +2 in Kelowna's 3-2 overtime win over Kamloops. Myers was named the #3 star of the game. The victory gives Kelowna a 3-0 series lead. In the OHL, Drew Schiestel had an assist as Niagara took a 5-2 win over visiting Ottawa. The defenseman also received a questionable double minor after checking 67's center Logan Couture from behind late in the third period. The Dogs lead the series 2-1. Nick Crawford was -2 as Saginaw edged Guelph, 7-6 in 2OT. 2009 draft eligible Peter Holland had a hat trick in the losing effort, while fellow '09 Jordan Szwarz had three assists to help pace the Spirit. Saginaw will look for the sweep on Thursday. Jordon Southorn had an assist and three minors as PEI lost 3-2 in overtime Moncton. Inside of 2:00 to play, the Rocket scored two goals within :11 of each other before Wildcats defenseman David Savard capped the game with his hat trick goal in OT. Down 3-0, PEI will fight for their season on Wednesday. Paul Byron had an assist and a team-high three hits as Gatineau dropped a 5-2 decision to Bathurst. Les Olympiques hold a 2-1 series lead over the Titan. Jacob Lagacé had an assist as Chicoutimi lost to Rimouski, 6-3. The Sags will look to avoid elimination on Wednesday. Finally, J.S. Allard had an assist as Quebec lost to Baie-Comeau, 4-3. The Remparts lead the Drakkar 2-1 in their series despite the loss.
3/25/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Gogulla to Sabres confirmed for 2009-10

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | 3/24/2009

Many thanks to Henrike Wöbking of Haimspiel.de for his recent interview of Philip Gogulla. Below is a select snippet, while the entire translated version can be viewed here. Despite the bad season for the club you scored a career high of 17 goals this year, most of them playing with Christoph Ullmann and Marcel Müller. Was that also a “sought and found”-kind of line? At the beginning of the season I was still on a line with Kamil Piros. Doug Mason [Coach for the Cologne Sharks 2005-2008] told us, he still had to find out who is going to be on our line, as Ivan wasn’t on the team anymore. The lines were put together well and he also didn’t want to separate us. So I played the first three games of the season with Kamil, then I went to Buffalo for training-camp, and when I returned Doug was gone. [Doug Mason got fired after the team lost its first seven games of the season.] They asked me if I would play with Ullmann and Marcel Müller. I said, sure, I’d love to. From then on we played together for the rest of the season. I think, we fit together pretty well. Doug always told me, your biggest problem is, you need to shoot the puck more often. I did that this year, whenever I had the chance. It’s great that it resulted in the most goals I ever scored in a season. Doug was absolutely right. He told me over and over again to just shoot. He said I have a good shot. That’s why he played me on the blueline [on the powerplay] a lot. He kept telling me, if you can’t shoot you have to pass, but if you have a chance to shoot just do it. That’s what I tried over the last couple of years. It worked out pretty well, I guess. I still like to make the final pass in a two on one situation, though. I consider myself rather a passer than a shooter. The 2008 playoffs have been your best playoffs so far. You’ve been a big factor in the success. I don’t think I ever saw you that focused before games like you were during that run. That was one of the most awesome periods of time I had with Cologne. I get goose bumps right now, just because it was so great back then. Really. We were listening to the same music in the locker-room before every game. I was really focused, like you said. I wanted to win the championship so badly. Coming up short in the final game was bad luck. I was completely focused. For example, in that game against Mannheim which went to the sixth overtime, I knew any mistake would be lethal. It was a tense situation. I wanted to win so badly. During that overtime I never had the feeling we could lose the game. Never in my life before did I ever have a feeling like that. I knew we were going to win that game. God having me scoring the winner was flat out amazing. The coach trusting in me and letting me play helped a lot. I just went out there and played, I guess. Scoring twelve points during that run was pretty good. The playoffs in prior years never felt like that. Over your five years with Cologne the attention you got from the media increased significantly. Did you have to get used to that? You bet. When you join a pro-team as a sixteen year-old it is something special. You were always excited and afraid of saying something wrong. I even was nervous at all the season openings when I had to go on stage and talk to the fans. It was tough. But over the years you get used to it. You are still a little bit excited but I think I’m doing quite well. I realized that journalists are normal people, too, who just want some information. Are you ready for the media circus in North-America? That’s going to be a whole different animal, of course. Even at preseason games there’s always so many camera teams rushing into the locker-room after games. It’s completely different compared to here. Hockey writers covering the Sabres think you should come over for the next season, as staying in Germany would not help your development anymore. Do you think so, too? One should mention that the DEL is a very good league. And it’s challenging, also. To say, if I stay another year I’d score 25 goals and 70 points, would be completely wrong. That just wouldn’t be the case. The league is becoming closer and closer every year. I don’t know if it really wouldn’t help my development if I’d play here for another year. I think, it’s simply time for me to go over. Two years ago I signed a three-year-contract. I know if I don’t give it a try overseas now, the window might be closing for me. If I don’t give it a try, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. As the season ended for the Cologne Sharks that early, theoretically there would have been the possibility to join the Portland Pirates for the remainder of this season. Would you have done it if they had approached you? That’s a difficult question. I think it’s always difficult when a player joins a team shortly before the playoffs. Not only for the team, but for the player as well. I don’t know if I’d be comfortable coming in and taking the spot of someone who did play for that team the whole season. Tough to say, if I would have done it. Also, the nationalteam might be calling soon. I would really have had to think about it. I probably wouldn’t have said no right away, but I would have had to think about it thoroughly, for sure. A year ago you were quoted by a German newspaper “NHL or I will not go”. Did you really say it like that back then? Yes, that’s always been my philosophy. I thought to myself, why should I play in Portland? I tried to compare the leagues [AHL and DEL] a little bit. I don’t know exactly, how it is over there. Of course it is a different game, but the guys, who came over here, said the DEL is a little bit better than the AHL. Plus you don’t make that much money over there, you don’t get a car and an apartment. Here you get all that and you make good money. Why should I go over if I’m playing for a top-notch club in Cologne and have the option to stay here? Now I have to go over. And today it would be naïve to say, I’m not going to play in the farmteam. I absolutely expect to be in the farmteam all year. If I get the chance to get called up once in a while – say if the Sabres run into injury trouble – I would be very, very happy. Are you concerned about adjusting your game to the smaller ice? A little bit. It is a different game and it’s more intense physically. You’ve got less time to do something. I realized that. You have to pay attention every single second. It’s incredible. It’s completely different. You literally have no time. Did you ever talk with Felix Schütz about which is the better way to make it to the NHL as he had a different approach than you spending time in the QMJHL? I think, that’s always hard to tell. He has the advantage of knowing how the small ice works, but he also returned to Germany after two years and gave it a shot in the DEL. I was lucky to have Hans Zach as a Coach [in Cologne, as he likes to work with young German players]. If it wasn’t for him I might not be where I am today. It’s really hard to tell. One guy is trying it this way, another guy is trying it a different way. Since you’ve been drafted you went to trainings-camp every year. Did you get any feedback from the coaches? What did they tell you to work on? I’ve been to the rookie-camp twice and also twice to the main-camp. When I returned from the rookie camp I was in great shape. I felt really good. But it’s a tough grind. Last year was the toughest camp I’ve ever experienced. Even in my first year I thought, this is tough. But last year they cranked it up another notch. It’s a little bit difficult, because they don’t see me play in Germany. Basically all they say is: good luck und keep working hard. That’s what I do. In the gym as well. At the rookie-camp you don’t get any feedback. You just work hard for a week. At the other camps they give you a “well done” once in a while, but that’s pretty much it. This year’s trainings-camp will be a whole different animal. How do you approach that? Are you already thinking of the time when the cuts will be made? Well, I will just try my very best. I don’t go in there thinking, I have to make the big team. That’s not going to work. I know I’ll end up in Portland. That’s how I approach it. If the coaches think I can do better than that, that would be absolutely awesome. But in no way will I be disappointed if it is going to be Portland for me. Right now I focus on the nationalteam. But once I’m at the camp, I’m sure I’ll be nervous. To say it will be any different than that would be a lie. Since you got drafted you knew you would have to leave Cologne at some point. Did you prepare for this moment all those years or didn’t you give it any thought at all? For the last two years I knew this day would come. When I got drafted it all seemed so far away. Very far away. I always wanted to win a championship with Cologne. I didn’t accomplish that. I always gave it my best for Cologne. As long as I was playing here I didn’t really think of Buffalo that much. I was watching their game highlights occasionally, but that was pretty much it. While I was playing here I never thought, wow, next year you’ll be in Buffalo or Portland. I didn’t think that right to the end. Then the season was nearing the end and there were only five games left to play, then three and then our final home game. In Ingolstadt, where we played our last game of the season, I sort of thought everything over during the final period. My whole career here just ran like a movie in my mind’s eye. I thought, strange, this is over now. Then I took off the jersey for the last time. At that point it was over. Later that week I enjoyed the season wrap party with the fans. But the sad part is, it’s always over so quick after the season ended. The same goes for the players. The guys all just leave suddenly. You never get to see them again. For example, saying good-bye to Frank Doyle, not knowing where he will play next year. I’ll probably never see him again. Same with Todd Warriner. Within one week after the final game it’s all over. In your dreams, what do the next fifteen to twenty years in your career look like? In my dreams I become a great hockey player – also for the German hockey -, spend many years in the NHL and make a lot of money. My biggest dream would be to win a championship. But the most awesome thing would be to raise the Stanley Cup at some point. There is no bigger dream for any hockey player in the world than to win the Stanley Cup. That would be a dream come true.
3/24/2009 | 3 comments | Read More

Yar! Persson a Pirate

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, March 23, 2009 | 3/23/2009

With his SEL season over, Swedish news outlet Sodermanlands Nyheter is reporting that Dennis Persson, 20, is awaiting a work visa to finish the year with the Sabres AHL affiliate in Portland. The 6'1, 187-pound Persson will add mobility, heady passing, and a solid point shot to a depleted Pirates blueline. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2006, Persson adjusted to a more defensive role while averaging 12:09 of work down Timra's right side. In 46 games, the lefty scored one goal and five assists to go along with a -8 rating.
3/23/2009 | 5 comments | Read More

3/22 Recap: Schiestel points in loss

In Sunday OHL play, Drew Schiestel had an assist as Niagara failed to earn the road sweep in a 6-2 loss to Ottawa. The defenseman has a point in each playoff game, and 14 in 16 career postseason appearances, after notching just eight in his final 20 regular season contests, including a five game stretch of zeros to close the season. With the series tied at one, the clubs will resume their first round series on Tuesday in St. Catherines. Nick Crawford finished -1 as Saginaw edged Guelph, 3-2. The back-and-forth contest saw the teams compile a total of 85 shots on goal (44-41). The Spirit take a 2-0 series lead to Guelph on Tuesday.
3/23/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Sabres freshmen ready for NCAAs

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, March 22, 2009 | 3/22/2009

The 2009 NCAA Division I Hockey Tournament field has been released, and a pair of Sabres prospects will be making their first bracket appearance with an eye for the Capitol. Friday evening will see freshman defenseman Drew MacKenzie, 20, make his tournament debut when #3 Vermont visits East Region host #2 Yale. Puck drops at 6:30. #1 Michigan and #4 Air Force will square off in the other half of the bracket. On Saturday, first-year netminder Brad Eidsness, 19, and reserve defenseman Corey Fienhage, 18, of WCHA regular season champion North Dakota (#2) will travel to Manchester, NH to face home-staters New Hampshire (#3) in a Northeast Region semifinal. Faceoff is at 2:00 EST. The winner will take on one of tourney top seed, Boston University, and #4 Ohio State. In West action kicking off Friday, #1 Denver will take on #4 Miami while #2 Duluth battles #3 Princeton. The Midwest Region slate for Saturday features the tourneys #2 overall seed, Notre Dame, drawing #4 Bemidji State, filled out with #2 Northeastern versus #3 Cornell. The winners of the East and Northeast Regionals will meet in one National Semifinal at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 9th. The winners of the Midwest and Northeast Regional will meet in the other. The National Championship will be played on April 11th.
3/22/2009 | 1 comments | Read More

3/21 Recap: Byron trips, Southy snaps, Genny caps

In the QMJHL playoffs, Paul Byron connected for three assists - one each short-handed, on the power play, and at even strength - as Gatineau smoked Bathurst, 8-2. The game featured a fight-filled third period that included both coaches yelling and gesturing at each other through most of the final 10:00 of play. T.J. Brennan had a goal and an assist as Montreal fell to Rouyn-Noranda, 4-3. Trailing 1-0 on a first period power play, the defenseman used a high-rising wrister from the blueline to tie the game before the first intermission. The Juniors outhit the Huskies 31-5 in defeat. After splitting the first two games, the series will resume on Tuesday in R-N on Tuesday. In Moncton, Jordon Southorn was -1 as PEI was shutout by Moncton, 5-0. Despite a team-best four hits, the contest was a less-than stellar effort that saw emotion get the best of the young blueliner. After earning a ten-minute misconduct for yapping at an officiating crew that whistled PEI for five minor penalties in the game's first 7:07, Southorn later lost his composure and got into a heated argument with Asst. Coach Corrado Micalef that resulted in him sitting alone on the bench for the last 15:00 of the game. The Rocket loss puts them in a 2-0 series hole. J.S. Allard (+1) had a pair of secondary helpers as Quebec defeated Baie-Comeau, 5-2. The Remparts now lead the best-of-seven series 2-0. Jacob Lagacé had six shots on goal and five blocks as Chicoutimi fell into a 2-0 series deficit with a 4-1 loss to Rimouski. In the WHL, Tyler Ennis (+2) earned the #3 star of the game with a goal and an assist as Medicine Hat rolled past Swift Current, 6-2. The Tigers win evens the series at one game apiece. Tyler Myers(+1) put up another strong showing, racking up two assists as Kelowna downed Kamloops, 5-1. The Rockets took a 2-0 series lead over the Blazers despite going 0/10 on the power play. The first-round match-up will move to Kamloops on Tuesday. In the OHL, Nick Crawford was -1 as Saginaw slipped past Guelph 6-5 in 2OT to take Game One of their series. In the ECAC third-place game, senior defenseman Matt Generous scored his eighth of the year as St. Lawrence saw their season come to an end in a 2-2 tie with Princeton. Generous, who one-timed a faceoff win to make it a 1-1 game at 9:58 of the opening period, ends his collegiate career with 56 points and a +22 while never being a healthy scratch. In the WCHA third-place game, Brad Eidsness made 34 saves as North Dakota lost a 4-1 battle to Wisconsin. A loose-puck scrum, a 1-2 passing play, and two pounced rebounds comprised the four goals against.
3/22/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

3/20 Recap: Myers with strong start as Cup run begins

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, March 21, 2009 | 3/21/2009

Tyler Myers opened the WHL playoffs with a power play goal and #1 star performance as Kelowna defeated Kamloops, 4-2. Working for over 24:00 of play, Myers was rock defensively while exhibiting his skating ability with several rushes up ice. In another first round opener, 43-goal scorer Tyler Ennis scored both Medicine Hat goals, but the Tigers gave up twice as many in their 4-2 loss to Swift Current. Drew Schiestel scored just :51 in to the opening period as Niagara defeated Ottawa 5-3 to take Game One of their OHL first-round series. The skating rearguard finished +2 in the win, while the goal was his first in 15 career playoff games. In opening night in the QMJHL playoffs, J.S. Allard had a power play goal and later added an assist as Quebec downed Baie-Comeau, 8-1. Jordon Southorn was -3 with a team-leading three hits as PEI was rubbed out by Moncton, 7-1. Wildcats UFA goaltender Nicola Riopel stood on his head to make 40 saves and earn the game's top star. Paul Byron set-up the overtime game winner as Gatineau defeated Bathurst, 5-4. The 5'9 dangler also added seven shots on goal as the 'Piques fired a total of 55 at Titan netminder Nicholas Champion. T.J. Brennan assisted on the game winner as Montreal defeated Rouyn-Noranda, 5-3. Just :10 into a 5-3 power play, Brennan started the play that resulted in Matt Fillier's third period tally that at the time put the Juniors ahead, 4-1. Jacob Lagacé was -3 as Chicoutimi was dominated by Rimouski, 8-2. At the WCHA Final Five, Brad Eidsness made 21 saves in North Dakota's 3-0 shutout loss to Duluth. Eidsness was caught playing the puck behind the net for the first goal against before a rebound to the left circle was pounced home for a two-goal deficit. An empty netter sealed the deal for the upset minded Bulldogs. The Sioux will face Wisconsin for third place. In the ECAC Tournament semifinals, Matt Generous returned from his MCL injury to assist on the first goal of the game as St. Lawrence lost to Yale, 4-3. Up 3-2 with entering the third, the Saints surrendered two goals in the final 1:34 to miss a chance at an NCAA bid. SLU will play Princeton in the third place game. At the Hockey East tourney, Andrew Orpik was even with two minors in his final NCAA contest as Boston College fell to Boston University, 3-2. With a 1-0 lead in the third, the senior forward looked like he was going to extend his collegiate career another day before BU scored a record three goals in :44 to snatch the win. The past week also saw the season end for defenseman Dennis Persson, as Timra lost a deciding game seven to HV71 in the first round of the SEL playoffs. Persson did not see the ice in the final three games of the series.
3/21/2009 | 9 comments | Read More

Ennis, Myers named Dub All-Stars

Medicine Hat's Tyler Ennis has been named to the WHL Eastern Conference First All-Star Team. The speedy forward, who scored 43 goals this season to lead the Tigers back to the playoffs, was also named a finalist for Most Sportsmanlike Player. Stud defenseman Tyler Myers of Kelowna was named to the Western Conference Second All-Star Team. Fellow World Junior blueliners Thomas Hickey (CAN) and Jonathan Blum (USA) finished ahead of him on the First Team. WHL EASTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM Goaltender – Braden Holtby (Marshall, SK), Saskatoon Blades * Defenceman – Paul Postma (Red Deer, AB), Calgary Hitmen * Defenceman – Keith Aulie (Rouleau, SK), Brandon Wheat Kings Forward – Brett Sonne (Maple Ridge, BC), Calgary Hitmen * Forward – Brandon Kozun (Calgary, AB), Calgary Hitmen Forward – Tyler Ennis (Edmonton, AB), Medicine Hat Tigers SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM Goaltender – Martin Jones (North Vancouver, BC), Calgary Hitmen Defenceman – Michael Stone (Winnipeg, MB), Calgary Hitmen Defenceman – John Negrin (West Vancouver, BC), Swift Current Broncos Forward – Joel Broda (Prince Albert, SK), Calgary Hitmen Forward – Justin Bernhardt (Yorkton, SK), Prince Albert Raiders Forward – Brayden Schenn (Saskatoon, SK), Brandon Wheat Kings WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM Goaltender – Chet Pickard (Winnipeg, MB), Tri-City Americans Defenceman – Jonathon Blum (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA), Vancouver Giants * Defenceman – Thomas Hickey (Calgary, AB), Seattle Thunderbirds Forward – Casey Pierro-Zabotel (Kamloops, BC), Vancouver Giants * Forward – Jamie Benn (Victoria, BC), Kelowna Rockets Forward – Evander Kane (Vancouver, BC), Vancouver Giants SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM Goaltender – Dustin Tokarski (Watson, SK), Spokane Chiefs Defenceman – Tyler Myers (DeWinton, AB), Kelowna Rockets Defenceman – Brent Regner (Newbrook, AB), Vancouver Giants Forward – Drayson Bowman (Littleton, CO), Spokane Chiefs Forward – Colin Long (Santa Ana, CA), Kelowna Rockets Forward – Taylor Procyshen (Emerald Park, SK), Tri-City Americans * indicates unanimous selection
3/21/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Eidsness on WCHA hit list

North Dakota freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has been named to both the 2008-09 All-WCHA Third team and All-WCHA Rookie Team. The AJHL product led the league with a .703 winning percentage for the MacNaughton Cup winning Sioux. 2008-09 All-WCHA Third Team Pos Name Team Ht Wt Yr Hometown Pts F Garrett Roe St. Cloud State 5-9 175 So Vienna, VA 166 F Anthony Maiani Denver 5-7 150 So Shelby Township, MI 139 F Rhett Rakhshani Denver 5-10 180 Jr Huntington Beach, CA 116 D Josh Meyers Minnesota Duluth 6-3 195 Sr Alexandria, MN 146 D Kurt Davis Minnesota State 5-9 175 So Plymouth, MN 85 G Brad Eidsness North Dakota 6-0 175 Fr Chestermere, AB 103 2008-09 All-WCHA Rookie Team Pos Name Team Ht Wt Yr Hometown Votes F Jordan Schroeder Minnesota 5-9 180 Fr Prior Lake, MN 77 F Joe Colborne Denver 6-5 195 Fr Calgary, AB 43 F Mike Connolly Minnesota Duluth 5-8 180 Fr Calgary, AB 33 D Patrick Wiercioch Denver 6-4 185 Fr Maple Grove, BC 77 D Jake Gardiner Wisconsin 6-2 181 Fr Minnetonka, MN 31 G Brad Eidsness North Dakota 6-0 175 Fr Chestermere, AB 77
3/21/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Generous, Biega take ECAC post-season honors

Two Sabres prospects earned ECAC postseason honors as Matt Generous of St. Lawrence was named the league's Outstanding Defensive Defenseman while Harvard's Alex Biega was tabbed Third Team All-League.
Rookie of the Year - Jody O’Neill, Dartmouth Best Defensive Forward - Tyler Mugford, Cornell Best Defensive Defenseman - Matt Generous, St. Lawrence Coach of the Year - Keith Allain, Yale First Team All-ECAC G Zane Kalemba, Princeton D Lane Caffaro, Union D Zach Miskovic, St. Lawrence F Mark Arcobello, Yale F Riley Nash, Cornell F David McIntyre, Colgate Second Team All-ECAC G Ben Scrivens, Cornell D Tom Dignard, Yale D Brendon Nash, Cornell F Sean Backman, Yale F Bryan Leitch, Quinnipiac F Colin Greening, Cornell Third Team All-ECAC G Alec Richards, Yale D Alex Biega, Harvard D Jody Peterson, Princeton F Brock McBride, St. Lawrence F Broc Little, Yale F Adam Presizniuk, Union All-Rookie Team G Jody O’Neill, Dartmouth D Jeff Buvinow, Brown D Keir Ross, Cornell F Patrick Cullen, Rensselaer F Doug Jones, Dartmouth F Brian O’Neill, Yale
Generous helped backstop the Saints to a 2.32 team goals against average, their best since 1955-56.
3/21/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Tropp reinstated

Corey Tropp of Michigan State has been reinstated to the hockey program after a January suspension. The Sabres third round pickin 2007, Tropp will return to the CCHA in 2009-10 for his junior season.
EAST LANSING - Sophomore right wing Corey Tropp has been reinstated to the hockey program, coach Rick Comley said Friday. Advertisement Tropp was suspended for the season after an on-ice incident in a game at Michigan on Jan. 25. Tropp slashed at a prone Steven Kampfer, a Wolverine defenseman who had been hauled down by Spartan freshman forward Andrew Conboy. The incident came after Kampfer's open-ice hit on Tropp. "I feel Corey deserves to rejoin the team,'' Comley said in a statement released by MSU. "Corey paid a considerable price for his actions - actions which were out of character and not representative of how he carried himself as student-athlete in our program up to that point. "We believe that this was an isolated incident and it is time for him to get back with the team as we begin our preparations for next season.'' Before he was suspended, Tropp, from Grosse Pointe Woods, had three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 22 games. Conboy also was suspended for the season, but he left school immediately to turn pro. He recently signed an entry-level contract with the NHL's Montreal Canadiens.
3/21/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Eidsness Sioux-perb as WCHA rookie

North Dakota goalie Brad Eidsness received some well deserved pub this week from USCHO. All Eidsness Wants To Do Is Win
Don’t look for Eidsness’ name among the nation’s leaders in the statistical categories commonly used to measure a goaltender’s performance. Although he made the WCHA all-rookie team and challenged Minnesota-Duluth’s Alex Stalock for the league’s goaltending title, Eidsness’ .909 save percentage is 41st nationally and his 2.44 goals against average is 25th. A better indicator of Eidsness’ role in UND’s success is his winning percentage, which is .703 — tied for eighth nationally — and was a WCHA-best .731. As a freshman, Eidsness is already making his mark on UND’s record book. He has made 37 consecutive appearances, the most ever by a Sioux freshman. He’s two games shy of breaking the school record for consecutive starts by a freshman. Leading the WCHA with 24 wins overall, he joins Ed Belfour (1986-87) and Karl Goehring (1997-98) as just the third freshman goalie in UND history to win 20 games in a season. Eidsness’ temper and stick-throwing incidents during practice have also made an impression on his teammates. “That’s him competing and always wanting to get better,” Finley said. “In his mind, he can save every puck. Maybe after a few go by him, he might get a little upset at himself and expect more. There have been a lot of goaltenders with big-time tempers who have gone on to do good things. Hopefully, Eidsness is another one of them.” During a game, however, Eidsness doesn’t let his temper or emotions get the best of him. “I try to remain calm in the eye of the storm. If I let a bad goal in during a game, I just shrug it off,” he said. “In practice, sometimes things go a little bit different. I don’t like to let shots in, and sometimes I get a little angry. It’s something I’ve tried to keep out of games.”
3/21/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

3/15 Recap: Byron comes up short; Playoffs ahead

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, March 16, 2009 | 3/16/2009

In the QMJHL finale, Paul Byron notched an assist as Gatineau defeated Rouyn-Noranda, 4-2. Entering play two points shy of the century mark, the helper lands Byron at 99 on the year, good enough for a 4th overall finish on the Q scoring list. The Olympiques will match-up with Bathurst for the first round of the playoffs. T.J. Brennan (+3) had three assists as Montreal finished regular season play on a high note in a 12-1 stomping of Val-d-Or. The dozen markers was a franchise record for the Juniors, who move on to face Rouyn-Noranda in round one. Jacob Lagacé (-2) scored the only shootout goal on a quick wrister as Chicoutimi edged Lewiston, 3-2. Lagacé added an assist to end the regular season with 32 goals and 69 points. The Sags will face the daunting task of taking on red-hot Rimouski in the opening playoff series. J.S. Allard (+1) assisted on Mikhail Stefanovich's 48th goal of the year as Quebec lost 6-2 at Victoriaville. Riding a four game point streak into the playoffs, Allard finishes with 16 goals and a team best 40 assists. The Remparts will host the first two games of their upcoming series with Baie-Comeau. Jordon Southorn was even with three shots on goal in PEI's 5-2 win over Saint John. The Rocket will square off with Moncton in the first round.
3/16/2009 | 1 comments | Read More

3/14 Recap: Ennis equals; Eidsness backstops sweep

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, March 15, 2009 | 3/15/2009

In the WHL, Tyler Ennis scored his 43rd goal of the season as Medicine Hat fell to Calgary, 4-1. The goal total equals his 2007-08 season output in nine fewer games. Finishing fifth in the East, the Tigers will open their first round series with #4 Swift Current on Friday. Tyler Myers was +1 as Kelowna stomped Kamloops, 7-1. The Rockets have now won seven straight games heading into their season closer with Spokane on Monday. In WCHA playoff action, Brad Eidsness made some key saves late, a total of 24 in all, to help North Dakota to a 4-3 win over a Michigan Tech and a sweep of their first round series. On Friday, the Sioux will face the winner of Thursday's Minnesota/Minnesota-Duluth play-in game. Justin Jokinen saw his season come to an end, registering a shot on goal as Minnesota State lost a 4-2 decision to Wisconsin. At the Gut, Drew MacKenzie was even as #7 Vermont was shockingly swept by Lowell, 4-2. It was a MacKenzie penalty for contact to the head that changed the flow of the game just 6:25 into the first period. Up 1-0 and immediately after his shot clanged off the post, MacKenzie battled a puck at his feet on his own blueline that forced him to take out a RiverHawk attacker about to blow past him. The aggressive infraction created a power play goal against, and Lowell never looked back. Andrew Orpik was even as Boston College knocked New Hampshire out of the Hockey East tournament with a 1-0 win. The Eagles must wait for the Sunday outcomes of Northeastern/UMass and BU/Maine to see who they'll face in next weekend's semifinal match-up. Matt Generous was again idle as St. Lawrence moved to round two with a 5-3 win over Quinnipiac. Drew Schiestel finished even in Niagara's 3-2 loss to Sudbury. The Dogs close the regular season with the loss, and will move on to face Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs. Nick Crawford was +1 as Saginaw ended their regular season with a 3-2 loss to Sarnia. They will wait for the dust to settle on the OHL's Sunday finale to see if they'll host Plymouth, Sarnia, or Guelph in round one of the playoffs. In the SEL first round, Dennis Persson did not see the ice as Timra lost a 3-2 battle with HV71. The best-of-seven is nowlocked a three games apiece, with game seven coming on Monday.
3/15/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Rocket Casavant launching on to draft radar

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, March 14, 2009 | 3/14/2009

Scouting amateur hockey players is generally a straight-forward process. Break a player down beginning with his skating, and work your way into a battle, vision, and two-way skill analysis to properly project their pro potential. Fans will often look at major-junior stat sheets and wonder why players like Maxime Boisclair, who potted 70 goals for Chicoutimi in 2005-06, or Matthew Pistilli, a 20-year old who has scored 80 goals over his past two Q seasons, aren't considered big league prospects. While these guys produced with solid supporting casts, they lack the skating and footspeed to be effective NHL players. In PEI this season, a recently turned 18-year old forward presents an early quandary in the 2009 draft evaluation process. Benjamin Casavant is a bullish, 6'1, 210-pound left wing who has used hands and heart to pace the sub-.500 Rocket with 39 goals and 80 points this season. The St. Hyacinthe, QC native has developed into a leader in his first season on the island. Hard working and intelligent, Casavant goes to the tough spots to get his work done, and is difficult to move when he gets there. Like the aforementioned though, he doesn't have that acceleration and overall swift skating stride to make him an elite prospect, and thus was rated #185 by CSB on their mid-term rankings. So what separates Casavant from his slow-footed major-junior predecessors, making him relevant in the world of Sabres prospects? Let's begin answering that question by posing a few others. Could the Sabres system use forwards with size and ability to finish the dirty work down low? How many 6'1, 210-pound 17/18-year olds have finished 7th in the QMJHL in goals on a below average club? Can skating, like other key skills, be taught and developed through additional seasons of major-junior and beyond? This isn't to suggest that he's a top priority at the draft table. There are no guarantees that his feet will ever come around (an absolute must in a trnasition based NHL), but his overall make-up of offense, smarts, and dedication puts him on the radar. You can teach skating, but you can't teach size and natural scoring ability, making Casavant a potential late-round gamble - especially if they amass some extra picks along the way. Another reason Casavant is draft relevant in Sabreland is simple geography. PEI is somewhat of a lesser-scouted hockey outpost, but it's fair to assume they'd know about Casavant even if he wasn't a top-12 point producer in the QMJHL. Buffalo's Q scout, Al MacAdam, is positioned in the Maritimes and knows Charlottetown well. He was born there, played his college hockey there, and despite not speaking with him before the draft, kept tabs on current Rocket dman Jordon Southorn leading to his 2008 selection. Similarly, Director of Scouting Kevin Devine is an off-season resident of Charlottetown, and was on board with the Sabres 2005 pick of former Rocket Marc-Andre Gragnani before assuming his current position a year later. When in Rome. Regardless of opinions of CSB's rankings, Casavant should rise a few spots when the final list is published in April. If you use CSB as a benchmark, it's worth noting that the Sabres are more apt to go late-round fishing in the Q when a player falls, not rises. Jacob Lagacé slid to the fifth round (134th overall) last season after being ranked the #55 North American skater. Benjamin Breault was the 57th ranked skater in 2006, but lasted to the Sabres pick in the seventh round (207th overall). Louis-Philippe Martin was once the 30th rated player in the 2003 mid-term rankings. He finished the season 50th before the Sabres scooped him up at #266 (9th round).
3/14/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

3/13 Recap: Drew draws two; Byron within reach

In a Hockey East quarterfinal battle, Drew MacKenzie had a pair of secondary assists as #7 Vermont was upset in overtime by Lowell, 4-3. With his first multi-point game as a collegian, the freshman rearguard now has four points in the three games since his return from mono after posting a total of four through the first 24 games of the season. The Catamounts held a 3-1 third period lead when Brayden Irwin was whistled for a major and game misconduct for a hit from behind at 9:31. Lowell scraped their way back, capped with a Nick Schaus (Orchard Park, NY) goal with :30 to play to force overtime, before netting their third unanswered goal to win the game with just :02 remaining in the extra session. Andrew Orpik scored his fifth goal of the season as #18 Boston College defeated #9 New Hampshire, 5-3. Orpik one-timed a Joe Whitney pass in the first period to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead. Brad Eidsness opened the WCHA playoffs by making 20 saves in #6 North Dakota's 5-1 win over Michigan Tech. Eidsness surrendered just a power play goal to run his record to 23-9-4 on the season. In Madison, Justin Jokinen (-1) assisted on the only Mavericks goal as Minnesota State was throttled in their opener with #17 Wisconsin, 7-1. Skating in practice but tentative, Matt Generous sat out with a sprained MCL as #15 St. Lawrence defeated Quinnipiac, 5-3. In the QMJHL, Paul Byron (+1) had a pair of power play assists as Gatineau defeated Shawinigan, 3-2. Sitting in fourth place on the Q scoring list with 98 points, Byron will look for 100 with the final regular season game of the coming on Sunday against Rouyn-Noranda. Jacob Lagacé scored his 32nd goal of the season as Chicoutimi could not match the offensive dynamo in Drummondville, 7-2. On the Island, Jordon Southorn (-1) had an assist in PEI's 5-4 OT loss to Cape Breton. J.S. Allard had an assist as Quebec lost to Rimouski, 5-3. T.J. Brennan was even in Montreal's 2-1 overtime loss to Rouyn-Noranda. In the WHL, Tyler Myers assisted on a power play goal just :38 seconds into the first period as Kelowna downed Kamloops, 6-4. In the OHL, Drew Schiestel was even as Niagara fell to Mississauga, 2-1. Nick Crawford was -2 in Saginaw's 3-0 loss to London. In Thursday action, Crawford (+2) assisted on the first goal of the game in Saginaw's 6-3 win over Owen Sound. Also from Thursday, Schiestel was -1 in Niagara's 2-0 loss to Barrie.
3/14/2009 | 7 comments | Read More

3/11 Recap: Myers stays steady

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | 3/11/2009

Tyler Myers assisted on goals by Tyson Barrie ('09) and Mikael Backlund (CAL) as Kelowna defeated Portland, 6-2. The stud d-man finished +4 for the Rockets, earning the game's #2 star in the process. As speculated, poor play coupled with the return of Eric Moe to the Timra lineup made Dennis Persson the odd man out in the Eagles 2-1 playoff win over HV71. Timra now leads the SEL first round series 3-1. In the QMJHL, Jordon Southorn was +2 with a team-leading five hits as PEI defeated Halifax, 7-5. J.S. Allard assisted on Mikhail Stefanovich's game winning goal as Quebec beat Baie-Comeau, 5-2. On Tuesday, Tyler Ennis (+1) had an assist as Medicine Hat defeated Red Deer, 3-1. T.J. Brennan finished +1 with a team-best five hits as Montreal lost at Rimouski, 6-3.
3/11/2009 | 2 comments | Read More

3/8 Recap: Byron bursts towards century mark

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, March 9, 2009 | 3/09/2009

In Monday SEL playoff action, Dennis Persson looked a little shaky in 9:57 worth of work as Timra squeaked out a 5-4 overtime win over HV71. With game pressure starting to impact the 20-year old defenseman after proving tough and intense in the opening games, it's possible that the return of fellow left-sider Erik Moe could effect his pairing with Robin Persson. The victory gives the Eagles a 2-1 series lead, with games four and five set for Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, Paul Byron had a goal and four assists to lead Gatineau in a wild 9-6 loss to Quebec. The 5'9 forward has made a habit of quick strikes all season long, but he took it to a whole new level on Sunday by scoring just :08 into the first period. Remparts wing J.S. Allard had a goal and an assist in the victory to push his season total to 53. The five-point night, Byron's third such output of the year to go along with a seven-pointer in January, raises his season point total to 96 with two games left on the schedule. Also from the Q, T.J. Brennan was -2 as Montreal lost to Baie-Comeau, 5-2. The Juniors loss automatically gives Gatineau the Western Division crown. In Sunday WHL play, Tyler Ennis was -1 as Medicine Hat took a second straight loss to Kootenay, 5-2.
3/09/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

UFA chatter: Irwin emerging? Pio near ready

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, March 8, 2009 | 3/08/2009

The college game is developing more and more NHL-ready prospects, and with undrafted players dotting their summer conditioning camp rosters of late, it's easy to think the Sabres are always combing the campuses looking for the next late-bloomer. Get a guy who's 23-ish, coming into his own right out of school, and he's just about ready to go. Mike Kostka and Derek Whitmore are two examples of players to go through the process as the Sabres round out their AHL depth. With vicinity to Buffalo, you can bet the Sabres kicked the tires with Jesse Winchester last season while at Colgate. The 6'1 pivot entered the Hamilton, NY country club as a 21-year old freshman in 2004-05, and exited as a balanced, seasoned contributor. A native Ottawanian, Winchester was a late-March signing with his hometown Senators a year ago, jumping right on to their 2008-09 roster as a 25 year-old rookie. While names like Mitch Ganzak, Jack Downing, Bryan Lerg, and Jake Cepis have come and gone from the Sabres NCAA radar in recent years, there is one past invite that is still looming as a viable signing for Buffalo. It's just hard to say when. Vermont's Brayden Irwin is a skilled forward who, despite being snake-bitten statistically this season (6+5 in 31 games after years of 19 and 18 pts), could remain in the future mix as a key component to the #7 Catamounts. Currently there are eight Vermont forwards with more points, but the hard-working Toronto native has untapped offensive potential that could come to fruition as a pro. In 103 NCAA games, he's 48 points and 107 PIM. With the Sabres system craving bigger forwards, the 6'5, 215-pound Irwin becomes relevant with the upcoming NCAA tourney providing a great gauge of seasonal growth. Irwin looked good over the summer, and if the loaded Catamounts put together a run to the Frozen Four, the swift skating wing could emerge as a big reason why. The question is, if the Sabres interest somehow peaks, would they watch him return to UVM as a senior or jump the gun and sign him for Portland? A return to school seems logical pending the return of fellow underclassmen, but it's worth keeping an eye on since stats aren't telling the whole story, and it's easy to see him skating in the AHL. Irwin will turn 22 on March 24th, exactly one year to the day that Winchester signed his deal with Ottawa. Regardless, the Brampton Batallion property (OHL) and former St. Michael's Buzzer is a classic case of a prospect using the collegiate ranks to gradually grow in his game. Across the country, a previous hot commodity is on the verge of reasserting himself as perhaps the #1 collegiate free agent this season. A delight to the rumored 26 teams interested in signing him, Denver's Tyler Bozak is back skating with a return to game action coming in about two weeks. It's a fair assumption that the Sabres have already probed former Pio Chris Butler about the soon-to-be 23-year old, and are likely keeping tabs on his progression after December knee surgery. An energy player at both ends of the ice, the 6'1, 180-pound Saskatchewan native is a great skater, with solid hands and toughness. After posting 128 points in the BCHL while waiting for a scholarship, Bozak scored 18 goals and 34 points last season in Denver. This season, Bozak shot out to a point-per-game pace (18GP 7+14-21 +14) before tearing a meniscus against Minnesota State on December 12th. Pending a sound return from injury, Bozak could immediately hop on to a team's third line. Buffalo fans shouldn't get their hopes up though, as it's thought that the Western Canadian product may have a preference to play close to home, especially if a rookie max contract comes calling.
3/08/2009 | 7 comments | Read More

3/7 Recap: Season ends for Biega, Eno

In an ECAC first-round playoff game, Alex Biega (-1) had eight shots on goal as Harvard was shut out for the second straight night by Brown, 2-0. The junior defenseman provided some jump as the game wore on, but Harvard couldn't connect against the upset-minded Bears. Biega's season ends as the Crimson's second leading scorer with four goals and 16 assists in 31 games. Brown moves on to to the second round to face Yale. The Bears upset of the Crimson means that St. Lawrence will face Union in round two. The Saints may be without senior rearguard Matt Generous, whose status is still uncertain after undergoing an MRI on his injured MCL. In the CCHA playoffs, Nick Eno made four saves while surrendering two goals, including one on a breakaway, in 20:00 of relief as Bowling Green got pummeled by #14 Ohio State, 7-1. The game was marked by a second period brawl that saw multiple players ejected from both sides. With the Falcons loss, the shortened season comes to an end for the sophomore netminder who made just five starts and seven overall appearances after returning from a season long ankle sprain. In the WHL, Tyler Myers (+1) scored his ninth goal of the season as Kelowna overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Vancouver in overtime, 3-2. Stout all evening, Myers' rising to the occasion defensively against the top teams in the league continued with his #2 star performance against the Western Conference leading Giants. The Rockets suffered a scare in the first when Myers crashed his shoulder hard into the boards when hunting a check, but all systems were a go after a short breather. 5'9 flyer Tyler Ennis got into his first career fight as Medicine Hat lost to Kootenay, 4-1. After his second period tussle, Ennis later earned a roughing minor near the end of the third as the Tigers hopes for home ice keep slipping with just three games remaining. Swift Current is up by three points to hold down the #4 seed over the #5 Tigers. The Tigers and Ice will rematch in Cranbrook on Sunday. In the SEL playoffs, Dennis Persson was -1 in 18:35 of work as #8 Timra got whooped by #4 HV71, 7-0. The best-of-seven series is now locked at one game apiece. In Boston, senior Andrew Orpik was even with eight penalty minutes as #20 Boston College closed the regular season with 4-1 upset of #4 Northeastern. Orpik's aggression led to four minors including two for roughing and another for charging. The Eagles move on to face UNH next weekend in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. Rounding out a fantastic league schedule, Brad Eidsness made 32 saves as turnover ridden #6 North Dakota suffered a letdown against #19 Wisconsin, 4-1. Derek Stepan (NYR) scored a pair of shorthanded goals to lead the Badgers to victory. The WCHA champion Sioux will face #10 seed Michigan Tech in next week's playoff opener. Drew MacKenzie posted an assist for the second night in a row as #7 Vermont lost a wild 6-5 decision in overtime to #9 New Hampshire. Returning from a one month absence to due to mono, the two-point weekend gives the freshman a total of six on the year. The Cats match-up with #5 seed Lowell next week. Justin Jokinen scored a goal for Minnesota State in their 4-4 tie with #18 St. Cloud State. The freshman's unassisted tally, his third of the season, came when he roofed one high after a clean steal at the SCSU blueline. The #8 seeded Mavericks enter the WCHA tourney where they'll face #3 Wisconsin. Jacob Lagacé had an assist as Chicoutimi lost to Victoriaville, 5-4. The short-handed helper gives him 67 points on the year. Drew Schiestel was -2 as Niagara got roughed up by Peterborough, 6-0. 2010 eligible Ryan Spooner had four consecutive goals for the Petes, with '09 Zack Kassian, a 6'3 205-pound wing, assisting on two of them. Schiestel now sits at a prospects-low rating of -29 for the season. In the OHL, Nick Crawford (-1) had an assist in Saginaw's 4-3 win over Owen Sound. 2010 prospect Steven Shipley had a goal and an assist in the losing effort.
3/08/2009 | 1 comments | Read More

Table set for Gogulla move

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, March 7, 2009 | 3/07/2009

With their DEL regular season complete, the Cologne Sharks have announced that Philip Gogulla will not return to the club for the 2009-10 season. Failing to make the playoffs a year after reaching the league finals, the 6'2, 198-pound wing finished as the Sharks' third-leading scorer with 17 goals and 38 points on the year. It's not plausible that the Sharks would just dump their 21-year old budding star. So barring an unlikely jump to the SEL or KHL, it appears that Gogulla will finally land in North America for the 2009-10 season as originally planned when he extended his deal with Cologne in May of 2006. With the 2005 pick already under contract (he was "loaned" to Cologne), why not look at the possibility of letting the winger get his feet wet down the stretch this season in Portland? It makes sense to explore the option on a few different levels. Gogulla played 48 of his team's 52 game season. On basic principle, getting as much experience under his belt in one calendar year will only lead to better preparation for the long grind of an 80+ game North American schedule. Inside of that idea, the opportunity to gel with the current Pirates prospects through a playoff run would go a long way towards building chemistry and confidence on and off the ice if a move is indeed pending next fall. He played well with Nathan Gerbe and Marek Zagrapan at the summer development camp, and generally looked good in training camp and preseason contests. His mere presence on the farm could open things up immensely, giving the Pirates a more balanced forward look. Let's also not forget that Gogulla will represent Germany in the Olympics next February. National Team coach Uwe Krupp, a former teammate of Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, should be on the phone encouraging his agent to make the move possible for the development of his young forward. Overall, it seems like a protracted visit could work out well for all parties involved. Until anything happens, we'll continue to wait for more news about Gogulla's future intentions.
3/07/2009 | 5 comments | Read More

Biega takes 2nd Team honors

Harvard defenseman Alex Biega has been named to the 2008-09 All-Ivy League 2nd Team.
Biega is Harvard’s top setup man with 16 assists. He has also tallied four goals for a total of 20 points and shares the team lead with two game-winning goals. He skates on the Crimson’s top defensive pair as well as on the penalty kill and power play. Harvard had the top power play in the ECAC Hockey regular season, converting at a 19.2-percent rate. Biega had a goal and eight assists and was a team-high +6 in the Crimson’s one-loss run through the final nine game of league play.
3/07/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

3/6 Recap: Jordon like Gordon; Eidsness leads to title

Jordon Southorn (-1) had a goal, assist, and a fight to complete his first Gordie Howe Hat Trick of the season in PEI's 5-3 loss to Lewiston. Southorn was aggressive with some big hits, rounded out by a semi-uneventful fight with Samuel Finn. The GHHT was the second of the season for Sabres prospects. Drew Schiestel registered the first back in late September. In the WHL, Tyler Ennis stayed warm with a goal and an assist as Medicine Hat lost to Regina, 4-3. Ennis now has a whopping 42 goals in 57 games this season (.74 gpg) to go along with 40 helpers. Last year, Paul Byron had 37 goals in 52 games (.71 gpg) while Nathan Gerbe led the way with 35 goals in 43 games (.81 gpg). Jacob Lagacé had a pair of assists as Chicoutimi defeated Montreal, 4-1. T.J. Brennan was -2 for the Juniors, who with the loss split the home-and-home series with the Sags. Paul Byron had an assist as Gatineau lost to Rimouski, 7-2. Despite the defeat, the Piques remain atop the Telus Western Division standings with an eight point lead over Montreal. Tyler Myers was +2 in Kelowna's 3-1 win over Chilliwack. The Rockets will square off with rival Vancouver on Saturday. J.S. Allard posted a shot on goal as Quebec defeated Shawinigan, 4-2. In the OHL, Nick Crawford was even as Saginaw defeated Guelph, 5-3. The victory allows the Spirit to leapfrog Plymouth into third place in the Western Conference. 2009 eligible Jordan Szwarz had three assists in the win. In the NCAA, Brad Eidsness made 22 saves in North Dakota's 2-1 win over Wisconsin. The victory over the Badgers clinches the MacNaughton Cup as the WCHA regular season champions while pushing the freshman's record to 22-8-4 on the year. Eidsness now has the most wins and best goals against average among WCHA goaltenders. At the Gutt, Drew MacKenzie picked up an assist just 1:30 into his return from mono in #7 Vermont's 6-4 win over #9 New Hampshire. In an ECAC playoff opener, Alex Biega had five shots on goal for Harvard in their 1-0 loss to Brown. The Crimson will look to force a Sunday game three with a win on Saturday. Also in Boston, Andrew Orpik registered one shot on goal as Boston College lost to Northeastern, 2-1 in overtime. Justin Jokinen had a shot on goal as Minnesota State smothered St. Cloud State, 5-1.
3/07/2009 | 5 comments | Read More

3/3-3/5 Recap: Lagacé, Byron race down the stretch

Tuesday in the QMJHL, Jacob Lagacé had a goal and an assist as Chicoutimi lost to Montreal, 4-2. The goal was Lagacé's 31st of the season. In the win, Juniors defenseman T.J. Brennan earned the game's #3 star by pumping nine shots at the Sagueneens net. Paul Byron assisted on the power play winner, then sealed it up with an empty-netter in Gatineau's 3-1 decision over Rouyn-Noranda. The goal was Byron's 31st of the year, keeping him on the same pace with Lagacé with both having five games left. Jordon Southorn was -2 with an assist as PEI outgunned Bathurst, 7-5. In the OHL, Nick Crawford (2PIM) played even as Saginaw defeated Sarnia, 4-2. On Wednesday, Byron had a goal and an assist as Gatineau came back from a 4-0 deficit to defeat Val-d'Or, 6-5. Also from the Q, J.S. Allard did not register a stat as Quebec lost to Rimouski, 4-2. On Thursday, Dennis Persson saw 17:29 of action as Timra opened their first round playoff with a 2-1 win over HV71. In St. Catharines, Drew Schiestel finished -3 in Niagara's 5-2 loss to Brampton.
3/07/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Buffalo Sabres Prospects Top 25 Rankings - Spring 2009

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | 3/03/2009

The 2009 Spring Top 25 doesn’t see much change at the top, leaving room for just some minor shuffling past the five spot. Aside from the clear cut #1, spots 2-5 in this edition of the "the list" present quite a challenge as skill sets at various positions have to be weighed to make the rankings work. The talent distribution assembled at the top is rather favorable, with a franchise defenseman, a pair of speedy scorers, a nugget of a goalie, and a solid, all-situations rearguard. The song remains the same for the most part, as placing the players in various developmental buckets reveals two clear needs: The Sabres must add scoring size at the forward positions. They have enough smaller, skilled players, and the time to get bigger while simultaneously adding goal production starts now. Secondly, the team would benefit from shifting its focus away from skating defenseman and find a way to add more aggressive blueline depth. Still, recent drafts have achieved better positional balance while amassing a fair amount of depth past the top cluster of players. Regarding the importance of added depth, it is worth noting that 22 of the 31 players to dress for the Sabres this season were acquired via the draft (this includes Tim Kennedy who was picked up in a draft day trade for a future pick). The Top 25 isn't a points competition, nor is it a measuring stick to see who's the closest to playing in the NHL this season. The list is constructed by slotting players by their overall potential impact, then moving them up and down based on their long range likelihood of reaching it. This is the only fair way to assess a pool of players ranging in age from 18-24.
The Top 25 at a glance: 1) Tyler Myers 2) Nathan Gerbe 3) Jhonas Enroth 4) Tyler Ennis 5) Chris Butler 6) Philip Gogulla 7) Mike Weber 8) T.J. Brennan 9) Luke Adam 10) Tim Kennedy 11) Drew Schiestel 12) Brad Eidsness 13) Marc-Andre Gragnani 14) Paul Byron 15) Jordon Southorn 16) Marek Zagrapan 17) Dennis Persson 18) Alex Biega 19) Corey Tropp 20) Corey Fienhage 21) Mike Kostka 22) Jacob Lagacé 23) Felix Schütz 24) Mark Mancari 25) Matt Generous
1 - Tyler Myers, RHD, Kelowna Rockets (WHL), 2008 1st round (12th overall) Playing with Kelowna of the WHL, Myers was thrust into a larger role this season after teammate Luke Schenn stuck with Toronto out of training camp. Now measuring 6'7-3/4, the defenseman has steadied the Rockets blue by playing upwards of 30:00 a night for the playoff bound Rockets. The Calgary native is a great skater who gets separation with his big first step, allowing him to quickly advance the puck out of his end. His long reach patrols a quarter of the defensive zone, and he's asserting himself physically with more confidence. After finishing -21 and -16 in his previous two seasons, Myers was sitting at +22 through February, while posting career offensive marks on the side. His development as a shutdown style defenseman is taking shape with the increased role, and with that the expected occasional mistakes are still made. The next twelve months will need to see his command with the puck improve, along with more consistency with his decision making. Still, Myers has been a better overall player this season with added strength and exposure, and in fact was voted the Best "Stay at Home" defenseman during a mid-season poll of WHL players and coaches. Most questions about Tyler Myers' status as an NHL prospect were answered during the medal round of the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championships when he was perhaps Team Canada's best defensive rearguard in wins over Russia and Sweden en route to winning gold. 2 - Nathan Gerbe, LW, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2006 5th round (142nd overall) Speedy and always looking to shoot, the 5'6 Gerbe burst on to the AHL scene, leading all rookies in goals while being honored as an All-Star Game starter. The Boston College product has superior acceleration and sniping skills that, when coupled with energy, leverage, and the ability to drive the other team crazy, creates a savory package for any club regardless of the player's size. After scoring 14 goals in 21 games with Portland, Gerbe's on-the-job learning of Lindy Ruff's system would move to Buffalo for a six-game call in December. The winger registered one assist and averaged 12:10 of time, while at times using his feet away from the puck by filling lanes and drawing dmen with him. During his stay, the Michigan native suffered an upper-body injury when he was sandwiched between two Devils players in open ice. Rumored to be a concussion, Gerbe landed on the IR for six games before heading back to Portland. He would earn another brief call to Buffalo, skating four games before getting sent back to the Pirates. Scouts never question Gerbe's effort. Continuing to produce goals and maintaining an edgy, two-way game should keep the 21-year old in the Sabres mix for the foreseeable future. He didn't score in Buffalo, but he's destined to get his share in due time once the Sabres clear some pricey dead weight off the main roster. 3 - Jhonas Enroth, G, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2006 2nd round (46th overall) The agile Enroth has made a seamless transition to the North American game as a rookie with Portland, relying on quickness and reflexes to cool any concerns about adjusting to the smaller NHL ice surface. With creasemate Adam Dennis put on the shelf for the season with a hip injury, the tune-up will continue at full throttle for the remainder of the year. The 20-year old Swede benefited from a full 2007-08 season of pro action with Sodertalje in the SEL, where he finished among leaders in all of the major categories. He anticipates play very well, and is athletic enough to compensate for any concerns posed by his 5'10 frame. A confident personality, Enroth will need to exhibit top-notch composure as his body and mind will be forced to stay sharp while playing loads of minutes down the stretch in Portland. When Ryan Miller went down with a sprained ankle on February 21st, a goaltender shortage put Enorth in Buffalo for the first time in his career. While it put Portland in a horrible position with no active netminders, it did give the Swede time to get exposed to the top club and actually gain a little rest as Patrick Lalime eased his way into the #1 spot. Earlier a rock for the Pirates, the tired Enroth was winless in nine starts prior to the recall. 4 - Tyler Ennis, LW, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL), 2008 1st round (26th overall) With quick feet and nifty puck skills, the gliding Ennis overcame a slow start in time to get it clicking for the World Juniors in December. The Edmonton product compiled just six points through his first nine WHL games before netting 16 over his next nine to get the season moving in the right direction. Ennis is the main attraction with his WHL club in Medicine Hat, leading the Tigers in scoring for a second straight season while clearly being the focal point of the opposition's forecheck. Despite the increased hits, better consistency is seeing his production exceed the 1.3 points-per-game captured in 2007-08. Ennis failed to hit the scoresheet 18 times last season. At the same point in 2008-09, Ennis was quiet in just 11 contests. With Team Canada, Ennis demonstrated creativity on an energetic bottom line, collecting three goals and seven points in the tourney's six games. He's willing to go to scoring spots on the ice, a trait that will be enhanced with added strength, while his tight stickhandling, blazing entry speed, and attention to digging loose pucks project him as a formidable top-6 forward despite his developing 5'9 frame. A February poll of WHL Eastern Conference personnel saw the trickster earn Best Skater honors for the second straight season, a skill that grants him a true finishing gear. Ennis closed last season strong, scoring points in 20 of his final 24 games, and 2008-09 is no different. He compiled 26 goals in 24 games of January and February, highlighted by a spectacular six-goal eruption on February 27th to give him back-to-back seasons with 40+. Sure it's only juniors, but Ennis' torrid post-World Juniors stretch is making the Brian Campbell trade to San Jose look darn good right about now. 5 - Chris Butler, LHD, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2005 4th round (96th overall) The smart, steady rearguard parlayed a fine training camp showing into a very successful rookie season. Paired up with Paul Baier to start the year in Portland, Butler quickly asserted himself as the team's top defender with his two-way proficiency and ability to handle all situations. On December 19th, Butler made his NHL debut, finishing +2 with an assist against Los Angeles to complete a somewhat seamless transition from the NCAA to the NHL. He hasn't looked back since. Smooth and confident, the St. Louis native makes smart passes and doesn't mind skating the puck out of his end. At 6'1, 190 pounds, he's effective at sealing off bodies on the boards and good at tying up sticks near the net. The DU product has solid top-four potential, with sets of both offensive and leadership skills that should assert themselves more and more as the experience builds. 6 - Mike Weber, LHD, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2006 2nd round (57th overall) The physical, stay-at-home Weber made a splash in 2007-08 after posting a +12 during a late-season call to Buffalo as 20-year old rookie. The Pittsburgh native looked poised to make a full-time play as a sophomore, but was sent to Portland out of camp where he endured some ups and downs as the Pirates set sail. Weber earned a brief, two game call in October while still atop the Pirates depth chart. The 6'2, 200-pounder played through pain as the winter months hit before succumbing to a January knee scope. After a few weeks off, Weber would get a one-game tune-up on his healed knee before earning a second trip to Buffalo. He got another five NHL games under his belt until the Sabres returned to health. In March, the OHL product was forced to shut it down for the season with a separated shoulder. Weber's value lays in making safe plays awhile displaying a nasty disposition beneath his circles. As his footwork continues to improve, so does his outlook as a solid NHL depth defender. In the meantime, putting forth a consistent, disciplined effort will make the transition easier while waiting for the opportunity to arise. 7 - Philip Gogulla, LW, Kolner Haie (DEL), 2005 2nd round (48th overall) With leading scorer Ivan Ciernik departing for the KHL, the streaky 6'2 winger needed to be a more consistent scorer this season for Cologne. The fifth-year man responded with offensive bite, posting a career high in goals despite the Sharks abysmal fall from DEL finalist a year ago to second worst team in the league. Gogulla, 21, is big enough, skilled enough, and experienced enough to bring his game to North America in 2009-10. The German's ability to control play by using his size is a ready North American attribute, and his long stride that gets him to finish has added polish. Questions about his desire to make the leap can be back-burnered until after training camp, but absent of contractual issues, there is nothing to be gained by Gogulla staying another year in the DEL. 8 - T.J. Brennan, LHD, Montreal Juniors (QMJHL), 2007 2nd round (31st overall) The move from St. John's to Montreal has seen the New Jersey native take the necessary developmental strides with his defensive game, turning a wanderlust-driven -15 with the Fog Devils in 2007-08 to a plus rating throughout the course of 2008-09 with the Juniors. His goal scoring numbers are down as a result, but his overall value has increased as he gets ready to take his 90 MPH slapper to the AHL next season. A good skater with excellent vision, the six-footer has looked like a more complete, mature player in his third-year of major junior By paying attention to the coaching being offered, he's focusing more on standing up against the rush, and less on driving up ice with puck. As is often the case, talented skating dmen need to be reeled in with a focus on basic defensive fundamentals before their natural skills can be a true team asset. Such has been the case with Brennan, but the process is still ongoing. Brennan is hitting less, but is still a physical presence when he needs to be. The drop in registered hits can be attributed to better positioning and a less aggressive desire to go looking for the contact. However, all one needs to remember is the solid knock that sent Gatineau forward Craig England to the hospital (and Brennan to the pressbox for five games due to its aggressive nature) if they're wondering if there's an instinct in play. 9 - Luke Adam, LW/C, Montreal Juniors (QMJHL), 2008 2nd round (44th overall) At 6'2, 203 pounds,Adam represents the best combination of size and scoring ability in the Sabres prospect rankings. A hard worker with good hands down low, the Newfoundland native was having a successful 2008-09 campaign before shutting it down for the season in mid-February due to a ruptured spleen. The 18-year old uses his body to initiate contact, guard the puck, and gain momentum en route to the net before letting his good hands complete his tasks. Packaged in is a sound defensive player to boot. Upon a clean bill of health, Adam can get back to developing as a bull in a stable full of rabbits. His combination of size and hands were the reason the Sabres drafted him, and intense concentration on improving his skating will make him an instant candidate for NHL duty since Sabres squads of recent years have sorely lacked the big bodied scorer who earns his keep. 10 - Tim Kennedy, C/LW, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2005 6th round (181st overall - by WAS) Liking his smarts and creativity, the Sabres converted the quick-footed Kennedy to the pivot spot after a three-year collegiate career as a wing. The experiment has proven successful, as the Michigan State product immediately clicked at the AHL level with his ability to take the puck to the net and find open teammates. Kennedy has quickly taken the next step as a professional, positioning himself for an NHL future as he continues to pile up points as the AHL's leading rookie scorer. The Buffalo native was selected for the AHL All-Star Game but was forced to sit out due to reconstructive dental surgery after taking a high stick to the mouth. Kennedy returned from the injury with a vengeance, scoring 19 points in the following 16 games back. In the first year of a two-year deal, look for the Sabres to make the hometown product a part of their third-line plans once to free agent ins and outs are settled. 11 - Drew Schiestel, LHD, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL), 2007 2nd round (59th overall) With the ability to free-wheel with the puck, the fleeting Schiestel is the best skating defenseman in the Sabres pipeline. The 6'2 Hamiltonian couples his speed with a big slapshot to be one of the OHL's better power play threats from the back end. His puck moving style makes him more of a set-up man, as Schiestel doesn't always look for a coast-to-coast finish. The story changes some at even strength, though. Despite doing a better job tying guys up and holding his ground physically, Schiestel has been among the bottom-10 players in the league in +/- throughout the season, at one point hitting the lowly depths of -25 for the .500 IceDogs. While some of the number can be attributed to excessive minutes with a weak forward cast and perhaps even questionable coaching, the fourth-year man has to be accountable for it being as low as it has gotten. Schiestel will carry on to Portland next season where he'll take advantage of Assistant Coach Eric Weinrich's defensive expertise. Much like Brennan, he will be called upon to stay back more at the next level, as mastering his primary responsibilities will be the key to unlocking a pro-style similar to that of his favorite NHLer, Scott Niedermayer. 12 - Brad Eidsness, G, North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA), 2007 5th round (139th overall) Leading the NCAA in minutes played through January, the freshman netminder walked into the starting gig in Grand Forks and demonstrated quick adjustment on the rugged WCHA learning curve. With inconsistency plaguing the Sioux early in the season, Eidsness has battled his way to an impressive 20 wins, earning WCHA Rookie of the Weeks honors three times while hanging among the top-5 in goals against and save percentage all season. The reigning MVP of the Junior "A" AJHL, Eidsness plays a tight butterfly style with quick side-to-side movement, and has penchant for the big save. He's an excellent reader of the developing play, and with better rebound control, the 5'11 backstop has the ability to be a top-tier goaltender in the NCAA ranks as a sophomore. 13 - Marc-Andre Gragnani, LHD, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2005 3rd round (87th overall) Gragnani has settled back on the blueline this season in Portland, where he's continued to make an impression with his offensive-minded game. The talented Montreal product leads all Pirates blueliners in goals and assists, and earned a late January call to an injury-decimated top club. Gragnani is benefiting from being able to focus on one position this season. With an eye for moving the puck, Gragnani is getting better at making the quick, simple decision to advance play out of his end at even strength while being a pivotal power play cog. The strength is present to make an NHL impact, so gaining steady defensive and statistical balance should keep him on the Sabres radar as the team assembles its future core. 14 - Paul Byron, C/W, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL), 2007 6th round (179th overall) The slick forward overcame a slow start with new teammates by piling points over an impressive 19-game point streak to become one of the CHL's top players over the winter months. His 2008-09 total through January had already eclipsed his injury-effected finish from last season, and puts the speedy Ottawa native close to becoming the first Sabres prospect to hit the 100-point mark since Dylan Hunter hit triple digits in 2004-05 and 2005-06. Entering January as the Q's 11th leading scorer, Byron used his 22.6 sniping % to put up a pair of hat tricks, including nights of five and seven points, to shoot up to the fourth spot. As Byron came to life, so did his Gatineau club who has played roughly .800 hockey since snapping a 13-game losing streak in November. Byron doesn't limit his game to scoring, for the 5'9, 170-pounder hits and blocks shots with equal aptitude. With the help of the Sabres training staff, Byron's added strength has made him harder to check, affording him more one-on-one wins. The effort, skill, and heart are present, but questions about durability will linger until Byron shows that he can get inside against larger, more physical defenders than he's accustomed to dealing with in the Q. After going undrafted in junior, he climbed out of Junior "B" to become a skilled enough playmaker to get a preliminary look from Team Canada. He's done everything to succeed at this point, and is worth a look to see if he can continue battling effectively while adding 15 additional pounds. 15 - Jordon Southorn, LHD, PEI Rocket (QMJHL), 2008 4th round (104th overall) Anchoring the top pair and #1 power play unit, the 6'2, 200-pounder has blossomed into a top-notch defenseman on the Island this season for the Rocket. The job of leader on a major-junior club has proven to be taxing at times for the 18-year old. Since returning from a team-imposed suspension in October that saw him lose the "A" from his sweater, Southorn has improved his overall play, but still endures stretches of inconsistency that limit his effectiveness. The Pincourt, Quebec native is a fluid skater who uses his body, is very good in transition, and gets his shots through from the left point. The course of the season has seen Southorn sit in the top 10 for points, hits, and shots on goal for QMJHL defensemen. With another season of Q hockey in the forecast, the mid-rounder has a pro-style toolkit that looks to be in a great developmental position. 16 - Marek Zagrapan, C, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2005 1st round (13th overall) Zagrapan's skill level continues to keep him lingering on the fringe of Sabres prospect relevance. Expectations are always high for first round draft picks, and the Slovakian has yet to hit his potential. Now 22 in the final year of his first deal, Zagrapan is still one of the more inconsistent prospects in the Sabres stable from an effort standpoint despite an ironic career statline (junior seasons of 82 and 85 points, and ppg averages of .54, .53, and .54 through his first three AHL years). The song remains the same. Excellent vision, quick jump, and good raw skills are there, but inconsistency in paying the price have somewhat stalled his overall development. It can't be encouraging to see rookies Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy, both of similar age to Zagrapan, get calls to Buffalo along with Mark Mancari. Like what will happen with Ennis, a late birth date put Zagrapan into the AHL during his second post-draft season, whereas other members of his class are pro rookies or collegiate seniors. There have been two streaks over the past seasons where Zagrapan seemed on the cusp of getting a look, but for the most part, the pivot has yet to earn a call to Buffalo despite the belief that he may raise his level of play against better competition. 17 - Dennis Persson, LHD, Timra IK Red Eagles (SEL), 2006 1st round (24th overall) Staying in the SEL with Timra after a 2007-08 split between Djurgarden and second division Nykopings, Persson has seen more time with the Eagles this season. His time-on-ice average has spiked to over 12:00 a night, up from an unacceptable 7:22 while part of a crowded DIK bunch last season. However, the bottom pair minutes have mostly been the result of injuries to others and not necessarily a reward for good play. Dents of his own have hindered Persson's overall impact. He took a puck in the face early in the season, and also missed time at other points due to illness and a separated shoulder. Developmentally the season has been somewhat of a challenge, but Persson has fared positively when given opportunities. The Sabres bought time with the two-year deal over the summer, and while an obvious need for North American exposure is present, it may be appropriate to root the young defenseman in Sweden for one more season if Timra wants to re-sign him. 18 - Alex Biega, RHD, Harvard Crimson (ECAC), 2006 5th round (147th overall) An engaged, all-situations defenseman, Biega leads the Crimson charge at both ends of his ice. The assistant captain gets good leverage with his 5'11, 205-pound frame, and gets the puck to the net nightly as evidenced by his 80+ shots on goal. The next closest defenseman on his team has just 30 through February. The Montreal native is a great skater who has learned to pull back,while continuing to use his feet to force plays in his own end. The steady, mature game has made him a Hobey Baker candidate as a junior, and the current plan calls for a return to Cambridge as a senior where he'll form a family trio with junior-to-be Michael, and incoming freshman, Danny. 19 - Corey Tropp, RW, Michigan State Spartans (CCHA), 2007 3rd round (89th overall) Corey Tropp and the Michigan State Spartans were enduring trying times even before the sophomore decided to temporarily shorten his "student/athlete" tag. Earlier in the season, a bout with mono knocked the right wing out of commission for a few weeks, all but killing any chance he had to skate for Team USA at the World Junior Championships. Then the clincher came in January when Tropp, along with Andrew Conboy, were both exiled from the program after an on-ice attack on Michigan's Steve Kampfer. With hopes of reinstatement prior to his junior season, NCAA eligibility rules prevented Tropp from finishing 2008-09 with Sioux Falls of the USHL. Tropp has modest finishing skills, a good release, and the willingness to mix it up to maintain his edge. His skill set combined with a solid work ethic makes him a middle-line prospect once he's able to resume his game experience. 20 - Corey Fienhage, RHD, North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA), 2008 3rd round (81st overall) Unlike his Sioux teammate Eidsness, Fienhage did not enjoy a developmental season of Junior "A" before hitting the collegiate ranks. Thought to be heading to Indiana (USHL) in 2008-09, Taylor Chorney's early departure to the Edmonton Oilers opened up the scholarship spot for the 6'3, 214-pound Fienhage to enter college immediately. The jump from Minnesota high school to the WCHA takes some time, and Fienhage, 18, has struggled some with the pace of the game. Stout and aggressive with good foot speed, the athletic rearguard still made a rugged statement with 28 PIM in his nine appearances. The encouraging sign is the nature of the calls - six roughing minors, one high stick, one check from behind, a misconduct from a fight, and another for interference. He wasn't intimidated, and he wasn't taking hooking and tripping calls as one would expect from an inexperienced defender. Aside from Weber, the former high school safety's fierce demeanor represents the best option for toughness in the Sabres pipeline. So while on the surface the WCHA freshman may appear to be a disappointment to most Sabre fans, a season of limited exposure while letting the pace marinate in practice was almost foreseeable. Dressing in roughly a quarter of his teams contests, the rookie has earned the praise of coaches with his continued hard work in practices. 21 - Mike Kostka, RHD, Portland Pirates (AHL), undrafted free agent Signed after a successful career at Massachusetts, Kostka, 23, has brought a seasoned defensive element to the Pirates blueline in year one. One of three rookies in Portland to start the year, Kostka acquitted himself nicely as he was thrust into monster minutes when injuries mounted up in the winter months. The 6'2, 210-pounder has handled the high-paced transition with ease, carving out a reputation as one of the hardest workers on the farm to limit the usual rookie mistakes. Calm with puck, his strong skating game is marked by safe plays, making him a consistent plus player throughout the course of the year. Strong enough to hold his own yet not overly aggressive, Kostka is good with his stick defensively but can also be an effective point man when applying pressure offensively. The work being put in on the farm has been noticed, making Kostka a firm support player for the foreseeable future. 22 - Jacob Lagacé, LW, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL), 2008 5th round (134th overall) Lagacé showed up to play in his first post-draft season, leading the Sagueneens in goals and points all season long. In addition to being the offensive pace-setter, he's also been the Sags' top two-way forward. The 5'11 winger gets pucks to the net, grinds out penalties, and is generally noticeable even when he's not scoring by working hard on every shift. His work ethic is best illustrated by his being among the league leaders with five short-handed goals. He's not overpowering, but is best described as a persistent battler with finish. A leader who can capitalize on his opportunities, Lagacé has the skating, low center of gravity, and crafty hands to develop into a role player (3rd/4th) with some solid AHL work. 23 - Felix Schütz, C, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2006 4th round (117th overall) A two-way checker with good offensive skills, the QMJHL product returned to North American after taking DEL Rookie of the Year honors with Ingolstadt in 2007-08. Schütz has brought smarts and craftiness in his initial AHL foray, compiling 10 points (5+5) in November to assert himself as a solid support player for the Pirates. With a few ramp up years in the AHL, Schütz's two-way coolness projects him to be a middle-line depth player. At 5'11, 187 pounds, Schütz isn't a banger, but his hard-nosed, competitive instinct provides a solid foundation to work off of moving forward. Keeping a pesky edge to his game will eventually earn increased minutes and a greater role as the development cycle continues for the 21-year old German. 24 - Mark Mancari, RW, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2004 7th round (207th overall) The big-bodied Mancari has continued to be an effective clean-up hitter at the AHL level, getting himself into position to lead the Pirates in scoring with a point-per-game pace. Now 23 in his fourth AHL season, the Sabres would like to see his emotion equal his production, as he too often lets the action come to him instead of taking it to his opponent. At 6'4, 225 pounds, Mancari has a big shot with a nice touch for rebounds around the net. Despite the numbers, Sabres brass seems more intrigued by the creative efforts of first-year players Gerbe and Kennedy as more viable options moving forward. Mancari has maxed his tools at the AHL level, and looks to be an up-and-down journeyman type of player who may need a different situation to succeed in the NHL. 25 - Matt Generous, RHD, St. Lawrence Saints (ECAC), 2005 7th round (208th overall) An anchor on the Saints blueline, Generous has proven to be one of the more underrated players on the depth chart since his drafting. With shoulder issues set aside, the Cheshire, CT native returned as a senior leader to post a career high seven goals on 54 shots. Good on both sides of special teams, Generous has a 6'3, 200-pound frame built for the pro game and the skating and physical ability to succeed. A decorated scholar athlete, the senior stalwart has never been a healthy scratch in his four years at SLU, and while working under the tutilige of former Sabres property Mike Hurlbut, looks like a steady organizational depth player once his degree is earned. Clouding the picture is a sprained MCL suffered in his final regular season weekend that could throw caution to the wind depending on the severity. Nick Crawford, LHD, Saginaw Spirit (OHL), 2008 6th round (164th overall) Forming a solid back end unit with T.J. Brodie (CAL), Adam Comrie (FLA), and highly touted netminder Eddie Pasquale ('09), Crawford quietly assumes his role with a mobile, stay-at-home style in his third OHL season. The 6'1 product of the Don Mills Flyers has leveraged his excellent passing skills and power play opportunities into a career offensive year by doubling his 20-point output from 2007-08. Adding 10-15 pounds of muscle will be on the agenda for the next two seasons to help win more battles and gain stronger puck control. With a return to Saginaw clearly in the cards for 2009-10, working on his shooting while pushing a more aggressive tone will put the mild mannered defenseman in a better professional posture. Andrew Orpik, RW, Boston College Eagles (Hockey East), 2005 7th overall (227th overall) The senior checker continues to lead by grinding, all the while chipping in the occasional point with a career high output. After executing as one third of a tight forechecking unit that helped BC to a 2007-08 national title, Orpik was again placed with Kyle Kucharski and Matt Lombardi to form what on most nights is the most consistent, energetic line for the Eagles. Kucharski has been especially good for the Eagles this season, and his linemates have held their own around him. Orpik became a healthy scratch for one game during a post-holiday slid, but it was questioned to be more of a motivational tactic by Jerry York to spur his club than it was punishment of one of his senior leaders for one miscue or lazy penalty as is usually the case on Chestnut Hill. The E. Amherst, NY native had a good conditioning camp over the summer, scoring goals down low in scrimmages while forcing the opposing carrier to make quick decisions. Continuing to skate through his hits will be the key to employing his 6'3, 215-pound body at the AHL level for the next few seasons. J.S. Allard, LW/C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL), 2007 5th round (147th overall) The centerpiece of the trade that sent Angelo Esposito back to Montreal, Allard has had an off statistical year on a loaded Remparts roster while shifting from center to wing. Surrounded by the talents of Mikhail Stefanovich (TOR), Kelsey Tessier (COL), Dmitri Kugryshev (WAS), and former Sabres property Benjamin Breault, Allard was put into position to demonstrate growth over his .90 points per game in 2007-08 with St. John's, but instead failed to surge past the 60 point benchmark. Still, his playmaking skills and overall team play make him an attractive player to develop for the middle lines in Portland. Replacing some finesse with a little more attitude could build up some confidence for the heady forward. To date, the 19-year old has averaged .5 hits per game whereas a player like Lagacé is around one per outing. Allard was knocked out with facial injury on the first day of training camp, and it's easy to think that it has effected his willingness to get his hands dirty. Better positioning would lead to more consistent numbers, but regardless, Allard has yet to take that next step toward finishing plays with authority. Justin Jokinen, RW, Minnesota State Mavericks (CCHA), 2008 4th round (101st overall) The youngest player on the Mavericks roster, Jokinen, 18, will need some physical maturation to his 6'3, 180-pound frame before making any sort of impact in Mankato. The Minnesota high school product has been in and out of the lineup for the majority of his freshman year while his older, stronger teammates held down regular roster spots against the bigger skaters of the WCHA. Jokinen did score the game winning goal in the season opener, one of two goals scored through February, but the need for a smarter two-way adjustment has been present. Hard work in the weight room while building better chemistry with his teammates should go a long way towards Jokinen's skill coming to the forefront next season. The growing frame and base talents are apparent, so being receptive to coaching should help translate his skating and shooting skills to the higher level of competition. Drew MacKenzie, LHD, University of Vermont Catamounts, 2007 7th round (209th overall) Unlike Fienhage, the 6'2, 200-pound Mackenzie took a developmental season with the defense factory in Waterloo (USHL) to better prepare for battle in competitive Hockey East, and the move paid off. A stay-at-home type with good eyes up ice, MacKenzie has been a left-side mainstay in the Catamounts lineup, eating quality minutes while earning time on the power play unit. A February bout with mononucleosis put MacKenzie on the shelf for the regular season stretch run. At the time of illness, the Taft alum was +1 with three assists in 24 games. Playing as a 20-year old freshman, the Connecticut native looks like a shutdown guy in the making as the Cats carry on their strong tradition. Vjacheslav Buravchikov, LHD, Ak-Bars Kazan, 2005 6th round (191st overall) The 21-year old Russian has taken the next step during his fourth elite league season with Kazan. Maturing into a steady defenseman who can move the puck, the youngest regular on the team has logged career highs in points and minutes while making making fewer mistakes overall. He's become quite confident with the puck, and is getting more shots through from the point. With Ak Bars finishing as the #2 team in the KHL's inaugural regular season, the experience of playing for a winning organization will bode well if the 6'1, 186-pounder decides to try his game on North American soil in the coming years. For now, any thoughts surrounding Buravchikov's contract status can be ignored until one party shows an interest in the other, or until a transfer agreement between the NHL and Russia comes into play. Nick Eno, G, Bowling Green Falcons (CCHA), 2007 7th round (187th overall) The Sabres' high ankle blues started in Bowling Green this past fall, as Eno was on the shelf into 2009 due to a sprain of his own suffered in the Falcons opening week of practice. Still a tad limber, Eno returned for his first action against Ohio State on January 9th, but did little to spark the last-place Falcons. Through February, the sophomore went winless in six appearances. The 6'3 stopper covers a lot of net, and while not particularly crisp, he moves well for a big goalie. In the last edition of the top 20, Eno's puck handling was pointed out as something he could improve and it appears to have been addressed. The Michigan native managed an assist in two of his first three starts. Dylan Hunter, LW, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2004 9th round (273rd overall) Hunter continues to bean adequate contributor in the AHL, playing center and wing as needed for most of his three professional seasons. Hunter, who missed an early chunk of the season after taking a puck to the foot, possesses solid vision to create and finish, but comes up short as a skater in terms of taking it to the next level. For now, the 23 year-old looks to be an AHL support player until he finds a higher gear and more regular goal production. Derek Whitmore, LW, Portland Pirates (AHL), undrafted free agent Another product of the Sabres attention to the college game, Whitmore has been a pleasant contributor in his first AHL season. Signing after his senior year at Bowling Green, the 24-year old has been a steady worker as he tries to find his scoring groove at the pro level. The 5'11 wing is strong on his skates as he enters corners and heads to the front of the net to create activity, and looks to provide organizational depth while putting the pieces of a pro game together on nightly basis. Mike Funk, LHD, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2004 2nd round (43rd overall) The 21-year old defender ran into some bad luck in 2008-09, being limited to just 13 games after a pair of concussions derailed his season. After getting knocked on to the injury list with his first concussion in training camp, the Portland Winter Hawk product was cleared for a return to action in November. The 6'4, 210-pounder had a goal and two assists before getting viciously hit from behind on December 6th by Lowell's Ansii Salmela. The second serious blow to the head put his season on ice, and Funk has yet to return to skating. Prior to the season's developments, Funk appeared on the road to being retained past his entry deal. Adam Dennis, G, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2005 6th round (182nd overall) The 24-year old Dennis was further cementing himself as solid organizational depth option before a mid-December hip flexor forced surgery and a shut down to the season. Dennis stops the puck, but has neither the reflexes or quickness to make an NHL run. He does have a winning pedigree going back to juniors that allows for good experience in an AHL landscape that is more developmental than ever before. Mike Card, RHD, Portland Pirates (AHL), 2004 8th round (241st overall) Returning from two serious concussions in 2007-08, Card looked to have made some progress while skating at the Sabres summer camp. He was moving well in preparation for his third pro season, even dangling a bit in scrimmages while making crisp passes out of his end. After a run through training camp, the Kelowna product skated to a +3 through 13 games in Portland before being concussed again in November. The defenseman would briefly return nearly two months later, lasting just six games before shutting it down with lingering post-concussion symptoms. Now 23 with a series of head injuries, the future isn't looking all that bright for the once promising rearguard. The precipitous slide down the rankings in the final year of his deal leaves many a fan wondering how much longer he'll be appearing on the list.
3/03/2009 | 11 comments | Read More