Sabres center prospects: Mid-season report Card

By pbadmin

Today we will wrap things up by looking at Buffalo’s prospects at the center
position.

Star rating read as follows:

5 stars = Superstar potential

4 stars = A First Rate NHL player. Above average player

3 stars = Good NHL future. An average NHL player.

2 stars = Good minor league player. A below average NHL player.

1 star = Career minor leaguer. Emergency NHL help.

Centers:

:

Torrey DiRoberto   5-11    180     19      Seattle (WHL)  2 ½ stars

Acquire: 1997 5th round Draft pick, 128th overall

Stats look: as of 1/15/98

15gm 7g 6a 13 pts +2 17 pim

Torrey was drafted last year as a 19-year-old. He is like Brian
Holzinger, similar size, skill and speed. Though perhaps a better
natural passer.

The 97-98 season has proven a difficult one for Torrey. First, he was injured
during last season playoff run. The result was shoulder surgery, which the
Sabres medical team recommended. This kept him out of the Sabres training
camp, plus most of the first three months of the WHL season. He only began to
play in late November. Being out for so long more than likely destroyed his
chances of making national team for the World Junior Championships. Though he
was invited to tryout camp, the coaching staff felt he wasn’t in good enough
game shape and they released him.

Next season he will more than likely be playing in Rochester, provided he
signs with Buffalo. His long term future is unknown.

Jeff Martin        6-2     177     18      Windsor (OHL)  2 ½ stars

Acquire: 1997 3rd Round Draft pick, 75th overall (3B).

Stats look: as of 1/18/98

45gm 24g 36a 60pts -9 30pim

Jeff Martin is a player of average skill, size and ability who plays at both ends of the ice. Right now, Jeff is seeing large
amounts of ice time, and he is proving to be a better than average OHL
player.

His main strength is his natural hockey sense. He
seems to have a good understanding of positional hockey. This aids him in
creating scoring chances, through good passing, and aggressive offensive play.
His main weakness is his strength, especially in his upper body. He must also work on defensive game.
Though he works hard defensively, he doesn’t have the physical edge he needs.

If he gets
bigger and stronger in the next two year, he will increase his chances by a
large factor.

Darren Mortier     6-1     175     19      Kitchener (OHL)  1 stars

Acquire: 1996 6th Round Draft pick, 161st overall.

Stats look: as of 1/15/98

36gm 12g 18a 30 pts +5 25pim

Darren was recently traded from his hometown team of Sarnia to Kitchener in
the OHL. That may be the only thing worth mentioning. Though Darren is a
nice OHL player, he appears to have little chance of being offered a
professional contract by Buffalo. He doesn’t have enough pure skill or flair,
and he hardly has enough size or toughness to truly to warrant one.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Darren returned to the OHL next year as an overage
junior player, but at this stage, his hockey future appears limited.

NHL Future: none

Scott Nichol       5-8     160     22      Rochester (AHL) 2 ½ stars

Acquire: 1993 11th Round Draft pick, 272nd overall.

Stats look: As of 1/16/98


Buffalo (NHL): 3gm 0g 0a 0pts 0 4 pim
Rochester (AHL): 35gm 13g 7a 20 pts -10 113pim

Scott Nichol has to be one of the most enjoyable players to watch. Though he may be one of the smaller player in the entire AHL, he
also may be one of the toughest.

He plays the game one way and one way only, all out. He will hit anyone,
anywhere and anyhow. He plays both nasty and at times dirty. He will fight
anyone, no matter how big. He skates all out at all times. He may be one of
the better checker in the AHL. All this from a kid who is barely 5 foot 8
inches tall, and weights but 165 pound soaking wet.

You have to wonder what type of player Scott could be if he was only six feet
tall. He plays the game with more guts drive and heart than most players.
His style, toughness, heart and total commitment have made him a personal
favorite among the Sabres brass. He was praised heavily during training camp
by Sabres Coach Lindy Ruff. He has been called up on a couple of occasions
this season. Each time he did not look out of place. The main problem is
Buffalo is already the smallest team in the NHL, and they can hardly afford
another small player in their lineup.

Scott biggest single strength is his toughness, however Scott does posses a
lot of skill. Though he won’t get confused with the great goal scorers of the
game, he can contribute to the game offensively. Scott truly has no weakness
besides his size. Though sometimes he plays a tad too aggressive and this
leads to dump penalties.

Scott Nichol will play in the NHL somewhere soon. He has all the skill, and toughness to be a better than average
NHL player. However, with every team looking for size, he will always
struggle to gain a place on any roster. Unless
Buffalo players have a massive growth spurt, or Buffalo trades for six big
forwards, Scott’s best chance at the NHL will lie in another city.

Kamil Piros        6-1     183     18      Litinov (Czech Rep.)  3 stars

Acquire: 1997 8th Round Draft pick, 212th overall.

Stats look: as of 1/10/98


Litinov No statistical information.
Czech Rep. 7 gm 2-6 8pts 6pim

At
this year’s World Junior Championships, he showed he is a big time playmaker. He skates well, and plays
the game head up. Not much physical presence, and that will need to
be worked on if he is to make it to the next level. He did lead the Czech
Rep. in scoring at the recent WJC, and he finished tied for tenth in the
tournament in points totally eight in seven games.

Hopefully next year he will make himself available for the CHL import draft.
Playing in North America will only help his career.

Wayne Primeau      6-3     197     21      Buffalo (AHL)  3 stars

Acquire: 1994 1st Round Draft pick, 17th overall.

Stats look: as of 1/19/98

38gm 2g 1a 3 pts 0 58pim

For
more than a year, Wayne Primeau has been used solely as center. More
specifically, as the teams forth line center. The result has been both
positive and negative. On the positive side, Wayne has developed his checking
skills. He is now a very good checker, and his defensive game has improved a
lot. However, Wayne Primeau was not drafted to be a dominate checker. He was
drafted because he was a big guy who had good offensive upside. We have seen
absolutely none of the upside.

The main reason Wayne has shown no offensive here in Buffalo is because he
plays with pitiful talent in Brad May and Rob Ray. Buffalo needs to do one of two things with Wayne.

First, ship him to Rochester and let him play as a number one center, or should shift him to the wing position. Buffalo needs more
size on the wing as it is, and many people thought that was the idea all
along. If Buffalo is going to let Erik Rasmussen develop into a future
center than the wing position is the only logical place for him.

As far a strengths and weaknesses go, Wayne is a fantastic skater. For a big
man, he moves about as good as anyone. His biggest downside is his lack of
upper body strength. That has hurt him with faceoffs and puck control.
Though he has spent a lot of time trying to get strong.

My biggest fear is that the fans will eventually get down on Wayne. People
expect him to play like his big brother, Keith Primeau. If he does not begin
to fulfill his promise, the result could be that the organization gives up on
him. That would be a huge mistake. Keith Primeau didn’t being to truly
dominate until his fifth year in the NHL. Detroit gave him plenty of time to
develop, despite a lot of pressure to trade him. Once he was fully developed,
look what they were able to get in return, Brendan Shanahan.

Erik Rasmussen     6-2     207     21      Rochester (AHL) 3 ½ stars

Acquire: 1996 1st Round Draft pick, 7th overall.

Stats look: as of 1/16/98


Buffalo (NHL): 19gm 2g 3a 5pts +3 14pim
Rochester (AHL): 20gm 2g 7a 9pts -1 20pim

Erik Rasmussen has struggled since making the jump form college hockey to the
NHL. Though he did not look out of place when playing up in Buffalo, Sabres
management feared he was not getting going to develop fully, playing six to
eight minutes a night. The decision to send him to Rochester was a smart one.
Erik is truly one of the cornerstones of Buffalo’s future. He must develop
into a complete and dominate offensive power forward. The more ice time he
receives, no matter where it is, the quicker he will fulfill all his promise.

Currently Erik is struggling to find his way in the AHL. He has learned how to be a physically
dominating player. He skates well and he knows how to use his size. What he
hasn’t figured out is how to use his size to help himself offensively. Erik
must stop running around the offensive zone looking to make big hits. He
needs to get that big powerful body in front of the net, and in the corners.
Very few players can handle his strength, and until he starts playing more
discipline hockey, the offense simply will not come.

Erik has no one strength. He was drafted because he had the complete package.
Size, skill, skating, toughness, attitude, and raw ability. It’s the raw
ability that must be shaped. Once he refines that he’ll get recalled and then
we’ll find out how much progress he has made. The key weaknesses. He is
starting to overcome one, that was to understand what it takes to be a
professional hockey player. He still hasn’t over come that fully, as he tends
to “coast” on certain nights. Another weakness is he must learn how to use
his size to his advantage. Taking penalties, and hitting everything that
moves isn’t what he needs to be doing. Rasmussen must learn what Eric Lindros
had to, that is to pick your spots, and make the opponent spot you.

Patrice Tariff     6-1     202     28      Rochester (AHL)  2 ½ stars

Acquire: Signed as a free agent summer 1997.

Stats look: as of 1/16/98

37gm 11g 11a 22pts +5 68pim

Patrice Tariff was signed as an emergency player. He will only get called up
if both Derek Planet and Brian Holzinger go down with injuries. Right now his
play in the AHL has been anything but great.

NHL Future: Give Nashville a call.

Mike Zanutto       6-0     190     20      South Carolina (ECHL)   1 stars

Acquire: 1995 8th Round Draft pick, 198th overall.

Stats look: as of 1/13/98


Rochester (AHL): 9 gm 0g 0a 0pts -1 0 pim
South Carolina (ECHL): 21gm 7g 5a 12pts -1 2pim

Mike Zanutto has played well since he was demoted to South Carolina of the
East Coast league. Mike is a pure center, but doesn’t have enough
size or skill. With Buffalo’s log jam at center, his only chance to move up
in Buffalo though process is to work hard and hope for an injury to a center
in Rochester. Then and only then will he truly get back into the fold.

Mike will more than likely not make it. But he works
hard every night and plays a good clean game. Rarely taking any penalties, let
alone dump ones. He’s a good passer, and he plays a complete game, not
looking merely to score but to prevent goals at his own end.

I’m sure the year of experience in the East Coast league will actually help
him in some way. He now knows that he must work harder than everyone else,
if he is to receive his shot. He will likley be in Rochester next year. If
not he will more than likely get released and his skill level warrants a place
in the IHL, not the ECHL.