The 2009-10 season has been a coming-out party for Luke Adam. With 49 goals in 56 games this year, Adam was second in the QMJHL in scoring and fifth in overall points with 90. Along the way he collected player of the month honors in October, helped Canada win silver at the WJC, and was named to the QMJHL’s First All-Star Team.
His progression this year has been a revelation and he was rewarded at the end of the junior season with a contract for the Sabres. Next year he will continue his development in the AHL and could make some call-up appearances for the Sabres.
Zack Kassian, Right Wing
Windsor Spitfires, OHL
6’2" 212 lbs. 1st Round, 13th selection 2009
January 24, 1991
After a 20-game suspension in the middle of the season, Kassian picked up right where he left off in Windsor, scoring three goals in the final four games of the regular season. So far in the playoffs he has really made his presence felt with 10 points in eight games, while helping to lead the Spitfires to the OHL Western Conference Finals.
While the offensive numbers are very good, Kassian’s on-ice presence makes him valuable. You can’t help but notice his relentless fore-checking, punishing hits, and nasty swagger on the ice. With the emergence of Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe, Kassian will need to make a statement in training camp next year for a shot at making the Sabres. The more likely scenario is one more year in the OHL.
There are many reasons to be excited about Sabres 2009 third-round pick Brayden McNabb. He has very good offensive numbers from the back end with 17 goals and 40 assists, good enough for sixth in defensive scoring in the WHL. Defensively he has been solid, putting up a respectable -5 on a mediocre Kootenay team. His willingness to drop the gloves has not gone unnoticed either, with seven fighting majors in the regular season.
McNabb will continue in the WHL next year.
Jacob Lagace, Left Wing
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL
5’11" 195 lbs. 5th Round, 134th selection 2008
January 9, 1990
Lagace finished the season second to Adam in scoring for Cape Breton with 73 points. He wasn’t quite as effective offensively since being traded in January, but he has quietly put up a nice season in the QMJHL. Lagace has developed into a good two-way forward with soft hands and the ability to put up solid offensive numbers.
Along with Adam, Lagace was given a tryout contract with Portland and will be joining the AHL franchise for the playoff run. Expect him to fit in nicely on the second line in the AHL next year and probably be in development for a couple seasons before having a real shot at making the Sabres.
Maxime Legault, Right Wing
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL
6’1” 195 lbs. 7th Round, 194th selection 2009
March 28, 1989
Legault is the oldest player that the Sabres have in junior this year. Getting traded mid-year from Shawinigan to Cape Breton in the QMJHL, he joined fellow Sabres prospects Adam and Lagace. While not as offensively talented as either of those two, he plays a good, hard-nosed two-way game and should fit in nicely as a role player in the minors.
Legault will most likely land a role in the AHL next year where he will fit in as a third or fourth liner. He has limited offensive upside but is feisty enough to stick around and make a push as a role winger in the NHL someday.
Marcus Foligno, Left Wing
Sudbury Wolves, OHL
6’3” 216 lbs. 4th Round, 104th selection 2009
August 10, 1991
The Sabres knew they were drafting a project when they selected Marcus Foligno out of Sudbury in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. With all the physical tools to be a very effective future NHLer, the risk was worth the reward. This season Foligno took some important steps in justifying that selection. His offensive totals went up, from scoring 30 points to 39. The most telling was how Foligno bettered his defensive game, improving his plus/minus from -21 in 2008-09 to a -3 this year.
Foligno also added some weight to his frame and began to really make his physical presence known. He will still need another year in the OHL to further develop, but his performance this year has been encouraging.
Nick Crawford, Defense
Barrie Colts, OHL
6’0" 183 lbs. 6th Round, 164th selection 2008
February 23, 1990
Besides Adam, Crawford has been the biggest pleasant surprise of all the Sabres junior prospects. While he has steadily improved his offensive totals each year in the OHL, the 2009-10 season has been his coming-out party. Crawford led all OHL defensemen in scoring with 70 points in 60 games and he, along with St. Louis prospect Alex Pietrangelo, has been a big reason why the Colts will be playing in the Eastern Conference Championship.
Crawford has displayed his great vision in his ability to make the accurate first pass on the breakout. He showed maturity in his game by posting a staggering +51, tops in the OHL. Crawford will more than likely be suiting up in the AHL next year and has an outside shot of being a regular call-up if he can stand out in training camp.
Jordon Southorn, Defense
Prince Edward Island Rockets, QMJHL
6’3” 181 lbs. 4th Round, 104th selection 2008
May 15, 1990
Southorn has had an up and down season for the PEI Rockets in the QMJHL this year. His point totals have dropped in each of the last two years, partly because he has tried to become more responsible in his own end. The results have been mixed, as he still makes some questionable decisions with the puck.
Southorn must be signed by June 1. He has great physical tools and is a good skater with enough potential that he could probably be retained and sign. However, because of the Sabres great depth at defense, it is really going to be an uphill battle for Southorn moving forward.
Along with Foligno, Adams probably has the longest road to get to the NHL of all the Sabres junior prospects. He was the only Sabres prospect in the USHL this year and he will be attending Providence College next year. Making the jump from Massachusetts high school hockey to the Chicago Steel of the USHL has had its ups and downs for Adams. He finished the season with 14 points in 53 games on a very young defense.
Adams plays a two-way defensive game and can move the puck out of the zone. He still needs to fill out his late-growing body a bit. Adams will have to adjust yet again next year as he makes the jump from junior A to Division 1 college hockey, but he has the luxury of time in his development. He’s a long shot for the NHL.