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Sabres sign Lagacé

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, May 31, 2010 | 5/31/2010

The Buffalo Sabres are set to announce the signing of Jacob Lagacé to a three-year contract worth $1.675M. Lagacé, a fifth round pick in the 2008 draft, recently completed a three-year QMJHL career that saw him collect 90 goals and 114 assists in 191 games. In 2009-10, the 5'11, 196-pounder scored 35 goals and 73 points between Chicoutimi and Cape Breton.

The 20-year old right wing is slated to skate the 2010-11 season in Portland of the AHL.

Click the Lagacé tag for more info the Sabres latest signee.
5/31/2010 | 6 comments | Read More

Kassian arrested after bar fight

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, May 30, 2010 | 5/30/2010

After 2009 first round pick Zack Kassian exercised a positive turnaround to a season of poor publicity, it seems as if the bruising power forward has again cast himself a negative shadow.

Kassian, a member of the Memorial Cup champion Spitfires, was arrested at 1:50 Sunday morning following a fight at a Windsor nightclub. Charges may be pending after the altercation left the other combatant with minor injuries including a split lip. No further details are available at this time.

The latest development shines a light on Kassian's need to mature. Players with a mean, aggressive streak can be very effective once they are able to harness that energy and keep it to ice, but they are of little use if they can't conduct themselves off it. As far as the Sabres are concerned, the only acceptable sin bin is the one at the rink.

Kassian made hockey headlines in January when he received a 20-game suspension for a high hit on Barrie's Matt Kennedy in his first game in a Windsor uniform. The intimidating right wing returned with fresh legs in time for the Spits run through the OHL playoffs and dominating defense of Canadian junior's top trophy.

We'll have more details as they drop.
5/30/2010 | 13 comments | Read More

Lagacé mulling offer

The Buffalo Sabres have extended an entry-level contract offer to 2008 fifth round pick, Jacob Lagacé. Lagacé, 20, has until Tuesday to sign his deal and begin preparation for a season of AHL hockey. If the two sides cannot close, the scoring wing will head back to the draft looking for another suitor and likely play another season of QMJHL hockey.

The 5'11, 196-pounder completed his third season of major juniors in 2009-10, scoring 35 goals and 38 assists in 60 games split between Chicoutimi and Cape Breton. A mid-season trade to the Screaming Eagles united Lagacé with fellow Sabres prospects Luke Adam and Maxime Legault, but the Atlantic Division proved to be tougher sledding as he would connect for just five goals in 25 games before going 0-3-3 and -6 in a first round loss to Moncton.

Lagacé was signed to an AHL tryout in Portland at the finish of his Q year, but work visa issues limited him to one nondescript appearance in the Pirates game four, playoff-exiting loss to Manchester.

If the two sides agree to terms as expected, Lagacé will be the fifth member of the 2008 draft class to enter the system. First round studs Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis have already made NHL waves, while Adam (2nd) and Nick Crawford (6th) were inked earlier this off-season after excellent wraps to their junior careers.

The Lagacé offer leaves one other pick from that class, PEI defenseman Jordon Southorn, without a deal heading into Tuesday's deadline to sign 2008 CHL draftees. With last week's signing of Harvard grad and 2006 pick Alex Biega, Southorn could be on the outside looking in when it comes to a future with the Sabres organization.

Regardless of Lagacé's decision, the club is still expected to take 2007 pick Corey Tropp out of Michigan State a year early to begin his pro development in the AHL.
5/30/2010 | 6 comments | Read More

Fienhage heads to the Dub

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 | 5/26/2010

Defenseman Corey Fienhage (2008, 3rd round) has left the University of North Dakota and signed with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL.

Fienhage, 20, made the jump to the WCHA's Fighting Sioux directly from the Minnesota high school ranks. However, playing time was difficult to secure upon arrival in Grand Forks, and with senior Chay Genoway obtaining a medical red shirt and a strong batch of blueline recruits en route, the 6'3, 216-pound righty was forced to consider other options in what would be his junior season.

Fienhage is a rugged defender who simply needs more reps to improve his feet and decision making. His game should translate well to Canadian juniors, and it will have to if he's aiming to get signed by the Sabres as the club will only hold his drafts rights until June 1st, 2011. If he had remained in school or transferred to another D1 program, the Sabres would have retained his rights until the completion of college.

EDIT: The NHL CBA allows the Sabres to hold Fienhage's rights for two more years. If the Sabres exercise the fourth year, it is unclear where Fienhage would play if not signed next season since he would have no junior or NCAA eligibility remaining.
5/26/2010 | 2 comments | Read More

One and done: Gogulla gallops back to Germany

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, May 24, 2010 | 5/24/2010

After just one season of North American hockey, Philip Gogulla will be leaving the Portland Pirates and heading back to the DEL to play a sixth season for the Cologne Sharks.

Those close to the situation will say this is no surprise. The 2005 second round pick (48th overall) was unhappy and perhaps a little homesick in his first extended period away from Europe. The first red flag came when he reacted poorly to the rigors of prospect camp two summers ago. There was never any sense that playing in the NHL was his "dream gig".

The 6'2, 198 pound forward appeared in 76 games for the Pirates in 2009-10, finishing sixth in team scoring with 15 goals and 20 assists. Like many pro rookies, he had his good games and bad ones. When a load of teammates were called up to the big club following Portland's first round playoff loss, Gogulla (and fellow German Felix Schutz) flew to Cologne to play in the IIHF World Championships. Gogulla posted one goal and six shots on net in seven of Germany's nine tourney games.

And so the beat goes on when it comes to the Sabres history with European draft picks.

Moving on, Gogulla's departure puts the heat on the Sabres to get a deal gone with 2007 third rounder Corey Tropp. After a 20-goal junior year, the Michigan State forward is primed to begin his professional career in Portland. There was already a spot open, and now there is 35 points to replace with the loss of Gogulla.
5/24/2010 | 7 comments | Read More

Kassian hoists Cup as Spits repeat

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, May 23, 2010 | 5/23/2010

Zack Kassian scored a goal and an assist Sunday as dynastic Windsor won the 2010 Memorial Cup title with a 9-1 clobbering of Brandon. Windsor is just the eighth franchise in CHL history to hoist the Cup two years in a row, and the first to do it since the 1993-94 Kamloops Blazers.

Kassian, a native of nearby Lasalle, Ontario, was a beast throughout the tournament for Windsor, using his 6'3, 215-pound frame just like the Spits expected when acquiring him from Peterborough back in January. He worked his tail off in the championship game, setting up Greg Nemisz's goal that gave the Spits a 5-1 lead before ripping a feed from the left dot over Jacob De Serres' shoulder to put Windsor up 7-1.

The 2009-10 Windsor Spitfires were an absolute junior hockey juggernaut. By adding Kassian, the Spits iced a lineup including eight NHL draft picks, and another pair, Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler, expected to go in the top five in 2010. In the championship game, 10 different players registered two points or more.

The valuable championship experience puts a positive end to a tumultuous season for Kassian. After a disappointing start with Peterborough, the power forward was traded to Windsor to inject some toughness into the defending champs. Kassian was suspended for 20 games after a high hit in his first game in a Spits uniform, but returned to make an impact with four goals in the team's final five games.

The Sabres first-rounder turned up the heat in the OHL playoffs, scoring seven goals and nine assists as the Spits needed 19 games versus Erie, Plymouth, Kitchener, and Barrie to win their second straight OHL Championship. Kassian completed his turnaround by adding two goals, three assists, and zero penalties in the four Memorial Cup wins.

A added bonus of the trade that brought Kassian to Windsor? Even with a shoulder injury while in Peterborough and the long suspension, the Spits postseason run allowed the developing forward to play a full junior slate. Including the playoffs, the right wing posted a total 2009-10 line of 61GP 21-30-51 +5 119 PIM.

What does the run mean for Kassian's chances to make the professional leap? The Sabres have a well-known need for increased toughness and intimidation in their forward ranks. With other young guys on the rise, the timing may be good for the horse to hitch his cart to the burgeoning youth movement with a solid training camp showing.

However, Kassian is a January birth date. He won't turn 20 until 2011, meaning that much like Tyler Myers this past season, his options next season are limited to the NHL or juniors. For now, expect him to earn a good hard look from the Sabres with the possibility of seeing a game or two before figuring where he lands. At worst, he goes back to Windsor to attempt a three-peat and further his big game experience as member of Team Canada's World Junior entry.

Many factors will play a part in Kassian's chances to make the NHL this fall, but there's no question his presence will add some spice to final roster battles when the 2010-11 edition of the Sabres is being put together.
5/23/2010 | 2 comments | Read More

Local boy looks to bring Cup home

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff had a quick hit in Saturday's edition about Windsor native and Spitfires forward Zack Kassian's wishes to win the Memorial Cup for his hometown.

Windsor will battle the host Brandon Wheat Kings for Canadian junior's top prize Sunday evening at 7:00 PM (EST). The game will be broadcast on cable via NHL-N. It can also be seen streaming at sportsnet.ca.


Kassian plans to deliver the goods


On watching Windsor win it all last season while on the couch at home:


“Every junior hockey player wants to get a shot to get to the Memorial Cup. I didn’t have that chance last year, so it kind of sucked, but I wished them the best and they did a great job.

“I’m just hoping we can repeat this year.”


On the mid-season deal that landed him back in Windsor for a chance to play in the prestigious tourney:


He knew what they expected him to bring to the table, and he’s thrilled to be situated to deliver the goods.

“This is what I got traded here for,” Kassian said. “If we weren’t in this position, I’d feel like I let the trade down.

“It’s something that I take pride in, but it’s not complete yet.”

The 6-3, 215-pound right-winger is enjoying a strong tournament, with 1-2-3 totals in three games.

“I’m really excited,” Kassian said. “It’s still kind of surreal to think I’m at the Memorial Cup. I haven’t really sat back and thought about it yet, but it’s something special.”

5/23/2010 | 3 comments | Read More

From Ivy League to bigs: Sabres sign Biega

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, May 21, 2010 | 5/21/2010

The Buffalo Sabres have signed defensemen Alex Biega to a two-year entry-level contract. Official financials aren't available, but the deal could be worth a shade over $1M in total with the likelihood of an NHL salary in the vicinity of $525K per season.

Chosen in the 5th round of the 2006 draft, the 5'11, 205-pound Harvard grad becomes the third prospect inked this offseason after the earlier signings of forward Luke Adam and fellow rearguard Nick Crawford. The Montreal-born Biega, 22, scored 15 goals en route to notching 70 points over his four years in the ECAC. It's expected that the right-hander will continue his development in the AHL with Portland.

Click the Biega tag for more info.
5/21/2010 | 3 comments | Read More

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

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, May 15, 2010 | 5/15/2010

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.
5/15/2010 | 12 comments | Read More

Kassian contributes as Spits roll in Cup opener

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, May 14, 2010 | 5/14/2010

Zack Kassian scored a goal and an assist Friday as Windsor opened the 2010 Mastercard Memorial Cup with a 9-3 thrashing of host Brandon.

Kassian, who scored seven goals and nine assists in the Spits run to the OHL title, set up the game's first goal when he busted down the left side and fed a backhand pass to a crashing Kenny Ryan at the 2:01 mark. The goal from the Leafs prospect opened the floodgates as the Spitfires would cruise to a 5-0 lead at the end of the first period.

Kassian's line with Ryan and Flames prospect Greg Nemisz set a good pace in their third unit role, using their big frames to get the puck deep on the forecheck and break up plays in the neutral zone.

Kassian also saw time on the Spits second power play unit. With the game already in the bag, the 6'3 wing found himself in familiar territory near the Wheat Kings cage when he popped in a rebound to up the lead to 9-1. The man-advantage tally was Kassian's eighth of the post-season.

Taylor Hall had two goals, including one worthy of inclusion on Sportscenter's Top 10, to help pace the Spits. Hall entered the slot and slid the puck through his legs to his backhand to easily beat Andrew Hayes and give Windsor a 4-0 lead in the game's first five minutes. Adam Henrique and Scott Timmins also had pairs of markers for the defending champion Spitfires, who will next play Monday evening against WHL champs, Calgary.
5/14/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

Kassian's Spits on cusp of title defense

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, May 3, 2010 | 5/03/2010

Zack Kassian did not register a point Sunday, but despite not being 100% healthy with a still undisclosed upper body injury, still found a way to contribute as Windsor took game three of the OHL Championship over Barrie, 5-2. The reigning Memorial Cup Champion Spitfires, who now hold a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Colts, will look to use the brooms on their Eastern Conference counterparts and earn the right to defend the CHL title when they take the ice for game four Tuesday evening at the WFCU Center Tuesday.

Defenseman Nick Crawford finished even for the Colts after being on the for one goal for and another against. The hallmark of his game continues to be pateint, simple plays with the puck and execution on the power play. Kassian meanwhile, elevated his hitting in the final twenty minutes, using strength to win battles on the boards and his thick slap shot to create rebound opportunites.

Outshooting the Spits by a 44-30 margin, Barrie dictated much of the pace with many prime scoring opportunities. The game’s difference maker however was 18-year old netminder Philip Grubauer, as the German made several difficult stops en route to a 42-save performance that, along with an Adam Henrique hat trick, put Windsor in the series driver’s seat.

The game became quite chippy down the stretch as Kassian and teammate Adam Wallace finished off hits on Colts forward Matt Kennedy, spawning a brief melee with just :49 remaining on the clock. The 6'3 Kassian, nursing what is thought to be a hyperextended elbow, would receive a misconduct after pairing off with Matt Stanisz (below). Just nine seconds later, Colts forward Darren Archibald took a full throttle run at Grubauer, sparking another powder keg that likely sets a physical stage for Tuesday's titan clash.




Winners of their conference final over Kitchener after being down 3-0 to start the series, Windsor knows not to get too comfortable holding a commanding lead. The fact that bad blood spilled on to the ice in the final minute of play Sunday should keep the red and white troops motivated as they eye a trip to Brandon, Manitoba for the 2010 Mastercard Memorial Cup.
5/03/2010 | 0 comments | Read More