Odds & Ends: Southorn talking; Tropp on the way?

With 2008 draft pick Jordon Southorn recently finishing his fourth QMJHL season, The Guardian is reporting that player agent Don Meehan is talking to the Sabres about a pro deal.

Southorn said his agent, Don Meehan, is talking with the Buffalo Sabres, the team that drafted him in the fourth round (104th overall) of the 2008 draft, about a three-year, entry-level contract. At the maximum, it can be worth over $825,000 a year.


Enter the Sabres blueline pipeline, where the system is rich with numbers. With Dennis Persson (one year), T.J. Brennan (two), and Drew Schiestel (two) having term remaining on their first contracts, and Nick Crawford recently added to the fold, it is thought that decisions on Portland defenders Matt Generous and Mike Kostka will play a role in what shakes out with Southorn and recent Harvard grad, Alex Biega.

The 5'11 Biega, who served as the Crimson captain this past season, moves well and plays a smart game, but the Sabres have to decide if he has enough juice to produce on the power play while providing consistent even-strength support. In 131 NCAA games in Cambridge, the Montreal native collected 15 goals and 55 assists with a net +1 rating.

Southorn, on the other hand, is waiting and working a summer job after an up-and-down season that saw a shift in his approach.

Southorn, who turns 20 today, had a solid 2009-10, if not bumpy one.
A pre-season suspension by the Rocket, his second in two seasons, cancelled Buffalo’s plans to bring him to its training camp.
But Southorn focused on his job, finished with a team-high plus-five plus-minus and fourth in hits with 86, and left the offence to itself (four goals, 19 assists, 67 games).
He was down 18 points in scoring from 2008-09, but up 18 points in his plus-minus ratio.
“I think my game changed this year. I was always the offensive guy. My plus-minus was up in the plusses,” he said. “My defensive game got much better. That’s what I was proud of.”
New head coach Eric Lavigne, hired in early October to replace the fired Guy Chouinard, stressed defensive zone coverage and it worked.


Southorn isn't a poor depth option by any stretch, but I was surprised to hear that discussions are taking place because there aren't that many jobs to go around in an organization that doesn't use an ECHL affiliate.

The Sabres have five blueliners under contract (Butler, Rivet, Sekera, Montador, Myers) entering 2010-11, with the expectation that RFAs Marc-Andre Gragnani and Mike Weber will be tendered. There is also the potential for UFA back-up plans like a Dennis Seidenberg and perhaps a Dan Hamhuis to be in place in the event that one of both of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman sign elsewhere.

If you look at the depth chart, I already have Brayden McNabb penciled in to assume Dennis Persson's AHL slot beginning in 2011-12. I'll stop short of calling Persson a lame duck this early, but he will be entering the final year of his deal with the expectation of taking a huge developmental step on the Pirates blueline.

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After signing forward Luke Adam to an entry-level contract at the end of his junior season, the Sabres still have decisions to make with some forwards in the coming weeks.

It's becoming more of a certainty that Michigan State RW Corey Tropp will follow in the footsteps of past collegians Chris Butler, Nathan Gerbe, and Tim Kennedy by leaving school after his junior season to sign with the Sabres. The CCHA program has already lost juniors Jeff Petry (EDM) and Andrew Rowe (PHI) to the pro ranks this offseason, making Tropp's departure a no-brainer given the Sabres depth needs. The 6'0 winger led the Spartans this past season with 20 goals and 42 points, and with MSU bench boss Rick Comley not having a consistent track record for developing pro bodies, it may be in both parties best interests to shift the development cycle to the AHL.

With the Sabres short on forwards, it seems that Jacob Lagacé will ultimately get a look as well despite his disappointing finish with Cape Breton. The fifth-round pick in 2008, Lagacé scored five goals in 25 games with the Eagles after having 30 in 35 with Chicoutimi at the time of the deal.

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In other forward 'stuff', former first-rounder Marek Zagrapan has had his two-year KHL contract with Severstal terminated after one season. After a quick start in his return to European ice, the former Sagueneen/Amerk/Pirate found it tough to earn consistent time and ultimately became a non-factor down the stretch. It remains to be seen where Zagrapan will land moving forward, but the Sabres will continue to retain his NHL rights while the sting of another first round disappointment subsides.

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Speaking of Sabres European prospects, Felix Schutz made noise on the international stage when he scored the overtime winner as Germany shocked Team USA to win the opening game of the 2010 IIHF World Championships. It was a nice touch for Schutz after a tough second half in Portland that saw the tweener limited in ice time while being left off the Pirates clear day roster.

Schutz has two goals through three games for Germany, while fellow Sabres prospect Philip Gogulla has yet to record a point.

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When the University of North Dakota began stockpiling defensive recruits like Derek Forbort and Dillon Simpson, we began to think long and hard about the impact it would all have on Sabres 2008 third-rounder, Corey Fienhage. When Fienhage was sat late in the year in favor of forward-turned-defenseman Matt Davidson, those thoughts intensified.

When we reported that Fienhage was placed on the protected list by the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, the writing was seemingly being scribbled on the proverbial wall.

But when Fighting Sioux junior Chay Genoway announced that he would be returning to the team in 2010-11, the message on the wall stated that Fienhage was outsy.

Nothing is official, but whispers around Grand Forks are suggesting that Fienhage is as good as gone (along with Isles prospect David Toews). Fienhage needs to play, and since he didn't get in the lineup last season until Genoway suffered a concussion, it isn't too difficult to connect the dots.

My question is where does Fienhage go? If he opts for the WHL, his window to earn a deal is cut down to one season. Another option has him seeking a scholarship elsewhere, thus sending him to the USHL for a season of Jr. A to retain his NCAA eligibility, and in turn allow the Sabres to keep his rights for a longer term.

Fienhage is rugged and tough, and I would be eager to watch his game translate to the WHL. However, Fienhage is just 20 and needs consistent reps after playing a scant 39 games over two seasons with the Sioux. Couple that with the fact that the Sabres blueline prospect cupboard is already crowded, and I fully expect the Sabres to advise him to somehow stay in school.

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While we're at it, might as well make official what we already knew. Mark Adams, the Sabres fifth round pick last summer, will be enrolling at Providence College this fall. The right-hander will join Vermont junior defenseman Drew MacKenzie in the competitive Hockey East.

Adams, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound defenseman, was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth round (134th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He played three seasons at Malden Catholic High School before spending one season with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. While with Chicago, Adams played in 53 games and recorded four goals and 10 assists for 14 points during the 2009-10 season.


After a minor shoulder injury in the first half, "Roo" got his game clicking as the Steel's year wound down. Adams has good wheels that he'll need to use to limit stick infractions as he steps up a level of competition.

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Lastly, if you're not doing so already, try to follow SabresProspects on Twitter. I'll be in Los Angeles for the draft and will be using it to communicate throughout the entire week. This space will be updated as well, of course, but that feed should be more lively.
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Dave
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Saturday, May 15, 2010 ×

Seems the team has had some failures in their development plan with how some of their NCAA guys have fared (Tropp, Fienhage, Jokinen).

Southorn is a surprise, especially after the second team suspension. It didn't seem like he would be in their plans, but perhaps the shift in philosophy to more of a defensive, physical presence makes him a more interesting option given the number of puck-moving types they have already under contract.

Any word on if they're going to give Legault another look? Or if they are in the market for some other CHL potential UFA's? Or Europe? There are a couple of forwards who I wouldn't mind seeing them look at in Marcel Muller from Cologne or Darren Archibald from Barrie. Both play a more robust game and have some skill -- Muller in particular is a big man who plays a big man's game with the usual German-trained attention to defense.

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Kris Baker
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Saturday, May 15, 2010 ×

Jokinen's time in Mankato has mirrored Fienhage's time in Grand Forks. Both entered as true freshman. Tough thing to do. It will be interesting to see what happens with Fienhage.

Tropp's sophomore year was definitely unfortunate. Hard to call his overall development a disappointment. Early season national leader as junior, more productive than Kennedy on a lesser squad, part of a team that ran out of gas...middle line potential is still present.

I figured Southorn to be 50/50 based more on system numbers than actual play. Good frame, good mobility. Perhaps the Sabres are satisfied with his maturation off the ice as much as on. We'll see.

Nothing brewing on any unsigned free agents. There are a few solid 20-year olds that will be looked at come draft time though. Nice segueway into Legault. He should be in camp.

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Dave
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Sunday, May 16, 2010 ×

I suppose the way Tropp's sophomore season went still leaves a bad taste.

The Sabres could do themselves a favor by looking hard at some of the guys coming out as undrafted UFA's, depending on if some of those guys don't get nabbed late in the draft (perhaps even by Buffalo).

It still rankles a bit that the Leafs landed Brady Irwin after two summer dev camps here. I suppose it will continue to as Toronto seems to be the front runner for Müller's services too. Regier's talked about clustering -- he could do well to cluster a bunch of Germans as anything else, particularly by adding one who's 6'3"/220 lbs. and plays a physical game.

Speaking of the development camp, any word on the particulars? Will it be NU again, the week after the draft?

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Kris Baker
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Sunday, May 16, 2010 ×

These unsigned UFAs will go where they think they have the best opportunity to play in the NHL. Take a look at the Leafs roster. By my count, they should get first crack at the next three or four 'next big things'...With Irwin, the fact that he is a Torontonian played a part as well. Brady was good college player, but I think regular NHL duty will be a challenge.

Muller has been very good for a while, going back to Gogulla's DEL start. It's hard to believe he never got a look.

Nothing against the Germans, but I'd rather cluster a bunch of Swedes!!!!!!!

We'll have Dev Camp details real soon.

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Anonymous
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Sunday, May 16, 2010 ×

Kris: do you think biega has hurt his career chances by choosing Harvard and the ncaa route.i see him as having a higher skill level than most of the sabres d-men prospects.have i rated this kid too high?

dOUG

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Kris Baker
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Sunday, May 16, 2010 ×

Doug -

Great question.

The Q is peppered with 17-18-19's and doesn't particularly breed defensive hockey. Perhaps his skating and shooting would have shined more, and to be fair his did have his best statistical season as a sophomore (his 2nd post-draft season i.e contract year if he has gone the Q route), but I can't say going to Harvard truly hurt the career chances of a 5'11 dman.

Even though he wasn't getting regular exposure to the best the college game had to offer by playing in the ECAC, the NCAA route gave him two extra years to compete against young men between 19-23. He fared well in my eyes and gained valuable leadership experience along the way. Hobey candidate as junior, played big minutes...all good stuff.

I don't think you've rated him too high. I think the Sabres would see him fit for depth duty. It's a numbers game though, and there are decisions that need to be made. They Sabres have to determine if there is enough that separates him from their current options.

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Anonymous
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Monday, May 17, 2010 ×

Mike Weber better be in the NHL next year...

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Anonymous
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Monday, May 17, 2010 ×

Any word on the goalies? Eids or Knapp

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Kris Baker
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Monday, May 17, 2010 ×

9:44 - Weber took a positive step this past season on the farm and looks ready to contribute full time. He won't be handed a thing though until he learns to consistently keep his clears out of the middle of the ice. Being aggressive and positionally sound gets nullified real quick when you forget to use the boards when getting the puck out of one of your corners.

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Kris Baker
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Monday, May 17, 2010 ×

9:45 - Both Eidsness and Knapp will be back in school. No question about it.

Knapp will likely be the man for the next two years in Miami. Rumors have Cody Reichard's agent wanting to yank him out of school after his solid play last season.

Eidsness has basically played every game since enrolling at UND, but he's about to get some competition in highly touted Zane Gothberg.

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Anonymous
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010 ×

I love building through the draft and waiting on our young guys to come in and start contributing, but this is the problem I have now... can't we go 1 or 2 years where we lighten up on the draft or signings? Other teams would pass on Southorn with this much depth at defense and when it's about time this team make some blockbuster moves and worry less about what rookies are in their system. For 1 or 2 years, can we have the midset of a franchise like Philly or Chicago and just get some veterans?

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Dave
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Thursday, May 20, 2010 ×

Why do signing prospects and developing talent in the draft have to be mutually exclusive to making other moves at the NHL level? They don't. In fact, having players pushing up in the pipeline allows for more potential moves, either with making someone expendable at the NHL level or someone who can be moved as a prospect for NHL level talent.

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