9/30 Recap: Shipley shoots Dogs to win; Pysyk gets "C"

Written By Kris Baker on Thursday, September 30, 2010 | 9/30/2010

Newly acquired center Steven Shipley put forth a strong third period effort Thursday, fueling Niagara's dominating finish with a power play assist and the game winning goal just 2:16 later in the Ice Dogs 5-4 win over visiting Erie. The multi-point effort is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Sabres 2010 fourth rounder after last week's requested trade out of Owen Sound. It was mentioned when the deal went down, but Shipley has the talent to post 85-95 points in Niagara - especially if coach Marty Williamson decides to use him in front of the net on the power play. Ryan Strome ('11) paced the Dogs with a goal and two assists, while fellow 2011 hopeful David Broll was -1 for the Otters.

Fresh off a two-and-a-half week stay in Buffalo, Marcus Foligno (-1) recorded no points and four penalty minutes as Sudbury fell to Saginaw, 4-1. The edgy Foligno, who is expected to eventually line-up with Panthers prospect John McFarland and ex- Chicago Steel Andrej Kuchin, had just stepped out of the box when talented '11 Vincent Trocheck scored a fluke goal from behind the net for the game winner late in the second period. Saginaw's other 2011 stud, Brandon Saad, notched an insurance goal with a third period backhander.

In Wednesday WHL action, Mark Pysyk (+2, 2 PIM) earned an even-strength assist in his season debut as Edmonton defeated Prince Albert, 3-1. Earlier in the week, the 18-year old defenseman was named the Oil Kings team captain for the 2010-11 season immediately upon return from the Sabres main camp.

In Vancouver, Riley Boychuk (-1) racked up 10 minutes in penalties as Portland defeated the Giants, 4-3. Boychuk's infractions included one for unsportsmanlike conduct and double-minors for high sticking and roughing. Spencer Bennett (CAL) had two goals and Ty Rattie ('11) added a goal and an assist for the Winterhawks.

The Sabres were so quick to get Jerome Gauthier-Leduc home over the weekend that I missed his game on Sunday. The 6'1 defender made it to Rimouski for their 4:00 start and went on to notch a pair of second period assists in the Nics 9-2 trouncing of Halifax. 

In other mid-week odds and ends, the Sabres have returned Brayden McNabb to the WHL's Kootenay Ice. After making it back to Cranbrook on Thursday, the 6'4, 216-pound McNabb will anchor the Ice's top pair for Friday's game against Spokane as his quest to make Team Canada begins. McNabb was +1 with a shot on goal in 15:06 of time in one pre-season game with the Sabres.

Staying in the Dub, Kevin Sundher has been named an alternate captain for the Chilliwack Bruins. The 6'0 center, who is another Sabres prospect who has 80-90 points in him, will be in the Bruins lineup Saturday against Corey Fienhage and Kamloops. Fienhage, 20, wears an "A" for the Blazers.

Finally, the BMO CHL MasterCard top rankings have come out for week #2, with the Mississauga Majors (Gregg Sutch) holding down the #2 spot. The hard-checking forward will make his season debut Friday when the Memorial Cup hosts square off with Windsor. The Spits of course will be without the services of their own hard hitter with Zack Kassian serving as the final CHL prospect remaining in Sabres camp. 
9/30/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

9/27 Recap: Boychuk back as 'Hawks soar; Fienhage achy

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 | 9/28/2010

In the CHL’s only Monday contest, Riley Boychuk was in the starting lineup but did not register a point as Portland trounced Vancouver, 7-2. The 6’5, 220-pound forward arrived back in PDX Sunday night along with Brad Ross (TOR) and team captain Brett Ponich (STL) to help the ‘Hawks even their record after Saturday’s 4-1 opening night loss to Seattle. Ross poured in the game winning goal and an assist to fuel the Winterhawks to victory in their home opener.

Also from the WHL, word out of Kamloops is that Corey Fienhage was given a day off Monday after returning to the Blazers over the weekend. The 6’4, 221-pounder wasn’t suffering from jet lag, but rather was still sore after blocking a shot while in Sabres training camp. Fienhage, 20, will wear an “A” for the Blazers this season.
9/28/2010 | 2 comments | Read More

Towering trio remains as Sabres return junior prospects

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, September 27, 2010 | 9/27/2010

The Buffalo Sabres have announced that nine players were returned to their junior clubs over the weekend.

Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier announced today the team has returned the following nine players to their respective junior clubs: forwards Riley Boychuk (Portland, WHL), Cedrick Henley (Val d’Or, QMJHL), Steven Shipley (Niagara, OHL), Kevin Sundher (Chilliwack, WHL), Gregg Sutch (Mississauga, OHL); defensemen Corey Fienhage (Kamloops, WHL), Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL), Matt MacKenzie (Calgary, WHL) and Mark Pysyk (Edmonton, WHL).

No real surprises on the list with eight of the nine being 2010 draft picks, while the other, defenseman Corey Fienhage, is set for his first season of juniors after two years of inconsistent WCHA reps.

The cut down leaves three CHL prospects, Windsor's Zack Kassian, Kootenay's Brayden McNabb, and Sudbury's Marcus Foligno, with the Sabres for an extended look.

Kassian and McNabb suited up in Friday's 3-1 win over Toronto, with the big Windsor forward garnering positive mainstream media vibes for his physical play, including a strong forecheck that lead to a late Rob Niedermayer goal, and a solid offensive performance highlighted by an assist on a Tyler Ennis tally. The effort was consistent with Kassian's training camp performance to date, and appears to be the trigger that has re-opened contract talks between the Sabres and their 6'3 banger. Kassian is expected to be in the Sabres lineup Monday when they travel up the QEW for another pre-season meeting with the Leafs.

For McNabb and Foligno, the extended stay is opportunity to be exposed to be as much game-speed as possible with the hope of setting up dominating starts to their junior seasons. Sticking around should be considered a well-earned reward for the hard-working Foligno after the budding leader spent quite a bit of the offseason in WNY. Thje 6'3 forward has taken great year-over-strides since his drafting, and the extra pro reps are a continuation towards building out a two-way grind game. For McNabb it's all about raising his level of competition to in-turn elevate his stature among Canadian hopefuls for the 2011 World Junior Championships. At this point, Kassian and McNabb represent the Sabres best chances at having a prospect skate in the tourney. You have to think that every little bit of camp helps those chances.
9/27/2010 | 3 comments | Read More

9/25 Recap: Isackson impressive as Herd earns W

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 25, 2010 | 9/25/2010

Christian Isackson posted a goal and an assist Saturday as Sioux Falls closed their 2010 pre-season with a 3-2 win over Indiana. The victory gives the Stampede 1-2 record at the USHL Fall Classic, with the team shifting their focus to Saturday's opening night date in Sioux City.

Isackson got on the scoresheet early in the first period when he took an Anthony Day feed, burst down the right side for a 2-1 break, and set up Dominic Zombo's second goal of the pre-season. The six-footer would collect a goal of his own on a second period power play when he one-timed a Day pass from behind the cage to give the Herd a 2-1 advantage. Sioux Falls was dominant out of the gate in the he afternoon contest, finishing the game with a 31-12 shots-on-goal advantage.
9/25/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

Isackson fitting in as Stampede eye opener

Christian Isackson, one of the Sabres' two seventh round picks this past June, reported to Sioux Falls early last week for a developmental season of Jr. A hockey before enrolling at the University of Minnesota in 2011. Isackson follows in the footsteps of Sabres prospects Drew MacKenzie (2007) and Mark Adams (2009) as picks who spent their post-draft season in the USHL before entering the NCAA.

The 6'0 forward appeared in his first pre-season contest last Friday, scoring a goal for the Stampede in their 4-3 shootout loss to Sioux City. Trailing 3-1 in the early third, Isackson broke to the net and backhanded a loose puck behind Musketeer netminder, Matt Skoff. (Skoff, while playing for the Pittsburgh Hornets, missed five months of action two seasons ago after breaking his ankle in Buffalo during a Midwest Elite League game with the Regals). The following night, Isackson finished -1 with two shots on net in a 2-1 loss to Des Moines.

With game shape setting in, the Stampede traveled to Sioux City this week for the USHL Fall classic, the heavily scouted gathering that serves as the close of the pre-season. Isackson took a rest on Wednesday as the Stampede opened the tourney with another loss to Des Moines, 3-2 in the shootout. On Friday, he and Buffalo native Anthony Day earned power play assists in a 4-2 loss to Youngstown.

Sioux Falls will look to close the exhibition schedule with a win on Saturday when they face Indiana before kicking off their regular season next Friday in Sioux City.
9/25/2010 | 6 comments | Read More

DeGray discusses Shipley deal

Written By Kris Baker on Thursday, September 23, 2010 | 9/23/2010

Owen Sound Attack GM Dale DeGray spoke to 97.9 The Beach Wednesday about the trade of center Steven Shipley to the Niagara Ice Dogs. Click the link and listen to the audio. It supports two things we've been hearing since June - that the 6'3, 212-pound center wanted out of Owen Sound, and that upping his compete level will go hand-in-hand in determining how far he can take his pro career.

Shipley was DeGray's first ever draft pick and as a result DeGray admits he laments that things didn't work out better for Shipley with the Attack.

In 2 seasons, Shipley scored 39 times, but team and fans alike always expected more.

When asked if player development was an issue with the Attack, DeGray quickly responded, saying player development under Coach Mark Reeds is not an issue and the bigger issue with Shipley was self motivation.

It's always interesting to hear a CHL general manager speak candidly about a prospect. We mentioned a couple weeks back that Shipley was eager to prove that he was worthy of a higher draft pack last June. Perhaps that chip on his shoulder just got a little bigger.
9/23/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

"Ship" heads south for St. Kitts

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | 9/21/2010

The Owen Sound Attack announced Tuesday that they have traded center Steven Shipley to the Niagara Ice Dogs in exchange for forward Andrew Shaw, defenseman Matt Petgrave, and three draft picks.

The deal represents a fresh start for Shipley, the Sabres fourth round pick in the 2010 draft, after his rumored unhappiness caused him to report to Attack training camp a day late. In turn, the 6'3, 212-pounder freshens up the forward ranks for a Niagara squad in need of size and scoring down the middle. Shipley has notched 37 goals and 102 points in 131 OHL games, and can realistically post 90-95 points this season centering the Dogs top unit with overage scorer Andrew Agozzino as his wing man. The pressure will be on Shipley to produce, and it's up to him to compete every night and achieve the heightened expectations.

Shipley is currently in Buffalo for training camp, but could be returned to Niagara for Friday's season opener in Sudbury.
9/21/2010 | 6 comments | Read More

Rookie camp closes with White out

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 18, 2010 | 9/18/2010

The Sabres rookie camp concluded on Friday with a 6-1 blowout win for Team White. I'm a little late to the plate, but here's what I saw as the rooks skated in their third scrimmage in three days before making room for the veterans.

Team Blue opened scoring early in the first when Luke Adam busted down the right side and slid a a 2-1 pass to Tyler Ennis. The shifty Ennis took a clean lane to net and used a quick deke before lifting the puck over Jhonas Enroth's shoulder.

It was all White from there.

A few shifts after the Blue tally, a blind centering feed from the corner made its way to the stick of Mark Pysyk. The 2010 first rounder calmly settled the puck and drilled a rising slapper past former Princeton Tiger Zane Kalemba to tie the score.

Marcus Foligno would give White the 2-1 lead when he tapped a Marc Mancari shot from the corner over the line. Mancari's throw made it through a group of two or three bodies and sat on the line for a second before getting knocked in. This is pretty much how Foligno will score the majority of his professional goals - using his big body to clean up rebounds and loose pucks near the paint.

Jacob Lagace would give White a 3-1 lead into the first intermission when he crashed the net and the momentum of the play carried the puck through Kalemba and over the line.

Lagace would score a more conventional "Jacob Lagace goal" on power play early in the second period when he drifted into the high slot and one-timed a Marcus Foligno pass top shelf to put White ahead 4-1.

Travis Turnbull fattened the White bottom line before the end of two, finishing a nice pass at the top of the crease from a breaking Dennis McCauley to make it 5-1.

The third period would come with a spike in hitting and the teams trading power plays. Cedrick Henley rocked the boards with a good finish behind the opposing net. Turnbull smoked Lagace along the near boards. Maxime Legault missed a golden opportunity to light up a retreating dman as the lead forward on a smart chip-and-charge.

The game's only near dust-up came when Felix Schutz and Nathan Gerbe exchanged pleasantries near the top of the frame. After the two collided on the near boards, the tenacious Gerbe immediately went looking for the German forward, offering a few pokes from behind that brought the pair nose-to-nose. Words were exchanged before Gerbe dropped his gloves and helmet, ran his hands through his hair, and put on the foil. Schutz, fresh off an unsuccessful AHL bout last season, opted to conserve energy and skate away from the fearless, 5'6 forward. The two closed their argument with an expletive-laced exchange that continued from the benches.

Corey Tropp would score the only goal of the period when fellow rookie Nick Crawford took the puck on the left boards, wound up in a shooting motion, but instead ripped a pass directly to his tape for the easy tip-in. The old Jason Woolley play. Final score: White 6, Blue 1.

Fourth-year man Marc-Andre Gragnani left the ice late in the first period and did not return after suffering a knee/leg injury as the result of a blocked shot. John Vogl of The Buffalo News reported that Gragnani left the arena before the end of the scrimmage, with more details becoming available on Saturday.

Gragnani still comes across very casual at even strength. Once he opted to pass across the front of his net, and another time he made what I felt was a lazy pass from the point to a cutting forward. He looks comfortable on the power play, but even then I was looking for more motion and a better sense of urgency.

Kevin Sundher, who stood out for his ability get the transition game to the neutral zone and advance the puck deep, was most impressive for his faceoff abilities. I stopped charting them after a string of consecutive wins demonstrated his knack for controlling the dot. Sundher is strong and smart and looks to be a key element to the Sabres' center position moving forward.

As expected, fellow 2010 third-rounder Matt MacKenzie held his own with the elevated level of competition. He limited his margin for error via low-risk decisions with Dennis Persson and later Corey Fienhage, and also rotated into PP time with T.J. Brennan after Gragnani left the game. Like Pysyk, MacKenzie plays the percentages and will be a better player with added strength. He had a clean look from the point in the second period, but didn't get all of it causing me to note "MacKenzie needs more mcmustard".

Good news for Portland forwards: Paul Byron is healthy and firing. I love his lightning-bolt style. I love his creativity. I would love him to wear some kevlar body armor because his high-flying offensive game and fearlessness would be a huge attribute for a full AHL season.

Mike Weber was another player who may have been saving his best for when the vets report. He played his usual stay-at-home style, and even exercised his trademark 'step-up and drill a guy' when meeting an oncoming rush. I've seen him do this with success in juniors and the "A", and I've seen him go for the same hit in the NHL and take himself out of the play. In the third period, he circled in his end with the puck and coughed it up due to the forechecking pressure of Zack Kassian.

Kassian continued his hard-driving ways Friday, coming back to his end with more determination and making plays along the boards to pin defensemen. A few times he found little holes that allowed him to go to the net, but his offense was generally limited. He's saying the right things off the ice and it looks like he's doing the right things on it. I still think there's an opportunity for him to make some noise in training camp, but one more season of maturity and junior success still presents the best long-term plan for the bruiser.

Fienhage is a physical monster who has already shown improvement over his summer camp performance. I love his athleticism and awareness, and you really notice his size and thickness in the corners where (at this level) he can box two guys out at once. There was one instance Friday where he stiff-armed an attacker and quickly shoveled the puck with his free hand to his defensive partner. Like this summer, there are other times when I'd prefer he was quicker in his breakout decisions but for now we're content watching his game take shape. He does a good job making sure guys don't get back door when he's facing the play.

Luke Adam at center? Yes, please. I've previously rattled on about the likelihood of Adam engaging the pro ranks as a left wing, but he likes to play the pivot and can succeed there if remains committed to his own-zone responsibilities. We'll see what Kevin Dineen thinks in a couple of weeks, but Adam is going to swoop into space and collect his share of goals regardless of where he lines up.

Corey Tropp on a line with Adam? Yes, please. It didn't happen Friday, but the former Michigan State Spartan continued to bring it on the forecheck and complete his assignments. Couple in his finishing ability, and Tropp has all the makings of forming a deadly combo with Adam at some point.

Jacob Lagace on a line with Byron and Derek Whitmore? Yes, please. The puck seems to find him, and he does well when he gets it. I made a comment to Vogl that Lagace and Ennis have the same instincts and shiftiness with their hands, but like Byron, Ennis just does everything faster. The current SabresProspects poll results are suggesting a runaway in rookie farm production, but pairing Lagace with a slick distributor like Byron will give the ex-Sag/Screaming Eagle every opportunity to narrow the perceived gap. Adam scored .478 goals per game in the QMJHL, while Lagace marked at a .471 clip.

Showing no signs of a stressed finger, Owen Sound's Steven Shipley dug his blades into the ice a few times as he went to the net. Doing that with regularity upon return to juniors should translate to serious offensive numbers.

Brennan continues to ascend the blueline pecking order in Portland with his up-ice thinking and steadiness in his zone. Brennan, who lined up with Gragnani on Blue's top power-play unit, is expected to be a player whose athleticism will carry to the next stage of development.

Paired with Brennan, Alex Biega executed well with the puck and looked to make some hits on the boards. Crawford will add a safe, two-way skill-set to the Pirate blueline in year one of his three-year deal.

Drew Schiestel continued to display positive elements while paired with Weber. All the tools are in hand, but this season is all about consistency. There was one particular instance where he returned to the bench shaking his head because he failed to make a crisp pass in the opposing end, but for now it's prudent to isolate his play in his own zone to determine how much he's developed. We'll reserve judgment until the start of the AHL season.

I was yapping away and saw a great sliding play to break up a 2-1 rush. I had it as 34 Blue - Riley Boychuk.

With the teams setting aside power time each period, here's what a couple of the units looked like:

Blue PP: Gerbe-Ennis-Kassian, Gragnani-Brennan (Brennan's partners rotated)
White PK: Lagace-Schutz, Schiestel, Weber

White PP: Foligno-Byron-Tropp/Lagace, Schiestel-Mancari
Blue PK: Kassian-Adam, Brennan-Fienhage

At one point, Lagace and Schutz nearly connected on a nice 2-1 PK break. The play referenced earlier where Kassian put heat on the retreating Weber came on the tail end of a White PP.

That's about it. The first batch of rooks (Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Gregg Sutch, Henley, Shipley, will be returned to their junior clubs in the next few days as the Sabres key on some positional battles en route to shaping their opening night roster.

Among the projected CHLers, I still think Brayden NcNabb and Kassian are two possibilities for pre-season time with Pysyk perhaps holding a slight chance at getting a taste before heading back west. Personally, I'd like to see how Fienhage and MacKenzie adjust to the quicker pace, but that's asking for too much seeing how the Sabres will have about 20 blueline bodies in town for main camp. How they decide to divide time before dispatching them all for their 2010-11 assignments remains to be seen.
9/18/2010 | 5 comments | Read More

9/11 Recap: Q pair contribute to W's before departing

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, September 12, 2010 | 9/12/2010

With the bulk of Sabres CHL prospects flying into town on Saturday, the club's two QMJHLers got another crack at getting in the regular season stat column before departing for their first NHL training camps.

Jerome Gauthier-Leduc posted a pair of assists, one each at even strength and on the power play, as Rimouski avenged their opening night thrashing with a 3-2 win over Lewiston. The 6'2 rearguard has skated the first two games on the Nics top pair with Ryan Kavanaugh. And just like that, JGL heads to Buffalo tied for third in QMJHL scoring for defensemen...

In Val-d'Or, Cedrick Henley (-1) earned an assist on the game's opening goal as the Foreurs defeated Quebec, 3-2 in a shootout. The lanky 6'5 wing has lots of room to develop, making the next week in Buffalo a key confidence booster moving forward.
9/12/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

Healthy Shipley stoked for camp

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 11, 2010 | 9/11/2010

Good news on the Sabres prospects injury front. After what was feared to be a fractured pinkie turned out to be just a bruise, Owen Sound center Steven Shipley is heading to Buffalo ready to show the Sabres that their choice in fourth rounders was a wise one.

Shipley leaves today for Buffalo's rookie camp. He almost missed out on the opportunity after bruising a finger in a training camp fight.

"I sat out the weekend mostly for precautionary reasons to make sure I didn't break it or fracture it," said the 18-year-old Ilderton native.

This is a relief. Even if you're among the first group to exit, the fast pace of NHL training camp usually translates to an added "jump" and immediate traction upon return to junior.

With the injury concern behind him, Shipley skates into the year with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. The 6'3, 212-pound pivot was ranked 43rd on Central Scouting's list of North Americans last April, a spot usually resulting in a late-2nd/early-3rd round selection, but instead lasted all the way to pick #98 on draft day. Already solid on his skates, turning that perceived snub into an upped competitive ante should help Shipley drive results early and prove scouts wrong in the long run.

"He's got to go out with assertiveness and a solid work ethic. He's got to use that six-foot- two strength and stride that he has in a more aggressive manner to create opportunities for himself."

A healthy Joey Hishon (COL) may impede Shipley's ability to anchor the Attack's top line, but he'll have plenty of opportunities to improve on last season's 62-point total. He expects growth in his game and the Sabres certainly do as well, making SabresProspects comfortable setting 80 points as a fair bench mark for the coming year in Owen Sound. For now though, we're happy that he's able to participate in camp.
9/11/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

9/10 Recap: Kassian gets tricky, heads to Buffalo on high note

Zack Kassian scored a hat trick and added an assist Friday to lead short-staffed Windsor to a 5-4 exhibition win over Sarnia. The entire OHL will breathe a sigh of relief beginning Saturday, as the 6'3 power forward will take some momentum to Buffalo for his second NHL training camp. It is expected that Kassian, who did not register a point but was quite physical in the Spits 5-4 win over the Czech U20 National Team on Thursday, will see some NHL exhibition reps before returning to tackle his OHL/WJC season blueprint.

We mentioned Kassian's pounding of Plymouth's Ben Holtom on Tuesday but didn't have a clip. In an effort to make it up to you, here's four seconds highlighted but a looping left hand that Sabres fans will likely become familiar with in the coming years.

Also in Ontario league exhibition action, Gregg Sutch scored a pair of goals to lead Missisasauga past Owen Sound, 5-3. Steven Shipley did not factor for the Attack.

Marcus Foligno was in the Sudbury line-up but did not point as the Wolves played to a 2-2 tie with Barrie.

In the QMJHL, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc finished -3 as Rimouski opened the regular season with a 8-3 loss at Lewiston. The talk of the Nics training camp for his cool puck moving nature, JGL will head to Buffalo on Sunday in preparation for the start of rookie camp on Monday.

Cedrick Henley was +1 with a shot on goal and four hits as as Val-d'Or kicked off their 2010-11 season with a 4-3 loss to Victoriaville. Like many first year draft picks, the 6'5 fifth-rounder is a player that should capitalize on NHL camp experience and elevate his play upon return to the Q.

Out west, the Sabres six WHL prospects all had the evening off before leaving for Western New York.

The Sabres announced their complete rookie camp roster Friday. See below for the list and read the Sabres camp announcement here.

72 Adam, Luke C 6-2 203
45 Boychuk, Riley LW 6-4 205
24 Byron, Paul C 5-9 144
63 Ennis, Tyler C 5-9 146
82 Foligno, Marcus C/LW 6-2 200
42 Gerbe, Nathan LW 5-5 160
41 Henley, Cedrick LW 6-5 195
54 Kassian, Zack RW 6-3 210
83 Lagace, Jacob LW 5-11 190
70 Legault, Maxime RW 6-2 195
12 Mancari, Mark RW 6-3 225
46 McCauley, Dennis 6-3 225
59 Roloff, Brian C 5-10 180
15 Schutz, Felix C 5-11 187
23 Shipley, Steven C 6-2 205
23 Stuart, Colin LW 6-2 200
32 Sundher, Kevin C 6-0 192
49 Sutch, Gregg RW 6-2 193
78 Tropp, Corey RW 6-0 185
65 Turnbull, Travis C 6-0 193
71 Whitmore, Derek LW 5-11 190

70 Biega, Alex D 5-10 191
33 Brennan, TJ D 6-0 204
38 Conboy, Tim D 6-2 210
62 Crawford, Nick D 6-1 188
64 Fienhage, Corey D 6-2 190
37 Gauthier-Leduc, Jerome D 6-1 176
17 Gragnani, Marc-Andre D 6-2 201
47 MacKenzie, Matt D 6-1 191
81 McNabb, Brayden D 6-4 200
67 Persson, Dennis D 6-1 181
53 Pysyk, Mark D 6-1 174
73 Schiestel, Drew D 6-2 193
6 Weber, Mike D 6-2 211

1 Enroth, Jhonas G 5-10 174
35 Leggio, David G 5-7 180
31 Kalemba, Zane G 5-11 185

As always, more to come....
9/11/2010 | 6 comments | Read More

9/6 Recap: Kassian chips in, gets chippy

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 | 9/07/2010

Zack Kassian collected three assists Monday as Windsor won a chippy pre-season contest over Plymouth, 6-2. Perhaps the toughest heavyweight in the entire CHL, the 6’3, 215-pounder also got to tune-up his left hook by pounding Whalers forward Ben Holtom into the ice midway through the third period. Monday's contest, the second exhibition meeting between the two clubs, featured a total of five fights. Kassian’s linemate Sergei Khokhlachev poured in a hat trick and an assist to pace the Spits.

Windsor returns to action Thursday when they tangle with the Czech National Jr. Team. Also on Thursday, Gregg Sutch and Mississauga will face the Steven Shipley-less Owen Sound Attack while Matt MacKenzie and the Calgary Hitmen open their exhibition run against Red Deer. Marcus Foligno and the Sudbury Wolves will make their pre-season debut on Friday against Barrie.

Friday night also marks the opening of the QMJHL regular season for a pair of Sabres prospects. Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and the Rimouski Oceanic will square off with Lewiston, while Cedrick Henley and the Val-d'Or Foreurs will host Victoriaville.

Have a great week.
9/07/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

9/5 recap: Shipley to the shelf

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, September 6, 2010 | 9/06/2010

SabresProspects has learned that 6'2, 205-pound center Steven Shipley of the Owen Sound Attack could miss the remainder of the pre-season after breaking a finger in the first week of training camp. It's a tough start for the Sabres 2010 fourth round pick after reporting a day behind schedule. We'll keep tabs on the injury as details become available. The Attack opened their exhibition schedule without Shipley on Sunday, defeating Barrie by a 6-3 count.

In the WHL, Riley Boychuk suited up for Portland's third game in three nights, registering a slashing minor and a couple shots on goal as the Winterhawks lost a 3-2 shootout to Spokane. The 'Hawks will continue their pre-season next weekend with games against Everett and Kootenay.

Mark Pysyk was given the night off as Edmonton dropped a 3-2 decision to Medicine Hat. After reassigning a trio of 15-year olds, the Oil Kings will correct some mistakes in preparation for next weekend's exhibition set with Prince George.

Gregg Sutch did not play as Mississauga opened their exhibition season with a 5-3 win over the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Sutch, 6'2, 190 pounds, has spent the first week of split squad scrimmages skating on a line with Casey Czikas (NYI) and Justin Shugg (CAR). The Majors will next play at Owen Sound on Thursday.

Lastly Phillip Gogulla's return to the Cologne Sharks has started well, as the 2005 second rounder has a goal and two assists through the team's first two games. Gogulla is joined this season in Cologne by ex-Sabres Mike Card and Adam Dennis. Card is +2 for the Sharks while Dennis opened the season with a shutout.
9/06/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

9/4 Recap: Boychuk bangs as 'Hawks rally

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 4, 2010 | 9/04/2010

In Saturday pre-season action, Riley Boychuk notched a late assist and provided a physical spark Saturday as Portland came back from a pair of four-goal deficits to earn a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over the OHL's Soo Greyhounds. With about eight minutes to play and the Winterhawks trailing 5-3, Boychuk broke down the wing and sent a pass towards the slot that was batted in by Spencer Bennett. The 'Hawks would strike again just :43 later to tie the game and carry momentum to the OT victory.

With Portland sitting a slew of regulars for the second straight night, Boychuk was quite active on a line opposite Oliver Gabriel (three goals in first two pre-season games) while also anchoring the top power play and penalty killing units. His checking energy was on point, especially in the third period when he delivered a few solid pops and created several scoring opportunities for the rallying Winterhawks. Portland will next take the ice on Friday when they face the Spokane Chiefs in Everett's pre-season tourney.

Also on Saturday, Mark Pysyk was left off the scoresheet as the host Oil Kings opened their exhibition schedule with a 5-4 loss to Swift Current. The Oil Kings skate away with the loss despite a dominating 53-22 shots on goal advantage. Edmonton will close out their weekend invitational tourney on Sunday against Medicine Hat.

Chilliwack's Kevin Sundher and Kamloops' Corey Fienhage both sat as the Bruins defeated the Blazers, 6-3.

In the OHL, Zack Kassian was scratched as Windsor opened the pre-season by playing to a 2-2 tie with Plymouth.
9/04/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

9/3 Recap: Fienhage blazing trail; Kassian on track

Corey Fienhage made his WHL pre-season debut on Friday, earning three assists as Kamloops rode a five-goal third period to an 8-3 victory over Chilliwack. Fienhage was a big piece of the winning surge with all three of his helpers coming at even strength in the final frame. Kevin Sundher earned a power play assist for the Bruins, who were outshot by a 49-33 margin. The two clubs will reconvene Saturday evening.

I know it's just the pre-season, and yes there's a major difference competing against 16-17-18's compared to the more experienced, stronger players of the WCHA, but it's worth noting that Fienhage's three-point effort in his first junior appearance is equal to his total output in 39 NCAA games with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. It's particularly worth noting because it's clear that his development did not flatten despite inconsistent reps as an collegiate underclassmen.

For those wondering how Fienhage is faring his WHL transition, check out this quote from Blazer bench boss Guy Charron:

Corey Fienhage, who joined the Blazers after two seasons at the U of North Dakota, has been the talk of camp because the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, a third-round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 NHL draft, looks to be the real deal.

“There are a lot of things that have impressed me,” head coach Guy Charron said. “One is his attitude. He’s a very upbeat young man. He’s happy to be here. It hasn’t been a difficult adjustment for him towards his teammates or his teammates towards him. He’s a real team-oriented guy and that’s probably from the program he played in at North Dakota.

“He’s also very strong. We have to be excited to have a player like him in our lineup.”

Elsewhere, Riley Boychuk did not play as Portland opened their exhibition schedule by defeating Seattle, 4-1.

The OHL exhibition schedule got underway Friday, with Sabres prospects potentially seeing their first action on Sunday. Good news is emerging out of Windsor as it appears that Zack Kassian is clicking early with a creative 17-year old Russian.

Training camp is one big chemistry lab, but you don't need a university degree in the subject to see that there's something developing between Russian rookie Alex Khokhlachev and LaSalle native Zack Kassian.

Playing on a line together, the duo made the puck sing with some nifty passing in leading Team Red to a 5-1 win Thursday over Team Blue in the Windsor Spitfires' final intra-squad ga-me at the WFCU Centre.

The pair combined for seven points between them.

Kassian had two goals and an assist while Khokhlachev had two goals and a pair of helpers.

"I haven't clicked like that with anyone in my whole OHL career," Kassian said.

This is obviously good news for a Sabres organization in need of a bullying scoring presence. Kassian knows he has some things to work on while being counted on heavily for offence this season, but so far so good as the Spits head into Monday's pre-season opener.

He has looked every bit the NHL first-round pick that the Buffalo Sabres made him in the 2009 draft.

"It's huge for me," Kassian said of this season.

"Obviously, I've made a couple of big mistakes.

"But life is full of mistakes and I've learned a lot from them.

"I'm just working on being a better person and being a leader. I'm focused on what I have to do here and what I need to do to get a contract in Buffalo."

After reporting to training camp a day late due to personal reasons, Steven Shipley arrived in Owen Sound on Thursday ready to roll. Word out of camp is that the 6'2 center was nagged by some undisclosed discomfort in Friday's intrasquad scrimmage that saw him briefly retreat to the dressing room in the third period before returning for action. Shipley and 2010 first rounder Joey Hishon (COL) are expected to carry the offensive pace for the Attack this season.
9/04/2010 | 3 comments | Read More

Deja Goose: Boychuk arrives in top shape

When the Sabres drafted Riley Boychuk this past June, there was one obvious thought that came to mind: Goose 2.0.

After all here were the Sabres, ten years removed from selecting Portland power forward Paul Gaustad with the 220th pick, using another seventh rounder on a hard-nosed, 6'5 220-pounder from the WHL's Winterhawks.

Gaustad's commitment to strength and conditioning started as a junior, so much that the Portland training staff names its annual fitness award after the current Sabres grindmaster. Earlier this week, the similarities between the two role players continued as Boychuk earned his second straight Gaustad Fitness Award as the 'Hawks get ready for their 2010-11 campaign.

“I have to chase Riley out of the weight room,” said Campbell. “He’s real in tune with wanting to stay in shape and stay strong and sometimes he does too much. I have to keep my eye on him that way.”

For Boychuk’s part, winning the Paul Gaustad Fitness Award is fitting, as not only does he model his game after Gaustad, but has worked out with him in the offseason. As a Sabres draft pick, he’s also looking to one day become his teammate.

“He’s a great role model,” said Boychuk. “I think his style of play is similar to mine – all hard work. As a power forward you have to create room for your linemates. He’s a good role model for anyone to look up to.”

Both are known for their size and grit. The pair even share a February birth date. With all things considered, it seems that Boychuk is in line for a statistical breakout this season.

Paul Gaustad
1999-00 (age 17/18) 56GP 6-8-14 110 PIM
2000-01 (age 18/19) 70GP 11-30-41 168 PIM
2001-02 (age 19/20) 72GP 36-44-80 202 PIM

Riley Boychuk
2008-09 (age 17/18) 62GP 7-10-17 86PIM
2009-10 (age 18/19) 66GP 14-16-30 157PIM
2010-11 (age 19/20) ????

Like the Goose nearly a decade ago, Boychuk's third full season begins amid heightened expectations. The Winterhawks will have eight NHL draft picks on their roster, and with the suggestion made a few posts down that he could potentially double his numbers from a year ago, the expectation is that he'll contribute on many levels in what could be his final season in juniors.
9/04/2010 | 1 comments | Read More

9/2 Recap: Gauthier-Leduc creates as Q pair ready for openers

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, September 3, 2010 | 9/03/2010

 Real quick update here as a pair of Sabres QMJHL prospects closed out their pre-season schedules on Thursday...

Jerome Gauthier-Leduc posted a pair of power play assists including one on the game winning goal as Rimouski edged Bathurst, 7-5. The 6'2 rearguard also registered a game-high nine shots on goal to help give the Oceanic a 33-27 edge. JGL finished the exhibition season with a goal and two assists in four games. The Nics open the regular season Friday in Lewiston.

Cedrick Henley finished the night -1 with a game-best four hits as Val-d'Or defeated Montreal 4-3 in a shootout. The 6'5 Henley, who did not get a shot on net in the contest, was stopped by Junior netminder Etienne Marcoux in the eighth round of the shootout. The Foreurs will kick off the regular season on Friday when they host Victoriavile.

More on Kassian, Fienhage, and others when I get off the course.
9/03/2010 | 1 comments | Read More

Camp Update: Kassian still strong; Foligno to lead pack?

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 | 9/01/2010

Time for a brief hump day cruise through the CHL camps...

Oilers TV, who by the way did a marvelous job covering the NHL draft combine a few months back, posted an interview with Sabres first round pick Mark Pysyk as the Oil Kings training sessions kick into gear. Pardon me for being a little leery of the Oilers poking around a Sabres top pick (see: Vanek, Thomas), but it’s worth a gander as the regular season approaches.

I really want one of those bobbleheads. Any Edmonton-area readers want to hook me up?

Staying in the WHL, all reports are suggesting that Corey Fienhage is starting off his Kamloops playing days on the right foot. After being one of the more impressive rearguards in the camp’s opening scrimmage, Fienhage kept his momentum going on Tuesday with two goals and an assist in Team White’s 10-8 win over Team Blue.

To the surprise of no one, Zack Kassian outperformed his Windsor teammates with 38 reps of 155 pounds on the weight bench as the Spits launched their 2010-11 season with their annual round of fitness testing. So essentially he bench pressed Paul Byron nearly 40 times. The 6'3, 215-pound ox posted the same exact number of 155 pounds last season with Peterborough.

After yesterday’s random tweet on the topic, the Sudbury Star’s Scott Haddow makes his case for why Marcus Foligno should be the next captain of the Wolves. I said it back at prospect camp – the kid has all the elements of being a gritty heart and soul letter-wearer down the road for the Sabres. It’s that warrior mentality that makes me think that a team would pay an arm and a leg to get him if the Wolves bow out of contention. Again, it’s too early and likely too difficult for Sudbury to entertain the thought.

More to come...
9/01/2010 | 1 comments | Read More