Jhonas Enroth – Still developing his craft at the AHL level, there is no rush for Enroth to make the jump to the NHL. With Ryan Miller between the pipes for 70 games a year in Buffalo, Enroth has been getting the bulk of the starts in the AHL over partner Jean-Philippe Lamoureux. In 19 games this year, Enroth is 10-9-1 with a save percentage of .905. His goals against average is 2.79 and he has one shutout. He was called up to Buffalo in early November and found himself on the wrong end of a 4-2 loss to the division rival Boston Bruins. The 21-year-old still has plenty of time to develop.
Marc-Andre Gragnani – Gragnani missed significant time this year with a strained ligament in his knee. In his 19 games, Gragnani has 12 points including three goals. He’s on the power play for the Pirates and has showed some flexibility by moving up to the wing, allowing Portland to rely on him as a swing player. The 22-year-old Quebec native has only six NHL games under his belt in prior years, but has back-to-back 50-point seasons in the HFlinkstyle”>AHL on his resume. His offensive skills should make him a valuable piece to a Buffalo blue line in coming years.
Dennis Persson – Not quite a puck-moving defenseman, Persson has been making some adjustments in his first full season in North America. The 2006 first rounder is struggling defensively, with a -4 rating this season and missed a couple weeks with a concussion. Once the 21-year-old Swedish native adjusts to the North American style, his game should round out in his own end. There are a number of defensemen ahead of him on the prospect depth chart, so a positive for Persson is that he has been used as a forward in five consecutive games leading up to the holiday break. This versitility could open more doors.
Drew Schiestel – A defenseman who can play both ends of the ice, Schiestel is his first pro season with Portland. At only 20, he has struggled a bit to get his offense going putting up only six points on the season thus far. His +2 rating with only six minutes in penalties shows that he is playing effectively in his own end. He should spend the year developing with Portland, seeing time on the power play and penalty kill. He should serve as an injury call-up for Buffalo next season.
Mike Weber – With nine points in 33 games, Weber is also +17 this season, and has been excellent in his own end. Physical by nature, Weber has 50 minutes in penalties thus far. He will challenge for a full-time roster spot in Buffalo next season and is in the running for making the PlanetUSA roster for the AHL All-Star game in Portland. Weber’s play this year should warrant a call-up as the 22-year-old native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the best defenseman in the organization not yet playing in the NHL.
Matt Generous – Generous has had a good first season in the AHL. In 27 games, Generous has six points and a +6. He missed a couple weeks due to an ankle laceration. Of late, he’s been paired with Gragnani on the point. At 6’3”, Generous has big-league size, but at the age of 24 the clock is ticking. He needs more time to develop before he can make the jump to the NHL full or part-time.
Mike Kostka – With eight points in 32 games, Kostka has been able to generate some decent personal statistics this season. at the American League level. But he has a -2 rating and has not shown signs of solid defensive play. Like Generous, Kostka is 24, and needs to show that he deserves a call-up to the Sabres. Rounding out his game in the AHL is the first step.
T.J. Brennan – With only four points in 24 games this season, offense isn’t the specialty for Brennan. A plus-1 rating in his rookie season, he is not afraid to play a physical brand of hockey and could play a shutdown role for the Sabres in the future. With 52 penalty minutes on the season, Brennan is only two behind Joe DiPenta for team lead. The 20-year-old New Jersey native plays a physical, rough-and-tumble style that will benefit the Sabres when he is ready. Listed at 6’0 and 208 lbs, he is no stranger to the sin bin.
Tyler Ennis – The 20-year-old rookie sits atop the AHL scoring race, giving the Sabres the potential to have back-to-back AHL rookie of the year honors (Gerbe last season). Ennis is a playmaker, but also has the ability to put the puck in the net. He has 28 points in 33 games this season for the Pirates. In his NHL debut on Nov. 14, Ennis netted his first NHL goal against Philadelphia. Listed at 5’9”, Ennis is the prototypical Sabre forward with high-end speed and skill to his game. Ennis plays on the team’s top line alongside Mark Mancari as well as on the top power play unit.
Nathan Gerbe – This feisty forward produces despite his diminutive size. The former Frozen Four MVP with Boston College has shown flashes of offensive brilliance in his young career. In his first pro season last year, the 5’5 Gerbe tallied 56 points in 57 games, 30 of them goals. Gerbe’s performance earned him the AHL Rookie of the Year. His play this season, however, has shown more playmaking ability and his 20 points in 23 games were enough to earn him a call-up to the Sabres. Gerbe had a two-point game including his first NHL goal on Dec. 9 against the Washington Capitals. The 22-year-old is currently still on the Sabres roster, but is only an injury replacement. He missed a couple weeks with a concussion earlier this year, and is currently day-to-day with groin-related issues.
Philippe Gogulla – The 22-year-old native of Germany has 16 points in 30 games this season. Gogulla has been able to maintain a rating of +6, showing that he has been good at both ends of the ice. He should be a mainstay in Portland this season as there are forwards ahead of him in the prospect pecking order, but if Gogulla continues to produce, he will be a call-up player for Buffalo next season. Although he is playing outside of the NHL, Gogulla has an outside chance to make the Olympics for Germany.
Tim Kennedy – With 11 points in 35 games this season, the 23-year-old Kennedy is showing some maturity in his first season in the NHL. After a solid year in Portland last year, Kennedy parlayed it into a job on the Sabres and this year has even spent time on a line with Thomas Vanek. Kennedy’s production should be maintained at the same pace throughout the year as the Buffalo, New York native continues learning the game at the NHL level.
Paul Byron – Byron is another rookie for the Pirates suiting up regularly this season. The 20-year-old has 14 points in 24 games this season, showing capability that he can play at the American League level. He has been thrust into position as a center after being drafted as a winger out of junior. The Ottawa, Ontario native has a -4 rating thus far.
Felix Schutz – Schutz is another German prospect in the Sabre organization. He has 13 points and a +2 in 27 games this season with the Pirates. Schutz missed some games this season with a concussion. He will need to step up to improve production over his rookie year. With more experience his game will improve, but he is not one of the Sabres blue chippers. He is in the running for a position on a German squad for the Olympics, however, there is no guarantee that the 22-year-old will crack the squad.
Derek Whitmore – With 14 points in 31 games, Whitmore is poised to set a career high in points this season. He has shown signs of developing, but now at the age of 25, needs to make the jump soon before he is relegated to a career in minor-pro hockey. He recently scored his first power-play goal of the season which may help get the monkey off his back.