Showing posts with label myers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label myers. Show all posts

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kassian, Foligno ready to go with future expectations

Sabres fans are licking their chops at the prospects of watching Team Canada's Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno skate on HSBC Arena ice over the next twelve days as the IIHF conducts the 2011 World Junior Championship. After all, the object of their NHL rooting interest has a 6.5% of making the playoffs so it makes sense to look for future hope.

And just like that, more Sabres fans care about what I do. I'm getting more emails and texts about Kassian. Co-workers are asking questions about the two playing on the same line. My Blackberry and mouth need a massage.

To summarize the conversations, we've all witnessed how playing in the World Junior Championship elevates a player's game to more dominating level. What a player immediately does with the experience, at least with the Sabres anyways, goes a long way in projecting their effectiveness as a professional.

Last season, Luke Adam scored 25 goals and 27 assists in 32 QMJHL games (1.63 ppg) before playing for Team Canada. The big forward returned to pot 24 goals in his final 24 games with Cape Breton, and carried that pace into 2010-11 with an AHL Rookie of the Month honor in his first as a pro.

Prior to skating alongside Tyler Myers at the 2009 tourney, Tyler Ennis averaged 1.16 points-per-game (31GP 15-21-36) with Medicine Hat (WHL) before ripping off 28 goals and 21 assists in his final 30 games (1.63 PPG) to cap his second consecutive 85-point season. Ennis went on the impress the following year, earning AHL Rookie of the Year and a firm spot on the big club.

Do I even need to mention Myers? He didn't become the Calder winning monster that he is until after the 2009 tournament.

So what does this all mean for Kassian and Foligno? Given the make-up of the two players, it's fair to expect the spike to continue.

Kassian has himself been a monster this season in Windsor with 15-33-48 in just 25 games. It's going to be hard for him to maintain his 1.92 ppg pace, but if he can keep it steady with 1.75 over the final 30 games, he'll be the first Sabres prospect to hit the 100-point mark since London's Dylan Hunter did it in 2004-05 and 2005-06. Combine the Ennis and Adam trend with how physically dominant he is against 17-18-19's, and it seems that Kassian hits the target barring injury or suspension, and could blow past it if he gets traded to a top contender.

As far as Foligno is concerned, it's all gravy from here. The 6'3 leader has already posted a career-high in goals with 15 in his first 28 games, and is likely to use the experience to prove that he can beat the D on the forecheck and a cause trouble in front of the opposing net. Foligno works hard, and any exposure to faster, stronger players makes him work harder. Hard work equals production, so I'm setting the final 2010-11 target at 33 goals and 75 points for a weak Sudbury squad.

Every theory has an anomaly, so it's worth mentioning how Clarke MacArthur earned his 2005 World Junior look by amassing 14-27-41 in 30 games with Medicine Hat, but failed to vault his offense upon return with a still-respectable 33 points in his final 28 games. What's funny is that MacArthur's 'starting' trend has continued in the NHL, with nearly half of his 53 career goals coming in October and November...

If we've learned anything, it's that making Team Canada is great but what you do after matters most.

And one last thing - exhibition action saw Kassian and Foligno skate on a line with 2011 draft stud Sean Couturier. With the Sabres sinking and Derek Roy out for the balance of the year, Sabres fans may want to keep an eye on the prize. A prime-time offensive talent, Couturier is currently numero uno on my draft board.

The fun beings with Canada-Russia today (Sunday). Enjoy the games. GO USA!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Myers in against Habs

Per a Mike Harrington (The Buffalo News) tweet, defenseman Tyler Myers will be in the starting lineup for the Sabres' opener on Saturday versus Montreal.

10/1 Recap: Kassian nets another; Ennis impressing

Zack Kassian scored a goal on Thursday as Peterborough defeated Oshawa, 5-4. The 6'3 Petes captain one-timed a Brett Theberge cross-ice feed 20-seconds into the second period for his third goal goal of the season. He now has points in six games for the Petes, who were outshot 50-33 by the visiting Generals. Michael Quesnele ('10) scored the game winner and picked up a fighting major. Nick Crawford finished -2 as Saginaw lost at Brampton, 4-3. Former Buffalo Jr. Sabre and Rochester, NY native Phil Lane ('10) notched his first OHL points for the Troops, scoring a goal and an assist in the win. Last season, the 6'2, 194-pound power forward scored 18 goals and 24 assists in 45 OJHL games. On Wednesday, Jordon Southorn posted a -2 as PEI stumbled in a 6-3 road loss at Montreal. The Rocket held a 2-1 lead midway through the second period before falling victim to sloppy play. Guillaume Asselin ('10) had a goal and an assist for the winners. Also on Wednesday, Tyler Ennis had a goal and two assists as Portland closed their exhibition schedule with 4-2 win over the University of New Brunswick. Ennis' output gives him impressive totals of two goals and five assists in three preseason contests. Marc-Andre Gragnani scored the game winner in the early third period, while Paul Byron and Derek Whitmore added singles. The Pirates will open the regular season on Saturday at Springfield. ----------------------------- For those who may have missed the news, the Sabres on Wednesday announced that F Nathan Gerbe and D Mike Weber have been assigned to Portland of the AHL. The transactions leave D Tyler Myers and F Tim Kennedy with the big club for Saturday's opener with the Canadiens. How long Myers stays with the Sabres could be determined by how well he performs (if called upon). Per the Buffalo News, Myers was skating as the extra dman in Thursday morning practice, but I wouldn't rule out him being in the Saturday night lineup despite some expectations that the team will ease him in. The situation is a little more black and white with Kennedy, who earned the right to stay after being creative and responsible from the center position since the beginning of camp. With Drew Stafford dinged with a minor concussion, the former Michigan State Spartan could see scoring line minutes early on in an attempt to fortify his role on an NHL roster. Gerbe, while disapponted with the move after scoring a pair of goals in the final preseason games, will retreat to Portland where it's possible to keep pressure on the remaining Sabres forwards. Joining him on the farm will be Weber, who was somewhat inconsistent with his puck decisions in exhibition work.

Monday, September 28, 2009

9/27 Recap: Kennedy makes case

The Sabres ended their exhausting preseason Sunday night with a 7-6 win over Toronto. With some players having their spots locked up, Tim Kennedy, Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Myers, and Mike Weber made their final auditions before the team decides on the opening day battle roster. Kennedy (+2) showed the most value on the night, executing well defensively while doing good things with the puck in the Leafs end. Centering Clarke MacArthur and Jason Pominville, the Buffalo native snapped home a MacArthur back pass and added a nice assist in 16:44 of action for his best performance in a Sabres sweater. Gerbe (-1) rounded out his strong weekend by netting a goal for the second straight night and earning a helper on Matt Ellis' game winner. Gerbe played just under 14:00 in the win. As of now, it's hard to say what's going to happen with the two second-year guys. Kennedy's ability to make plays from the pivot make him a good flexible option, but he'll need to improve on faceoffs to solidify his NHL standing. Gerbe demonstrated the ability to zip in and out of space and finish plays while going hard every shift. On the blueline, Myers continued his ramp-up towards earning a spot this season with excellent skating and steady defensive posture. There was one particular play that I didn't like, where Matt Stajan escaped his cluthces behind the net and sent a pass to the front for a Nikolai Kulemin tally. Playing the man, Myers was unsuccessful in rubbing Stajan off the puck, but that's a play where his long stick (that I'm always talking about) could have been more effective in stopping the throw to the front. Weber, who has been plagued by turnovers for most of the preseason, made some nice defensive plays early before mixing in a few giveaways. His aggressive nature will be a welcome element to the blueline, but perhaps a start on the farm will reset his puck focus and propel him into better decisions. There will be more on this as the week progresses. In New Hampshire, Portland defeated Manchester 5-1 to move to 1-1 on the pre-season. Felix Schutz, Paul Byron, T. J. Brennan, and Derek Whitmore were among the Pirates scorers. Dennis Persson had three assists, while Tyler Ennis contributed a pair of helpers. Jhonas Enroth made 34 saves for the win. Also on Sunday, Marcus Foligno (+1) assisted on the game-tying goal midway through the third period as Sudbury went on to defeat Oshawa in overtime, 4-3. Foligno, who clicked on a line with overager Daniel Lombardi, continues to give teams trouble down low and has shown marked all-around improvement over last season. Jacob Lagacé finished a nasty -5 as Chicoutimi was steamrolled by Lewiston, 7-1. Jordon Southorn was even with two shots on goal as PEI edged Gatineau, 2-1.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gerbe makes push; Pirates push off

The Sabres lost to Montreal on Saturday, 3-2, in their second-to-last pre-season contest. Clarke MacArthur and Nathan Gerbe scored the Buffalo goals. Gerbe looked hungry for a roster spot, impressing with his hustle and attitude in the paint. His unassisted shorthanded goal in the first period came when he sharply hit a seam into the slot and roofed a backhander over Carey Price's left shoulder. As time expired in the first, a determined Gerbe followed the play in tight and took a solid cross-check as fellow hopeful Tim Kennedy was getting bowled over at the side of the net. The 5'6 buzzer immediately got up and deposited Maxime Lapierre in the crease before a minor melee ensued. Gerbe finished the night with one shot on goal in 11:28 of action, while Kennedy was -1 with one shot on goal in 11:58 of work. Defenseman Tyler Myers continues to show the Sabres that he's worth a longer look, holding his own in all situations with fluid movement and increasing NHL fluency. He's making safe plays and contact in his own zone, easing his way into rushes out of it, and learning to find lanes for shots and passes in the offensive end. He was low man on the blueline with 17:50 of play, but he's gradually showing more poise and promise. I'm not sure there's much more the Sabres could expect from him at this point. Myers' ramp-up will no-doubt carry into the regular season, potentially making for some sticky decisions by the time Halloween rolls around. As of now, a ticket back to Kelowna should not on the radar. ----------------------- The Portland Pirates opened the exhibition season Saturday with a 6-3 loss to Lowell. Rookie Tyler Ennis had a goal and an assist for the Pirates, while Paul Byron also netted a goal in his first professional sniff. Free agent rookie Mark Voakes, 26, also had a goal and an assist for Portland. Voakes is signed with Cincinnati of the ECHL, but is looking to postion himself for an AHL gig after scoring 56 goals over a four-year CIS career with Wilfred Laurier. The Pirates will scoot to New Hampshire for a 2:00 Sunday faceoff with Manchester.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Next batch heads to Portland as final cuts near

The Sabres today announced that forwards Philip Gogulla and Felix Schutz, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, and goaltender Jhonas Enroth have been assigned to Portland of the AHL. Also sent to the Pirates were veterans Joe Dipenta (D) and Jeff Cowan (F). Remaining with the big club for the final round of cuts are Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, Mike Weber, and Tyler Myers, with all but Weber suiting up for Saturday night's game at Montreal. The moves come on the same day that Mark Mancari decided to re-enter the Sabres fold on a one-year deal. Portland's top point-getter last season, the fifth-year man will be subject to waivers before re-joining the Pirates.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

9/22 Recap: Pirates ship begins to fill; KHL heating up

The Sabres today announced their first batch of names leaving camp for farm assignments. Off to Portland of the AHL are the following 14 players: F: Tyler Ennis, Paul Byron, Maxime Legault, Travis Turnbull, Derek Whitmore, Kyle Rank, Brad Larsen, Mark McCutcheon D: T.J. Brennan, Drew Schiestel, Dennis Persson, Matt Generous, Mike Kostka D. J.P. Lamoureux No real surprising moves, as all were expected to start the year with the Pirates. Ennis had the potential to play one more game, but there are too many other battles to be won in other areas. Technically still the captain of the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL, Legault, 20, will shoot for an AHL roster spot and first NHL contract when he reports. The cutdown leaves 33 players still in camp including defensive prospects Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, and Marc-Andre Gragnani; forwards Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, Philip Gogulla, and Felix Schutz; and goaltender Jhonas Enroth. For those who've not watched any of the pre-season games, Myers has gradually gotten better with each of his three appearances. He's shown an adjustment to speed, demonstrated good escapability to start breakouts, and used his stick well to break up plays for quick clears. At this point I score him ahead of Gragnani and Weber, who committed several turnovers in Monday's win over Washington, but need more views to project him out against the current top-6. ---------------------------- Overseas, a pair of 2005 draft picks are getting deeper into their KHL seasons. Vjacheslav Buravchikov was -2 on as Ak Bars lost to Avangard on Tuesday, 3-1. The 6'1 dman manned the bottom pair with Alexei Yemelin (MTL) for 15:03 if action, a few ticks above his season average of 13:45. Ak Bars next plays on Thursday at Barys. On Monday, Marek Zagrapan was -1 as Severstal dropped a 3-1 decision to Metallurg. The 23-year old is -3 with four shots on goal in three games since scoring the winner in the season opener. Severstal will take the ice on Wednesday against an Amur club carrying former Sabres defenseman, Nolan Pratt. -------- Also of note, PEI's Jordon Southorn stayed away from practice Tuesday with a bug, and may not be ready to go for their Wednesday tilt with 4-0 Saint John. Brayden McNabb and Kootenay will host the Edmonton Oil Kings in a mid-week WHL battle.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Early season jab by McNabb

Aside from scoring Kootenay's only goal in Saturday's lopsided 7-1 loss to Red Deer, defenseman Brayden McNabb also earned a slashing and fighting combo late in the game after a quick scrap with Rebels forward Cody Esposito. The bout was the closing act in a game featuring five fights. Tale of the Tape: McNabb, 18, 6'4, 210 lbs, 13 career majors Esposito, 20, 6'3, 205 pounds, 43 career majors
Remember how the theme of the draft was team toughness? The Sabres have invested quite a bit in goaltender Ryan Miller, yet in recent years have too often came up short when protecting their meal ticket. Names like Tallinder, Spacek, Sekera, Numminen, and Campbell weren't scaring anyone away from taking a whack. That's why hard-nosed Craig Rivet was viewed as a Godsend when he arrived, why Steve Montador was a free agent target, and why it's important for Mike Weber to show a disciplined edge when trying to earn the 6/7 spot in Buffalo. Along the same lines, it's refreshing to see another Sabres CHL defenseman show a consistent willingness to "go" as he develops NHL chops. Aside from the occasional police work of future workhorse Tyler Myers, the use of fight-or-flight adrenaline is one trait that's been somewhat lacking among the Sabres' junior rearguards since the lockout. T.J. Brennan rarely pulled that club out of the bag in the Q, while OHL products Drew Schiestel and Nick Crawford have been developing with cooler heads. Even Mike Weber, who in 2007-08 had nine fights as an AHL rookie (including an infamous tune-up by Mike Keane), only had 11 scraps in his four junior seasons. (The team toughness movement is obviously not limited to defensemen. Veteran forwards Jeff Cowan and Cody McCormick are being fitted for grit in camp, and it's likely that Travis Turnbull's 14-fight USHL resume was consulted before signing him out of Michigan. There's no need to even mention what Zack Kassian represents down the road.) I'm not making a case for a back end goon, nor am I proclaiming the current blueline crop a bunch of "nice guys". Players like Matt Generous, Jordon Southorn (seasons of three and four majors) and Drew MacKenzie (three fights in 2007-08) have shown minor flare-ups in the past. I'm merely suggesting that variety is a requirement when building a blueline stable, and the drafting of third-rounders McNabb (2009) and Corey Fienhage (2008) are positive steps towards toughness while Rivet leads by example ahead of them. McNabb's 10 goals last season would have tied Schiestel for tops among all Sabres defensive prospects, while his 10 fights and 140 PIMs proved more active than his next closest competitor, Myers (5 majors, 105 PIM in nine fewer games). Fienhage had 28 PIMs in nine games including six roughing minors, one high stick, one check from behind, and a fighting misconduct. These are young, talented players acting mean and putting up different types numbers in terms of Sabres D prospects. So yes, this is all old news. Pardon me if it sounds like I'm going out of my way to state the obvious, but it's encouraging to see the plan in action.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

9/17 Recap: Kassian captains streakbuster; "A" group battles Caps

The Sabres sent a half-dozen junior players back to their CHL clubs on Thursday just hours before starting their 2009 pre-season schedule. However, only five of the six were afforded down time as one prospect was able to drive 100 miles home to arrive in time for the start of his team's regular season. Peterborough Petes captain Zack Kassian left Buffalo in the 2:00 hour and joined his mates prior to the 7:11 puck drop with Brampton. Seeing loads of ice time from coach Ken McRae, the 6'3 banger assisted on the game-tying goal midway through the third period as the Petes came back to edge the Battalion, 2-1. The Petes victory was their first over the Troops since November 2006, a span covering nine regular season games and another four from last season's playoff sweep. Joining Kassian back in the OHL will be Marcus Foligno, who returned to Sudbury for Friday's contest with Erie, and Saginaw's Nick Crawford, who will get with the Spirit for their opener at Guelph. WHL defenseman Brayden McNabb is expected to play in Kootenay's season opener against Lethbridge after a late-Thursday arrival. Capping the list of departees, Cape Breton center Luke Adam and Chicoutimi's Jacob Lagacé are back in the QMJHL for weekend action. Adam will make his Screaming Eagles debut on Saturday against Saint John. Lagacé will be in uniform for weekend games against Victoriaville and Quebec. --------------------------- With six leaving town, the Sabres "A" list of remaining prospects got a solid look as the club opened the pre-season with a 4-3 OT loss to Washington. Bubble forwards Nathan Gerbe (16:25), Tyler Ennis (15:40), Philip Gogulla (13:54), and Tim Kennedy (13:36) all saw nice chunks of action, while Tyler Myers (21:01), Marc-Andre Gragnani (17:02), Mike Kostka (16:41), and Mike Weber (21:26) formed a youthful backline with Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera. Jhonas Enroth finished the game in Buffalo's net after Patrick Lalime's played his period-and-a-half. Myers (+1) made a positive impression by using his reach, executing sharp passes, and even making a nice hit on Caps defender John Carlson. As expected there's still a speed adjustment needed in terms of being an everyday NHL defenseman, but the foundation is clearly in place. In my opinion, the NHL-CHL rule with 19-year old players needs to be amended to at least allow first-round NHL picks to play in the AHL in their second post-draft season. Regardless of contract/budget issues, I'm seeing little developmental value in Myers going back to dominate the WHL. Ennis, who will make any line buzz when placed down the middle, put his speed and passing skills on display with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville as wings. The creative element that Ennis brings to the top-six will not be ignored once the necessary strength is built on his smallish frame. His line saw top-unit power play time, yet connected for even strength damage on Buffalo's first goal of the night by Pominville. Also worth noting was the smart, effective blueline work by Kostka. The 23-year old hit for two shots on goal and picked up an assist on the Pominville tally. The goal tied the game at 1-1 after a Weber (-1) miscue earlier allowed the Caps a 1-0 lead. Late in the third period with the score tied 2-2, Gerbe's grunting forecheck behind the Caps' cage resulted in Gogulla finding Kennedy, who buried a backhand to put the Sabres ahead with 2:32 to play. With anything possible, the trio could be a potent combo if all three land on the farm to start the year. Just :23 later, a Gragnani turnover would allow Jay Beagle to beat Enroth and force overtime. A Brian Pothier slapper while on a 5-3 power play ended tings just :49 into the extra session. Enroth entered the game at 13:13 of the middle period, allowing three goals on 26 shots. (13:13. 26 shots. An interesting thought for superstitious stat junkies.) He got a taste of the NHL's down-low pressure on his first goal against scored by vet Mike Knuble, but played well overall. Remaining prospects in camp include T.J. Brennan, Drew Schiestel, Felix Schutz, Paul Byron, Matt Generous, Travis Turnbull, and Maxime Legault. All but Legault are under contract and slated for Portland. The Sabres will return to exhibition action on Saturday in Detroit. --------------------------- In Thursday KHL action, Marek Zagrapan was kept off the sheet as Severstal dropped a 2-0 decision to Mettalurg.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Southorn stays in PEI as peers gear up

The CHL pre-season is coming to a close, and the bulk of prospects are in Buffalo for early work before the opening of main camp later in the week. However, one Sabres property will be wearing his junior colors when the QMJHL kicks off its regular season. The Sabres this week informed PEI Rocket defenseman Jordon Southorn that they were rescinding his 2009 training camp invitation due to his second team-imposed suspension in as many seasons. Southorn, who was suspended by the Rocket for an alleged curfew violation, will be in uniform when the club opens their QMJHL regular season this week instead of competing in Buffalo.
The group, including Southorn’s agent Don Meehan, sat down (with input from the Buffalo Sabres which nabbed Southorn in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL draft) to decide his fate. Savard helped make last year’s docking call and the recent suspension. He said Southorn’s back in the fold, but what happens next is up to him. “The kid knows what to expect. He’s getting another chance,” said Savard, who selected the blue-liner 17th overall in the first round in the 2006 QMJHL draft. “That’s the way it’s going to be. He knows things have to change as we move forward (and) the season begins.” The greater damage might be Buffalo reneging Southorn’s invitation to its training camp next week. He had been scheduled to leave P.E.I. for New York, Sept. 7. He might get another chance later in the camp, said Southorn, but for now the NHL squad has cooled his jets. “They don’t want me in Buffalo breaking curfew or getting into trouble,” he said. “They don’t want me there in that state of mind.”
At this point, Southorn will have to be lights out this season to be considered for an NHL contract. Harvard's Alex Biega and Saginaw's Nick Crawford are also up for a blueline look after this season, while T.J. Brennan and Drew Schiestel have already joined Mike Weber, Mike Kostka, Dennis Persson, and Matt Generous in the minor league mix. Add in top clubbers Chris Butler, 22, and Andrej Sekera, 23, and the already-inked Tyler Myers, 19, and it's easy to think that only one of the three could be signed next offseason. Speaking of Myers, the 6'8 defenseman arrived in Buffalo on Saturday for his second NHL camp.
“Having one year and one camp under my belt, I’m going in with some confidence,” Myers said. “I’m very excited to go in there, do the best I can and just keep things simple. Whatever they have planned for me I’ll accept. “I’d love to play with Buffalo this year, but I know there’s a possibility I may get sent back. If that happens, Kelowna’s not a bad place to come play hockey and I don’t think another year of development would hurt me at all.”
Meanwhile Buffalo News reporter John Vogl spoke with GM Darcy Regier, who confirmed that Tyler Ennis will be signed and done shortly.
"He’ll come to camp and we’ll work on his contract, but the expectation is that he’ll turn pro and not return to junior this year," Regier said.
The same article mentioned that RFA Mark Mancari would like a chance to play elsewhere. Four years into his pro career, the big wing has essentially graduated from this space. Cruising the other CHL training camps for updates on those heading to Buffalo this week... Luke Adam saw his first pre-season action for Cape Breton on Wednesday, posting two goals and an assist as the Eagles hammered Halifax, 9-2. The 6'2 forward, who also led the Eagles with five shots on goal and five blocks, departed for Buffalo the following day. On Friday, Jacob Lagacé had two shots on goal as Chicoutimi lost 4-2 to Shawinigan. Cataractes forward Maxime Legault did not play. Lagacé played again the following night, getting into a fight with 6'1, 194-pound Maxime Lamarche in the Sags 6-1 loss at Victoriaville. The 17-year old Lamarche got the better of Lagacé, who rarely drops the mitts. Portland forward Felix Schutz was seen skating in Saint John on Friday as his former junior club, the Sea Dogs, broke camp for a week before the start of the regular season. In the OHL, Marcus Foligno was tossed from Sudbury's loss to Barrie on Thursday. The big forward earned a five-minute major and a game misconduct after a slew foot in the second period. On Friday, Foligno tipped a shot in from his belly for his second goal of the pre-season in Sudbury's 5-2 loss to Oshawa. Saginaw rearguard Nick Crawford had an assist in Friday's 5-3 loss to Sault Ste. Marie, and did not play as the Spirit lost a Saturday rematch, 4-2. After sitting out the pre-season opener, Zack Kassian had two assists in Peterborough's 6-4 win over Oshawa on Wednesday. Kassian arrived in Buffalo Monday morning. In the WHL, Brayden McNabb did not play in either of Kootenay's pre-season losses before heading to Buffalo over the weekend. The OHL and WHL will drop the puck for regular season play on the 17th. 2009 pick Mark Adams started his USHL career this week as Chicago opened up with a holiday weekend of practices. The New England high school product will hone his skills for a season under the guidance of former NHLer Steve Poapst before entering Providence College next fall. The USHL regular season doesn't get underway until October 2nd.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A hit on ice, Kassian owns bench as well

The Sabres set a proper tone for their future by selecting bruising forward Zack Kassian at #13 last June, and it appears the prized pupil is primed to produce. The 6'3 ox arrived in Peterborough this week, giving every young player a lesson in fitness training by pressing 155 pounds a whopping 38 times. His performance, a new Petes record, is an extension of his impressive 16-rep output of 150 pounds back at May's NHL combine. Last season, the intimidating Kassian scored 24 goals while spending over two-and-a half hours in the Petes penalty box. His demeanor and ability in tight fills a dire need in the upper ranks of the Sabres prospect stable. A productive start this fall will better his candidacy to crack the Canadian World Jr. roster, but for now consider him on track. The Petes open their 2009 pre-season on Sunday against Oshawa. Also from the OHL, Sudbury's Marcus Foligno scored a goal and an assist as Team Blue lost the annual Blue/White scrimmage, 3-2. The gritty Foligno, expected to contribute among names like Eric O'Dell (STL), John McFarland ('10), and Jared Staal (PHX), showed some offensive flair by flashing a no-look, behind-the-back pass to set-up his club's second goal. Foligno has come out flying in a week when his father and former Sabre, Mike, announced that he is stepping down from the Wolves bench. The elder Foligno will remain GM, but will be attending to family duties a months after losing his wife Janis to cancer. Nick Crawford sat out as Saginaw lost their pre-season opener to Plymouth, 7-2. The veteran scored a goal in the first Blue/White scrimmage on Thursday. In the QMJHL, Maxime Legault saw his first pre-season action on Friday as Shawinigan lost a 4-1 decision to Lewiston. The 6'2 right wing dropped the gloves with Eric Bonawitz in the bumpy second period, earning the extra misconduct along the way. Cape Breton forward Luke Adam has yet to see exhibition ice with his new team, while Chicoutimi's Jacob Lagacé did not dress in any games last week. In the WHL, Tyler Ennis is not on the Medicine Hat's training camp roster. While he is eligible to return to the Dub, the Tigers don't expect him back. Turning 20 in October, Ennis should be signed and lined for Portland by the start of training camp. Kelowna's Tyler Myers continues to practice as he readies himself for a second pro run. He did not play in either of Kelowna's weekend losses to Chilliwack. Kootenay defenseman Brayden McNabb will skate in the club's annual Intrasquad game for charity Sunday at 3:00. The Ice won't engage with another club until Friday (vs. Calgary).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Knapp to miss start; Nats wrap up

Miami RedHawks netminder Connor Knapp will miss his turn in the starting rotation as Team USA closes its four-game exhibition with Russia on Saturday at the U20 Evaluation. Knapp, the Sabres 6th round pick this past June, injured his right knee on the opening day of camp and was deemed 'not ready' by coach Dean Blais after seeing light work 0n Thursday. Each of the four goaltenders in camp were expected to see a full 60-minute contest. The circumstances are undoubtedly disappointing for the 6'5 sophomore, as a sharp start could have made for a strong closing impression just one night after Brandon Maxwell (COL) allowed six goals on 17 shots in a 6-4 loss. The injury and poor showing by Maxwell seem to have created some space for the other two camp goalies, Mike Lee (PHX) and Jack Campbell, heading into the 2009-10 season. St. Cloud bound Lee manned the 8-1 opening night victory, while Michigan recruit Campbell played well in Wednesday's 6-1 win. It is unclear who will assume Knapp's slot in the finale. When things were heating up for the Americans in Lake Placid, teams Red and White split a pair of games in Saskatoon as Canada wrapped up their U20 camp last weekend. Throughout the two games, White's Luke Adam did what he does best by producing offense. The 6'2 forward deftly backhanded a pass to a streaking Louis Leblanc to set up a goal in Saturday's 5-2 win. The next night, he awed those in attendance by freezing a defender and roofing a quick wrister over Matt Hackett's shoulder. Adam gave it his best amongst a talented group of forwards and is no doubt better from the experience. Returning blueliner Tyler Myers was controlling in both ends for Team White and is essentially a lock to be part of Canada's leadership core if not on the Sabres roster. The 6'8 defenseman pointed in Sunday's 5-3 loss when a rebound of his power-play point shot was buried by Ryan O'Reilly (COL) to open scoring. Sabres' 2009 blue-chipper Zack Kassian did not register a point all weekend for the Reds, but was a tone-setter with his physical style and willingness to battle. Canada brought lots of beef to camp, and Kassian did not disappoint. After previously lining up with Philippe Cornet (EDM) and Adam Henrique (NJ), the 6'3 Kassian skated third-line minutes with 6'4 Josh Brittain (ANA) and 6'5 Joe Colborne (BOS) in Sunday's win. The Pete's banger made a solid impression, teeing up fellow OHLer Matt Clark with attitude while seeming to be in general disagreement with young gun Evander Kane (ATL) as the game progressed. Kassian did have a role in the biggest camp dust up, as it was his feed to Jordan Caron (BOS) on Saturday that gave Colten Tuebert (LA) the space to knock the QMJHL forward out of commission for 6-8 weeks with a blindside open-ice hit. Per the video, Kassian opted for discipline over natural instinct when considering a retort.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sabres trio enjoys summer 'Toon up

Three Sabres prospects are in Saskatoon this week for Canada's U20 Summer Development Camp. A group of 45 players will showcase their talents for Hockey Canada brass, highlighted by the annual Red/White scrimmages on Saturday and Sunday. 6'8 blueliner Tyler Myers will skate for Team White, getting paired with fellow Albertan Dylan Olsen. One of two Junior A players in camp, the Duluth-bound Olsen is like Myers in that he was born in the United States (Salt Lake City, UT), but represents Canada in international competition. Meanwhile, Myers remains humble despite the possibility that the camp may be null and void if he sticks with the Sabres this fall.
“Having played last year, I have a pretty good idea what to expect at camp, but I’m not looking at it as though I’ve got it made and I’m a shoo-in,” said Myers, 19, who scored a goal and posted a plus-5 rating at last year’s WJC. “It’s going to be an intense camp again. The experience last year was nice, but I still want to go make sure the coaches know I deserve to be there.”
Cape Breton left wing Luke Adam, 19, joins Myers on the White roster. The 6'2 left wing will team with center Ryan O'Reilly of the Erie Otters, and Quebec Remparts speedster Kelsey Tessier. Adam was the Sabres 2nd round pick (44th overall) in 2008. Zack Kassian, 18, will bang his drum as a Team Red right wing. One month removed from a turf toe injury that the kept him off the ice at Niagara U, the Windsor, Ontario product skated opposite Philippe Cornet (Rimouski) and center Adam Henrique (Windsor) in Wednesday's opening practice. Kassian, 6'3, 215 pounds, had two goals and three assists for Canada at the U18s back in April.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mid-summer heats up as 2009-10 looms

With the summer season hitting its second phase, national evaluation camps are hitting the radar as players ramp-up for the 2009-10 season. Miami University sophomore Connor Knapp will be one of four goaltenders and 43 players overall in Lake Placid, NY for USA Hockey's U20 Evaluation Camp running from August 8th-17th. The Americans will play three intra-squad scrimmages before a four-game set ensues against a team of Russian hopefuls. Dmitri Kugryshev (WAS), Kirill Petrov (NYI), and Andrei Loktionov (LAK) will be among the Russian shooters testing Knapp. Drafted players Nikita Filatov (CBS), Dmitry Kulikov (FLA), and Igor Bobkov (ANA) will not participate, nor will top '10 eligibles Kirill Kabanov and Evgeny Kuznetsov. A reader recently questioned Knapp's inclusion on the USA invite list, suggesting that he can't be a serious contender since another freshman ended the year as Miami's starting goaltender. I'm not sure that's a valid argument. While that was the case in Oxford, Cody Reichard was definitely more experienced as a 22-year old freshman compared to the 18-year old Knapp, and thus got the call for Miami down the stretch. A 6'5 EJHL product and former Rochester high school standout, Knapp went 13-5-3 with a 2.09 GAA to earn CCHA All-Rookie honors as a "true" freshman and recently performed well at the Sabres Development Camp. The invite is warranted when looking at it from that angle. Over the border, Tyler Myers, Zack Kassian, and Luke Adam will be in Saskatoon for Canada's National Junior Team Development Camp from August 5th-10th. The camp roster consists of 41 forwards and defensemen, and four goaltenders. Red/White scrimmages will be held on August 8th and 9th. A veteran of Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence, Myers returns after he and Keith Aulie (CAL) performed as the top shutdown combo for the 2009 gold medal winners. The 6'8 Calgarian struck gold a year earlier at the U18's in Kazan, Russia. Kassian, 18, played with Brayden McNabb on Canada's 4th place entry at U18's in Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN this past April. Last summer, he was an U18 gold medalist at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial. The camp will be the first world junior invite for Adam. The 19-year old forward serves as the sole representative from Hockey Newfoundland & Labrador. A week prior to the U20 activities, Bob Boughner and his U18 Summer Team staff will host 38 2010 drafts eligibles and a pair of 2011's in Calgary for Canada's Hlinka selection camp. Team USA has already finalized their U18 Select Team roster for the tourney that will be held in Slovakia and the Czech Republic from August 11th-15th. In Europe, German hockey association DEB concluded their summer camp in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. In a competitive setback, bench boss Uwe Krupp was without the luxury of any NHL players in his five-day gathering.
The candidates from the National Hockey League – Robert Dietrich, Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, Philipp Gogulla, Thomas Greiss, Jochen Hecht, Christoph Schubert, Felix Schütz and Marco Sturm – will not join the camp due to insurance reasons after discussions between DEB and the players.
Back on North American soil, the Sabres selection of Marcus Foligno continues to draw positive press. A blue-collar, Buffalo-born player getting drafted by the same team that his father once wore the "C" for makes for a story worth following.
Mike, who is also the head coach and general manager of the Sudbury Wolves, said it was his son’s physical play and competitive spirit that made him stand out on the ice this year. “Everybody knows he’s a physical player,” the coach said. “He’s the type of guy who wants to win, he cares about his teammates, and he knows the physical game is his strength.” Marcus said he will be bringing his energy and strong work ethic to the Sabres organization. “Knowing you have your teammates looking at you to make something happen, to just spark them up and give the energy back to the team,” he said. “There’s nothing better than trying to put up points in the NHL and it’s one thing I’m capable of. I just need to keep working hard as the off-season goes on ... to develop into an NHL player.” Marcus said his goal for the remainder of the off-season is to continue getting bigger and stronger. “This is a player that has worked very hard to accomplish this first step of making it to the NHL, and he’s paid the price both on and off the ice,” the Wolves’ head coach said. “I think Marcus is really motivated right now to accomplish the dream of playing in the NHL.”
Mid-July also saw the annual Stanley Keg tournament play out in Montreal.
Held in the vibrant city of Montreal, the Montreal Stanley Keg is a summer hockey tournament that features eight teams of professional players from across North America. The trophy is an actual beer keg with a cup (similar to the Stanley Cup) mounted on the top, and the winning team gets its members’ names engraved on the trophy. The tournament is held at the beautiful 4 Glaces Sportplexe Pierrefonds facility and runs from July 17th – 19th, 2009.
NHLers Jason Pominville, Alex Burrows, and Guillaume Latendresse skated for the same side in the no-contact 5-5 summer staple. Other notables in the shinny included 2008-09 Portland Pirates Mathieu Darche and Kenny MacAulay, and Harvard's Danny and Michael Biega, brother of current Sabres defensive prospect, Alex. Marc-Andre Gragnani was a member of the winning side last season. Another summer happening of Quebecois flavor involves former Sabres property, Benjamin Breault (2006, 7th round). After completing five years of QMJHL service, the 5'10 offensive forward has signed on with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Adam to join Myers at U20 camp

Luke Adam of the Montreal Juniors and returning defenseman Tyler Myers of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to the roster for Hockey Canada's 2010 National Junior Team Development Camp. The preliminary evaluation of Canada's 2010 World Junior entry will take place August 5th through 10th in the host city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Back to skating after rupturing his spleen in a game on February 8th, the camp will follow Adam's expected participation in the Sabres prospects camp shortly after the draft. The 6'1, 201-pound forward scored 22 goals and 27 assists for the Juniors before missing the final month and a half of the season.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rockets fall to Windsor; Myers named All-Tourney

Congratulations to the Windsor Spitfires for winning the 2009 Mastercard Memorial Cup thanks to their 4-1 victory over the Kelowna Rockets on Sunday. The Spits found net on their first three shots before the first TV timeout, and held on over the final 53:00 to bring the Cup to Windsor for the first time in team history. With junior hockey's final game of the season in the books, so too is the busiest 14 months in the career of Rockets dman Tyler Myers. The 6'8 defenseman scored the first goal of the tournament and added three assists in three round robin games before finishing -1 in the final. Steady with the puck and tough to get around throughout, Myers, who was also named WHL Playoff MVP, was named to the tournament all-star team in a nice ramp-up for NHL duty in 2009-10. But first the dust must settle on what was a long 2008-09 for Myers. First round exit from the 2008 WHL playoffs last March... Off to Russia two weeks later to skate for Canada at the U18s... To Toronto for NHL Combine in late May... Drafted by Buffalo in June... Prospect camp at Niagara U in July... Team Canada Development Camp a couple weeks after... Off to Kelowna's camp in August... Then to his first Sabres training camp and preseason appearance... Back to Kelowna for the season grind... Off to Ottawa to tryout for Team Canada... Wins U20 World Junior Gold... January comes, and Myers the prospect becomes Myers the more confident beast as a result of his one goal, +5 outing at the WJC's. Still 18 years old, he had played 27 WHL games leading up to IIHF tourney, racking up a respectable four goals, 16 assists, and a +9 rating. In his next 53 games including the WHL playoffs, the right-side anchor kept pace with 10 goals and 32 assists, all the while improving his even strength effectiveness with a remarkable +35 rating. In all, the exhausted Myers played a total of 90 games that counted in the standings in 2008-09. There may never be another calendar year as grueling as this one. May Myers enjoy his accomplishments and get some well-deserved rest.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Cup showdown on tap

It's a gorgeous, peaceful Sunday in Buffalo, but the mood on the ice for the Memorial Cup title in Rimouski could get nasty as Tyler Myers and WHL champion Kelowna Rockets do battle with OHL powerhouse Windsor Spitfires today at 4:30 EST. Here's a quick drive-by on what should be a fantastic championship showdown. Myers has been an absolute man-amongst-boys for the Rockets this postseason. With a high-level of confidence gained from his World Junior experience under veteran NHL man Pat Quinn, the months of January through May have seen the 6'8 rearguard's assessment morph from 'solid developing prospect' into 'surefire, shutdown blueliner by the time he's 23'. While the quick Windsor attack may keep Myers' focus on his end, look for the fleet-footed right-hander to gallop up ice when the space permits. After losing their first two games of the tournament, the Spits stayed alive with a 2-1 regulation win over the Rockets on Tuesday (not reported here. Myers was -2 with an assist. looked fatigued). With his team rested, Myers and main offensive weapon Jamie Benn (DAL) should be ready to enact revenge in the game that matters most. Players To Watch Windsor's line of LW Taylor Hall ('10), C Adam Henrique (NJ), and RW Greg Nemisz (CAL) have dictated a lightning pace since the Spits opening losses. With the speedy Hall leading the charge, the trio is quick to penetrate the zone where Nemisz's big body and Henrique's craftiness keep it there. Windsor LW Lane MacDermid is an undrafted 19-year old who could be a prime target for any club looking to address team toughness. The hard-skating 6'3, 200+ disturber exhibited his authoritative ability to finish checks in the semifinal when he absolutely leveled Drummondville's Ryan McKiernan into the boards. There's a lot to like about his game. Prized secondary option Andrei Loktionov (LA) has kept up with the top line, using slick stickhandling and sniping to score two goals and four assists through the tournament thus far. Highly touted puck mover Ryan Ellis is a name that many will see going to Buffalo on NHL mock draft sights. A generous 5'11, Ellis is cool and smart with the puck, but is not what the Sabres need in the first round of the draft. Along with WHL playoff MVP Myers and Mem Cup leading scorer Benn (3 GP 5-3-8), the Rockets offense is fueled by Mikael Backlund (CAL), Cody Almond (MIN), and Colin Long (PHX). Backlund remained in North America after skating for Sweden in the World Juniors, and gave Kelowna a much-needed playmaker to keep the opponent off balance. A potential 2nd-3rd round pick next month, undersized defenseman Tyson Barrie moves the puck very well and brings excellent vision to the power play, but is still prone to the occasional 5-5 mistake. He essentially is Kelowna's version of Windsor QB Ellis. Shunning a commitment to Denver of the WCHA, RW Stepan Novotny had a strong regular season in his draft year for Kelowna with 19 goals and 41 points, but has tapered off with just seven points in 25 post-season games. Collin Bowman is another 2009 eligible who is more of a stay-at-home type. At 6'2, 200 pounds, his decision making has improved enough to earn a look from teams in the 4th-5th round neighborhood come draft time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Myers continues cruise as Dubbers dump Drummondville

Tyler Myers feathered an assist and sparkled defensively as Kelowna closed well in a 6-4 win over QMJHL champion Drummondville. Winning their first two round robin games with one left to play against 0-2 Windsor, the Rockets are guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup final on Sunday. Dallas prospect Jamie Benn paced the victors with four goals and an assist, while Cody Almond (OTT) scored the other pair including a beautiful insurance marker that went through a defenseman's wickets before beating Marco Cousineau five-hole. The steady Myers finished +3 for the second straight game while seeing nearly 28:00 of work. A mobile 6'8 workhorse whose beautiful pass started the Rockets third scoring play, Myers' physical dominance remains a major storyline for the WHL champs. He consistently sealed forecheckers from the puck, and leaned into a couple of strong finishes on the evening. In the middle third period, the 6'8 defender dished a crunching hit in the corner that resulted in a short shift for the shaken recipient. It's easy to see that big game experience has made him more of a confident initiator. Myers later embraced the role of crease protector (albeit via non-traditional means) when he dragged Yannick Riendeau out of the Rockets net by the scruff of his jersey as the forward took his time removing himself after a collision with goaltender Mark Guggenberger. Staying behind the play to do so, the defenseman illustrated a keen understanding that his role as a primary shutdown player doesn't always involve a play on the puck. Another point of physical dominance arrived horizontally, as the length that is usually employed vertically in the form of a pokecheck proved handy on a few occasions to block shots and passes to the front. Quick to react, Myers' 6'8 frame becomes an impermeable 10-foot glacier real fast when he drops to the ice. It's also worth mentioning that while Myers has a great stride, he hasn't had to chase much due to sound positioning. He's engaged in the play, giving his goalie room to see around him.. Myers and his mates will close their round robin on Tuesday against a Windsor club needing a win to stay alive. Puck drops at 7:00.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Myers sharp in opener

At the Memorial Cup in Rimouski, recently-inked Tyler Myers had a goal, two assists, and a game-high +3 as Kelowna defeated the host Oceanic, 4-1. His #2 star effort from the back end anchored a dominant Rockets attack as the two clubs opened the 91st gathering of Canadian junior's best. The towering defenseman started things off with his even strength goal at 6:33 of the first period. Myers skated around a forward before snapping a 30-foot wrister against the grain through traffic to beat Maxime Gougeon just inside the short-side pipe. The Rockets brought the heat early, firing 14 of the game's first 16 shots. At 4:33 of period two, Myers set-up the eventual game winner when his power play one-timer pinballed off Marc-Andre Bourdon's skate to a waiting Jamie Benn. The game's #1 star, Benn matched Myers with a goal and two assists. Just 1:19 later, Myers would draw an assist as Ian Duval settled a beautiful saucer pass from Mikael Backlund on the fly and roofed the puck over Gougeon's left shoulder. The Oceanic goalkeeper was busy all night, stopping 38 shots in defeat to earn the #3 star. The Nics were rusty after not playing since April 22, and facing a shutdown player like Myers didn't help their cause. The blueliner was playing the body, disrupting shots and flow with his supreme reach, and finding teammates and shooting lanes seemingly on every shift. Strong and cool, it was pleasant to see a Sabres property dump an oncoming checker with a forearm shiver after making a play like he did in the first period. In the third, he enjoyed a post-whistle Greco-Roman session with 6'5 Keven Veilleux to earn offsetting roughing minors, after which he politely declined the invitation to "go" with the frustrated Nics forward. A steady controlling presence, it's Myers' mobility that makes him a special player to watch. Midway through the second period, he retrieved a puck behind his net and galloped past everyone down the left side into the Nics end. You just don't see 6'8 skaters as fleeting as the WHL playoff MVP is. Those catching the 19-year old this evening for the first time on national television should probably get used to it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sabres sign Myers

2008 first-round draft pick Tyler Myers has come to terms on a three-year entry level deal with the Sabres. Press release from the Sabres: “Tyler is having an outstanding year with the Kelowna Rockets,” said General Manager Darcy Regier. “This past weekend he led the Rockets to the Western Hockey League Championship where he was named playoff MVP. He is a big, strong player who has excellent hockey skills for a 19-year old player. We’re glad to have him signed and look forward to his continued development both on and off the ice.” Myers (6’8”, 215 lbs., 2/1/1990) is about to put the finishing touches on an incredible season, as his Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League have advanced to the Memorial Cup Championship that begins this week in Quebec. Myers played a huge role in the team’s postseason success, being named the WHL Playoff MVP by finishing with 20 points (5+15) and +13 in 22 games. This follows up a regular season where Myers scored a career-high 42 points (9+33) in 58 games for the Rockets, along with a +31 and 105 PIMs. The towering defenseman was also a key element of the Canadian team that won gold at the 2009 World Junior Championships in Ottawa. Myers had one goal in seven games for Team Canada, and drew rave reviews for his smooth skating and puck-moving abilities. Myers also won gold with Team Canada at the 2008 Under-18 World Championship in Russia, and he captained Team Alberta to a bronze medal at the 2007 Canada Winter Games. Myers had 77 points (17+60) in 191 games for Kelowna from 2005-09, after being drafted 19th overall as a 15-year-old in the 2005 WHL Draft. Myers was born in Katy, TX, but his family moved to Alberta when he was 10 years old. He now makes his home in Calgary, AB.