9/29 Recap: Armia off the schneid

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, September 30, 2011 | 9/30/2011

Joel Armia scored his first goal of the year Thursday as Assat defeated JYP, 5-2. The 6'3 wing, who was also whistled for three minor penalties, broke his season seal at 10:01 of the first period via snapshot. The penalties cut-in to his first line minutes, causing Armia to finish with an even 13:00 of work. Assat returns to action Saturday against HIFK.

In the OHL, Steve Shipley scored his first goal of the year as Niagara fell to Mississauga, 6-4. The 6'3 Shipley tied a career-low with a -4 rating in the loss, including a first period that saw him on the ice for three goals against.

Dan Catenacci notched a power play assist as Owen Sound won in a shootout over Barrie, 2-1. The 5'10 center has five points (2+3) in his first three games in an Attack sweater. Gregg Sutch scored a shootout goal for the Colts, while Alex Lepkowski was even with a minor penalty. Barrie travels to Niagara on Friday. The Attack faceoff with Mississauga.

On Wednesday, Mark Pysyk picked up a roughing minor as Edmonton downed Prince Albert, 4-1. The Oil Kings will host Medicine Hat on Friday.
9/30/2011 | 5 comments | Read More

9/27 Recap: Lieuwen locks out Lethbridge

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | 9/28/2011

Nathan Lieuwen made 25 saves to post his first shutout of the year Tuesday as Kootenay blanked Lethbridge, 2-0. Through his first three games, the 6'5 netminder has a 0.97 goals against average and a sparkling .964 save percentage. The shutout was the seventh of his WHL career, and if you take into consideration last season's playoffs, the fourth in his last 20 starts.

In Finland, Joel Armia contributed three shots on goal in 14:52 of work as Assat edged KalPa, 4-3. The 6'3 wing has played in six SM-liiga contests thus far, notching two assists with a -2 rating. An 18-goal scorer a season ago, Armia will look to pot his first of the year on Thursday when the Aces travel to JYP.
9/28/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

SabresProspects Three Stars of the Week (9/25/11)

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, September 25, 2011 | 9/25/2011

9/25/2011 | 1 comments | Read More

9/25 Recap: Leduc continues pace in Nics loss

It was a pretty light Sunday in the CHL with just two games of Sabres prospects relevance on the docket.

In Rimouski, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc continued his hot start by notching two assists as the Oceanic came up short in a 5-4 loss to Shawinigan. The mobile rearguard, who now has five points (2+3) in his first two games back from Buffalo, will look to continue his early roll Saturday versus Moncton.

In the WHL, Mark Pysyk kicked off his 2011-12 campaign by logging a -1 as Edmonton fell to Red Deer in overtime, 4-3. The two-way stalwart also mixed slashing and boarding minors into his Sunday line en route to the Oil Kings pushing off to a 0-1 start. With Edmonton considered among the WHL's top clubs this season, big things are expected of the 19-year old captain after his six-goal, 40-point effort a season ago. The Oil Kings return to action Wednesday at Prince Albert.
9/25/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

9/24 Recap: Sundher steers Royals

Kevin Sundher pocketed an empty-net goal and a pair of power play assists Saturday as Victoria avenged their season opening loss the night before with a 4-1 victory over Vancouver. Sundher, who was named the game's #2 star, was looking to avoid a repeat of last season's slow start that saw him go four games before notching a point and another three before his first goal. The one-goal, two-assist effort was the ninth time in Sundher's WHL career that he has scored three or more points. Six of those occurred last season, but his first didn't come until November. The Royals are off until Friday when they battle Prince George.

Nathan Lieuwen earned his first win of the season, making 29 saves as Kootenay downed Calgary, 5-1. With CHL clubs looking to rack up as many early season victories as possible, it's fair to expect the 6'5 netminder to again get the nod when the ICE meet up with Lethbridge on Tuesday.

In Finland, Joel Armia (2 PIM, 16:34 TOI) saw his two-game point streak snapped in Assat's 6-2 drubbing of HPK. After his first five games, Armia has two assists and a -1 rating while averaging 15:22 of work. He'll continue the quest for his first goal of the season Tuesday at KalPA. Old pal Marek Zagrapan finished -2 in defeat.

In the OHL, Dan Catenacci finished -2 with a slashing minor as Owen Sound was slowed by Saginaw, 5-2. The Attack, who suffered their first loss of the season after a 2-0 start, resume the schedule Thursday at Barrie.

Cedrick Henley recorded two shots on goal as worn-out Val-'Or was shut out by PEI, 3-0. After three road games in three nights, the Foreurs are now off until Friday when they host Gatineau.

Colin Jacobs remained out of action with an injury as Seattle opened the year with a 6-3 loss to Portland. The Winterhawks were playing without Riley Boychuk, who is set to take part in the Rochester Americans training camp beginning Monday.
9/25/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

9/23 Recap: JGL pots pair; Cat strikes again

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 24, 2011 | 9/24/2011

In our first Friday of CHL action, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc picked up where he left off a season ago, cashing two goals, adding an assist, and leading his team with five shots on goal as Rimouski came from behind to earn a 6-5 shootout win over Chicoutimi. Trailing  4-2 heading into the third, the Nics battled back to a 5-5 tie with 2:19 left in regulation to force the extra time and tiebreaker.

Leduc, who finished last season on a tear with an impressive 18 points in his final 10 games to wind up as the QMJHL's #2 scorer among defensemen, is certainly out to stake an early offensive claim as Team Canada starts weeding out their 2012 World Junior hopefuls. The multi-goal game is the fourth in his last eight regular season contests (going back to 2010-11), a span that has seen the 6'2 defender convert nine of his last 15 shots on goal (remember five of those came Friday). Rimouski will next hit the ice Sunday when they host Shawinigan.

Also from the Q, Cedrick Henley collected an assist and eight hits as Val-d'Or lost a 5-4 shootout to the defending Memorial Cup champions, Saint John. The 6'5 wing's physical effort comes one night removed from a three-assist outing in his season debut. The Foreurs return to action Saturday in PEI.

Dan Catenacci continued his warm OHL start, scoring the game's first goal on the power play and adding an assist as Owen Sound closed out Guelph, 6-4. The 5'10 center now has four points (2+2) in his first two games as a member of the Attack. Catenacci, who scored just six goals in his final 30 games of 2010-11, will look to maintain his current 136-point pace Saturday when the Attack take on Saginaw.

Alex Lepkowski (+1) assisted on an empty-net goal as Barrie got past Brampton, 3-1. Colts forward Gregg Sutch played even with a cross-checking minor in the win. The Colts are now off until Thursday when they meet up with Owen Sound.

Kevin Sundher finished -1 as the Victoria Royals lost their inaugural WHL contest to Vancouver, 5-2. Earlier in the day, the Royals announced that Sundher would serve as an alternate captain for the 2011-12 season. The Royals and Giants will head back to Victoria Saturday for the Royals home opener -- the first WHL home game in Victoria since the Cougars fled for Prince George back in 1994.

Nathan Lieuwen earned the start in Kootenay's 2011-12 opener, making 27 saves as the ICE fell in the shootout to Red Deer, 3-2. The 6'5 netminder, who played well in helping the Sabres to the Traverse City title, surrendered three goals in the six-round shootout to put the ICE in a 0-1 hole to begin the year. Kootenay will look for the first win Saturday against Calgary.

In SM-liiga action, Joel Armia earned the primary assist on the game winning goal as Assat defeated the Blues, 3-1. The big wing dumped the puck off and pushed to the net as a screen to earn his second point in as many games. Assat returns to action Saturday versus HPK.


Earlier Friday, the Sabres dispatched the first eleven players to their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans.

F: Riley Boychuk, Jacob Lagace, Maxime Legault, Shawn Szydlowski, Mark Voakes, Travis Turnbull
D: Matt MacKenzie, Corey Fienhage, Nick Crawford, Alex Biega
G: Jeff Jakaitis

Unsigned draft picks Matt MacKenzie, 19, and Riley Boychuk, 20, are AHL eligible this season and worth the look in Amerks camp, but the Sabres could still elect to return the pair to their WHL clubs.
9/24/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

9/22 Recap: Henley takes mo' back to Q

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, September 23, 2011 | 9/23/2011

Cedrick Henley was a contributor in his first game of the season Thursday, collecting three assists including a set-up of the game winning goal as Val-d'Or dominated Moncton, 7-3. The 6'5, 204-pound wing is poised for a big season in the QMJHL after missing 42 games a year ago to undergo corrective wrist surgery. The three-point outing was just the second of Henley's career, while his +3 on the night stands as a single-game best. Former Caps prospect Benjamin Casavant paced the Foreurs with a hat trick.

In the OHL, Gregg Sutch made his debut in a Colts uniform, posting an assist as Barrie defeated Kingston, 7-4. Alex Lepkowski logged a +1 for the Colts, while undrafted forwards Tanner Pearson and Zach Hill each recorded two goals and three assists.

Steven Shipley finished -1 as Niagara got stomped by Peterborough, 7-1. The IceDogs were playing without top forward Ryan Strome, who is attempting to make the New York Islanders as an 18-year old.
9/23/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

9/21 Recap: Catenacci succeeds in Attack debut

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | 9/21/2011

Dan Catenacci got his stay in Owen Sound off on the right foot Wednesday, scoring a goal and an assist while showing some competitive bite as the Attack pounded Plymouth, 6-2. The 5'10 center, fresh off the heels of his first NHL training camp which included a goal in the championship of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, is looking to take his game to the next level this season after a 71-point campaign a year ago in Sault Ste. Marie. Catenacci was traded to the defending OHL champs this summer after a disagreement with Soo brass.

In Tuesday play, Joel Armia earned his first point of the year, an assist, as Assat lost in a shootout to Lahti, 2-1. The 6'3 wing saw 17:28 of icetime in the loss. Assat will next face the Blues on Friday.


In case you somehow missed the mainstream coverage, the Sabres earlier in the week returned the bulk of their CHL prospects to their junior clubs. Along with Catenacci, Mark Pysyk (Edmonton), Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Rimouski), Cedrick Henley (Val-d'Or), Steven Shipley (Niagara), Alex Lepkowski (Barrie), Gregg Sutch (Barrie), Nathan Lieuwen (Kootenay), Kevin Sundher (Victoria), and invite Steven Beyers (Barrie) will all begin their junior seasons this week.

A pair of 2010 draft picks, Riley Boychuk, 20, and Matt MacKenzie, 19, remain with the Sabres.

It's not all CHL these days as college puck is just a few weeks away. As a primer, check out this profile of Wisconsin freshman and Sabres 2011 7th round pick, Brad Navin.
9/21/2011 | 1 comments | Read More

Armia struggles as Aces win

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 17, 2011 | 9/17/2011

Joel Armia (-1, 2 SOG) failed to record a point for the second straight game Saturday as Assat defeated TPS Turku, 4-1. Finnish hockey officials looking for a consistent level of compete from Armia this season have been disappointed out of the gate. The skilled wing has yet to dig deep enough shift-to-shift, contributing to a cumulative -3 rating while resulting in a decrease of icetime over the first two games from 17:23 on Friday to just 11:05 in Saturday's win.

Armia will look to take corrective action on Tuesday when Assat continues their early season schedule in Lahti against the Pelicans.
9/17/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

Armia, Assat begin with loss

Joel Armia began his second professional season Friday, finishing -2 with five shots on goal as Assat opened their 2011-12 SM-liiga schedule with a 4-2 loss to Lukko. The intriguing 6'3 wing, who scored two goals and three assists in four exhibition games prior to Friday's opener, looks poised to improve on the 18 goals and 29 points posted a season ago as a 17-year old. The up-and-down affair saw Assat out-shoot Lukko 69-53 while sliding to the 0-1 start.

Assat will try to even their season mark Saturday when they host TPS.


After their win in Traverse City, the Sabres CHL prospects have remained in Buffalo to participate in the opening skates of training camp.

The Sabres will be using three groups as they run through their opening evaluations. Prospects (for the purpose of the site) can be found in the following groups:

Group "A": Adam, Kassian, Foligno, Tropp, Brennan, Biega

Group "B": Boychuk, Catenacci, Lagace, Henley, Shipley, Parker, Leduc, Crawford, Fienhage, Lieuwen

Group "C":  Varone, Szydlowski, Sutch, Schiestel, Pysyk, McNabb, M. MacKenzie, Lepkowski, Legault (AHL deal), Varone (invite)

WHL centermen Kevin Sundher Colin Jacobs are being held off the ice with undisclosed injuries.
9/17/2011 | 3 comments | Read More

Sabres quest begins with Traverse City title

Written By Kris Baker on Thursday, September 15, 2011 | 9/15/2011

When Terry Pegula took control of the Buffalo Sabres with promises of a winning culture, Western New York hockey fans had no idea it would begin this early.

Victory celebrated in Traverse City
The Pegula Era's first training camp ramped up properly Wednesday, as the Sabres rookies defeated the New York Rangers, 5-2, to capture first place at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. Marcus Foligno paced the Sabres prospects with a pair of goals, while Luke Adam posted a goal and an assist. Nathan Lieuwen made 21 saves to earn the win. Despite being outshot by a 23-22 margin, the Sabres never trailed en route to earning the title in their first-ever appearance in the highly scouted tourney.

The Sabres rode their beefy top line of Luke Adam (6'2, 203 lbs), Zack Kassian (6'3, 226), and Marcus Foligno (6'3, 216) early to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Adam, the reigning AHL Most Outstanding Rookie, snapped a high wrister over the shoulder of Scott Stajcer to get the Sabres on the board at 10:17. Just over three minutes later, the Newfoundland native would cause a turnover that allowed Kassian to find Foligno in front for an early two-goal lead. The Rangers were able to halve the deficit at 13:44 when 2011 first-round pick J.T. Miller beat Nathan Lieuwen cleanly from the slot.

The momentum shifted in the favor of the quick-footed blueshirts in the second period, but they were only able to capture a single tally as Chris Bourque capitalized on a Nick Crawford turnover at the top of the faceoff circle to knot the game 2-2 heading into the final frame.

Before the start of the third period, Rangers bench boss Ken Gernander set a goal for his squad to fire "25-30 shots on goal" in the final period. The Sabres apparently had different designs.

Corey Tropp, who earlier engaged in the game's only fight with former Niagara IceDog Jason Wilson, notched the game-winning goal just 1:28 in when he took a Phil Varone pass down the right side to beat Stajcer with high blast. The tournament-clinching marker caps a successful summer for the ex-Michigan State Spartan after the 6'0 forward potted a hat trick in the final Development Camp scrimmage.

With the Rangers pressing late, the Sabres were able to close the tourney with a pair of breakaway goals by Daniel Catenacci and Foligno, his second of the night.

Catenacci's goal with five minutes to play was a great hand-eye play from start-to-finish. Former Erie Otter Shawn Szydlowski picked a neutral zone pass out of mid-air, and immediately fed it to a breaking Catenacci, who made a deft backhand deke to give the Sabres the 4-2 lead.

The Sabres size advantage was put on display in the opening minutes when 6'4 rearguard Brayden McNabb wiped out 5'9 sniper Christian Thomas with a thunderous hit at the blueline. McNabb, who was suspended for a similarly timed hit on Colorado prospect Joey Hishon at the Memorial Cup in May, served two minutes for elbowing and drew some post-whistle attention for the balance of the period. Aside from the aforementioned scrap though, the game didn't escalate physically.

With a good read on his batch of youngsters, Sabres GM Darcy Regier will now sit with his hockey department to decide who will remain in Buffalo when the Sabres open camp over the weekend. Much like they did a year ago with Foligno, Kassian, and McNabb, it's reasonable to think that one or two CHL hopefuls (Mark Pysyk, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc) will stay for NHL pre-season exposure before retreating for their junior campaigns.

The Sabres will begin their NHL exhibition schedule Monday at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.
9/15/2011 | 3 comments | Read More

Sundher ready for Royal roll

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, September 5, 2011 | 9/05/2011

Kevin Sundher is a smooth, and dare I say, vastly underrated center. Often lost in the shuffle is the fact that, along with being efficient at the dot, he bested all Sabres prospects last season with 52 assists.

In a season when Luke Adam won AHL rookie honors, Brayden McNabb dominated western sheets, and Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno played in the World Junior Championship, Kevin Sundher quietly put together the prospect stable's most productive point-streak in February (19 points over 11 games).

Boasting loads of junior experience, the speedy B.C. native enters 2011-12 poised to leave the WHL on a high note. The Victoria Times Colonist recently profiled the former third-rounder as he prepares to lead the Royals relocation charge from Chilliwack.

“I’m not a huge guy [six-feet, 188 pounds], so I’ve got to be quick. But I feel I’ll be ready to play pro after another year of seasoning in junior,” said Sundher.

The aim is to start in Buffalo’s minor-pro system next season and not have to return for a 20-year-old junior campaign in Victoria.

“I want to move on after this season.”

Sundher admits to being wide-eyed last year in Buffalo camp.

“They sat me next to [Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender] Ryan Miller in the dressing room,” Sundher recalled.

“These guys [NHLers] can do special things but you see that they are human, too, and make mistakes like everybody else. I took a lot out of that experience.”

Because Sundher’s dad played hockey, he put him into it when Kevin was just a sapling. But he also wanted his son to experience an individual sport. With a black belt in karate, Sundher can hold his own.

Sundher is quite intelligent, and it's of no surprise that he holds a martial arts black belt given his excellent agility, shiftiness, and hand-eye coordination. You see the package at work when he enters corners and dishes the puck at speed.

After posting 76 points (24+52) a year ago (a 25% increase over his draft year), it'll be interesting to see what the talented pivot can produce with Ryan Howse, Roman Horak, and Brandon Manning graduated to the pros. Sundher's shot and work ethic looked better at d-camp, so I'm comfortable forecasting a 12% increase in production this season. That would put him at 85 points, a very reachable number for a player of his skill set.
9/05/2011 | 2 comments | Read More

9/4 Recap: Boychuk bounced; Catenacci makes debut

Maybe they just don't like preseason?

A Sabres prospect was thrown out of his first exhibition skate of the year for the third day in a row Sunday as Riley Boychuk earned a late ejection in Portland's 5-1 loss to Spokane at Everett's preseason tourney. The 6'5 power forward was credited with 14 PIM on the night, with twelve coming in the final four minutes of play when he earned a roughing minor and then a game misconduct on his very next shift. Boychuk joins Matt MacKenzie (Friday) and Kevin Sundher (Saturday) as class of '10 picks to get the weekend boot.

Colin Jacobs, who will not be participating in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, remained out of action as Seattle dropped a 7-4 decision to Everett. Dinged at the Sabres summer d-camp, Jacobs did not take part in the T-Birds fitness testing earlier in the week. His timetable for return is still unknown.

Also from the Dub, Mark Pysyk did not play as Edmonton lost to Swift Current, 4-2.

In the OHL, Daniel Catenacci did not register a point in his Owen Sound debut as the Attack lost to Barrie, 6-2. Catenacci is said to have had an "up and down" night, mixing his creative shifts with some individualistic ones. Sabres free agent invite Steven Beyers scored for Barrie, while Alex Lepkowski, anchoring the top pair this season with 15-year old phenom Aaron Ekblad, and wing Gregg Sutch, who could find himself on either or the third line the top-line as protection for Mark Scheifele, did not factor for the Colts.
9/05/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

THN catches up with Kassian at Rookie Showcase

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, September 4, 2011 | 9/04/2011

Check out this video interview with Zack Kassian from the NHL Rookie Showcase in Toronto.

While speaking with Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News, Kassian quickly tocuhes on topics such as:

- thoughts on playing on a loaded Windsor lineup
- what he brings to the Sabres lineup
- things the Sabres have told him to work on
- how his toughness translates to the NHL
- his thoughts on Buffalo and playing for the Sabres organization

A decent quick hit worth watching even if it's just to see how large he looks next to an average-sized human.
9/04/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

9/3 Recap: Juices flow early as CHL pre-season heats up

The CHL exhibition schedule has opened, and with a Friday trip to Buffalo on the horizon, a couple of Sabres prospects are already sporting their gameface.

Matt MacKenzie recorded an assist and a fighting major Friday as Tri-City opened the WHL pre-season with a 5-2 win over Everett. Things got a little testy in the final minutes after the Ams, who dominated the Tips with 45-14 shot advantage, exploded for four third-period goals to break a 1-1 stalemate. Tips dman Tye Hand ('13) was whistled for boarding with 1:20 to play. Shortly thereafter with just :44 remaining, MacKenzie got into a jousting match with Tyler Maxwell that resulted in a slashing minor, fighting major, and game misconduct.

Both MacKenzie and Riley Boychuk would sit out Saturday as Tri-City used a shootout to edge Portland, 5-4.

Kevin Sundher got his 2011 pre-season off to an interesting start Saturday, collecting a -2 and an ejection as Victoria got throttled by Kelowna, 7-2. Sundher got an early shower when he and Colton Sissons ('12) were tossed for fighting with :21 to play in the opening frame. Sundher had previously served two minutes for an elbow as the Rockets shot out to a 4-0 lead.

Save some of that for Traverse City, boys.

In Saturday OHL action, Steven Shipley did not register a point as Niagara shut out Erie, 2-0. Shipley played as the third line center between veteran David Pacan and 16-year old Trevor Petersen.

As usual, the QMJHL was the first to get running with two weeks of exhibition games already in the books.

On Thursday, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc registered three hits as Rimouski defeated Denmark's U20 squad, 3-1. The 6'2 defender has picked up where he left off last year, scoring a goal and three assists in four pre-season tilts while looking poised to wear a letter on a sweater. The Nics open the regular season Friday against Blainville-Boisbriand, the same day that rookies are scheduled to report to Buffalo for the start of camp.

Cedrick Henley scored his first goal of the pre-season Friday as Val-d'Or lost to Blainville-Boisbriand, 6-3. The marker was Henley's first point in two games thus far (+2, 2 PIM).


Sunday scheudule:

Owen Sound (Catenacci) vs. Barrie (Lepkowski, Sutch)
Portland (Boychuk) vs. Spokane
Edmonton (Pysyk) vs. Swift Current
Seattle (Jacobs - not likely) vs. Everett
9/04/2011 | 0 comments | Read More

Improved Shipley looking for better results

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 3, 2011 | 9/03/2011

It's not fair to be dramatic regarding a 19-year old hockey player, but 2011-12 could be a make-or-break year for Niagara IceDogs forward Steven Shipley. After all, the 6'3 center endured a 20% decrease in production in his first post-draft season, an unsavory fact for those looking exclusively at numbers. You'd think that an offensive rebound is a requirement if Shipley is to earn an NHL deal in the spring.

According to the St. Catharines Standard, Shipley's slide should be attributed to him rounding out his game in an effort to become a more complete hockey player.

"Last year, I wanted to improve my all around game and my defensive game and little things like that," said Shipley, a 19-year-old native of Ilderton. "I'm happy with the ways things went. I learned a lot as a player last year, but I set high expectations for myself this year to improve upon.

"It is a balancing act. You can't be cheating for offence. You have to take care of your defence, but at the same time, when you get your opportunities, you want to take advantage."

With Shipley shifting his focus to improving his two-way set, Niagara coach Marty Williamson often used him on the third line (often out of his natural center position), while relying on others to provide the main offensive pop.

"Not everybody can be a top-six guy in the NHL. But a bottom-six guy in the NHL is a pretty good life," Williamson said. "You need to be well rounded. Ships was pegging himself into trying to only be an elite NHL guy and if that didn't work out for him, he would be falling flat on his face.

"Now he's got both things. If he can have an elite year points-wise, he's got the defensive game in his back pocket. It opens more doors for him. That was my message last year for him that we need to round your game out a little better."

Shipley's production also suffered from a lack of time on the power play. On a team with the likes of Andrew Agozzino, Ryan Strome, Freddie Hamilton and David Pacan, Shipley didn't get many chances with the man advantage.

"Ship was used to first unit power play, so you can always factor in 10-12 points on that stuff," Williamson said. "I think Ship had a 50-60-point season and if you would have told me Ship would have 70 points on a team that was real balanced like we were last year, I would have been real happy.

"I probably took 10-12 points away from him by not giving him that first power-play unit."

It's great that Shipley is working away from the puck, and I understand how playing time relates to production, but the Sabres have always done a good job developing bottom six forwards. It's time to turn the heat up offensively and exude some skill to show that he's more than that.

"I think absolutely I can be a top-six forward. In the past I think I have proven I have the ability to do that. The next step now is to improve my offence," he said.

Shipley will be with the IceDogs for another week or so before heading off to training camp in Buffalo, an experience he enjoyed immensely last season.

"It was my first training camp and it was an incredible experience," he said. "Meeting those guys and being part of a team atmosphere. I'm real excited to go back this year. We're going to Traverse City (for the NHL Prospects Tournament) and I'm real excited for that.

The main concern moving forward is Shipley's competitive fire, as I feel that Williamson would have been inspired to give him those quality minutes had he brought the juice and moxie nightly. We've seen Shipley dig in and take the puck hard to the post. That power and size needs to be used with regularity.

After canning a line of 23-40-63 as a 17-year old, there's little question that Shipley can "do it". From my perspective, the Sabres will need to see that upped passion mixed with measurables of 25 goals and 70 points to confidently sponsor a three-year development plan moving forward.

High expectations for a fourth-rounder? I think not, especially if the chip that was on his shoulder a year ago remains.
9/03/2011 | 1 comments | Read More

Kassian gearing up; Pre-draft comments cause Catfight

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, September 2, 2011 | 9/02/2011

Zack Kassian is perhaps the most intriguing Sabres prospect in recent years largely due to his hands. He uses them softly to pass and finish, but also tosses them like hammers when the gloves come off.

Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post recently caught up with Kassian, who has been gearing up for his professional debut after a junior career that saw good headlines (Memorial Cup win, World Junior silver medal) mixed with bad (suspensions). At 6'3, 226 pounds, the imposing forward is going to have to manage a disciplined focus while easing his way into hockey's highest level.

"I need to play with an edge, but I have to make sure I don't cross that edge," he said Tuesday. "With all the skill Buffalo has, I think they need some grit and definitely some people that are hard to play against to give those skilled guys some room. I feel like I can fill that job, and hopefully, I can do it sooner than later."

Kassian scored 77 points a season ago in Windsor, but the skills that created solid junior production are going to take some time to develop as a pro. Zack will be best served concentrating on his 40-second blocks in year one, making sure he keeps his feet moving, finishes his checks, and simply stays engaged while adjusting to playing against "men". Part of that process will be playing a smart game that keeps him...out of trouble and free of regret.

Kassian earned a 20-game suspension in his very first game with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010. He went steaming across the ice in the second period of a game against the Barrie Colts, aimed his shoulder at Matt Kennedy and fired himself into the smaller forward's head, sending both the player and his helmet flying to the ice.

"That suspension, definitely, I wish I could take back," Kassian said.

That collision has drawn more than 175,000 views on YouTube, the most-watched video of Kassian's career. And it might very well have factored into the suspension handed out for his secondmost popular clip, recorded while he was playing with Canada during the world junior championship in Buffalo last December.

As with the hit on Kennedy 12 months earlier, Kassian stalked Czech Republic forward Petr Senkerik through centre ice. Unlike the previous hit, though, Kassian remained on his feet, tucked his elbows into his side and aimed for the chest. The result was still devastating. Senkerik was removed from the ice on a stretcher, and the International Ice Hockey Federation removed Kassian from Canada's lineup for two games. It can be debated that the hit, had it been delivered in the NHL, would not have drawn any supplemental discipline.

"My previous suspensions in junior hockey didn't help my case at all," Kassian said. "I felt like that was a clean hit. It was definitely not fun to sit through world junior games, and especially a big game on New Year's, but stuff like that happens in the game."

Kassian no doubt brings a balancing element that the Sabres crave. His work begins next weekend when the Sabres ice a squad at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.


Elsewhere around the rinks...

The Sault Star reported this week that pre-draft comments by Hounds GM Kyle Dubas were the reason behind the Daniel Catenacci trade request. Remember, Cat was rumored to be telling friends that the request was not his decision.

The decision to seek a trade, according to a reliable source with knowledge of the situation, originated with the player's father, Maurice Catenacci.

And wait until you learn the reason why.

According to the source, Maurice was miffed over comments made by the new Hounds general manager, Kyle Dubas, in a June 21 article in The Star.

In a series of stories that ran before the June 24-25 NHL Entry Draft, each of the five Hounds players who were rated by NHL Central Scouting were profiled.

In an article dealing with defenceman Ryan Sproul's draft prospects, Dubas cited numerous calls he'd received from NHL scouts inquiring about Sproul.

And, based on that, the GM predicted big things at the draft for the six-foot-four, 190-pounder.

Dubas said NHL teams were telling him "Sproul could be a first-round pick."

Dubas added: "I don't think he gets past the 50th pick" and "it's very possible he could be the first Greyhounds player taken."

Which, by the way, is exactly what happened.

While he didn't go in the first round or in the top 50, Sproul was the first Greyhounds player selected.

The Mississauga native was chosen in the second round, 55th overall, by the Detroit Red Wings. Another Soo player, centre Nick Cousins, was next to go, a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers and the 68th player chosen.

Catenacci went later in Round 3, 77th overall to the Buffalo Sabres.

According to my source, Maurice Catenacci, apparently angered by the GMs comments and feeling Dubas's words actually hurt Daniel's draft prospects, decided it was time for his kid to play elsewhere.

After having the trade demand met, the speedy center reported to training camp in Owen Sound this week and seems to be fitting in well with some familiar faces on the Attack roster.


Out west, Kootenay ICE netminder Nathan Lieuwen tells The Daily Townsman that he's set to go for his first NHL training camp.

"At the end of the day, it's not in my hands; it's in Buffalo's hands as to what they want to do," said Lieuwen. "I love this organization (Ice) and I'd love to play another year here, that'd be great for me and my career, and if they (Sabres) choose to move me on, then that's another step forward that I can take and play some games there."

Lieuwen, who was a sixth round draft pick this summer after a stellar WHL playoff run, will be one of two goaltenders that the Sabres take to Traverse City. The action should be a good first test after undergoing offseason surgery for a sports hernia that caused him to sit out the Sabres summer development camp.

"My sights are set up there so we'll see what I can do when I get there but what I'm really focusing on right now is getting back into shape, back into proper form so that when I do go there, I do have a shot at making some noise," he said.


Also from the WHL, Riley Boychuk has again captured the "Paul Gaustad Fitness Award", an honor bestowed to the winner of the Portland Winterhawks training camp fitness testing (Goose even showed up for the award presentation). In fact, the award is Boychuk's third in a row.
9/02/2011 | 3 comments | Read More