Sabres Report: Catching Up

By Ken McKenna

As the title of this article suggests, there is a fair amount of Sabres’ prospect news to catch up on. Some of the items may have already received a mention at the HF Sabres Message Board, but I think it is worth repeating them in this column so that those who had not previously seen these news items will now be caught up.

There is also some information that is new, including an assessment of the changes to the Top 20 list. A couple familiar names have been removed from the list, while some new prospects have moved up the charts, so there is definitely a minor changing of the guard amongst the Buffalo prospects.

The Graduates

D Dimitri Kalinin and LW Denis Hamel both have made the most of their rookie seasons, as they are inexperienced players who have stepped in and contributed immediately. Kalinin has been the more highly touted of the two, as he has performed at a high enough level to have some supporters whispering “Calder Trophy nominee” (Dimitri has struggled some of late, however). Dimitri was always known for his strong defensive play, but he has also exhibited some offensive ability which will only improve as he becomes more confident.

Meanwhile, Denis Hamel has quietly been playing solid hockey, mostly on Buffalo’s 4th line. Denis has chipped in the occasional goal while concentrating on playing a grinding, defensive style that is sure to please coach Lindy Ruff. Hamel has scored 7 goals, with 3 of those goals being game-winners.

Both players have played at least 25 games this season, which means the 2000-01 season will officially be their rookie campaigns. For this reason, and also because Hamel is now 23, I have decided to move both players to the “Graduated” section of the prospects page. I doubt that either player will return to Rochester this season, so they have, in a sense, “made it” to the big leagues. As a result, it is hard to view these 2 players as prospects, so the next logical step is to consider them bona fide NHL-caliber players.

Back on Top

As a result of Kalinin and Hamel moving on, the top position of the Top 20 list once again belongs to Rochester G Mika Noronen. Mika struggled early in the season, but he has mostly regained the form he displayed in his stellar rookie season.

Some other upward-movers of note in the Top 20 include LW Jeremy Adduono (17th to 11th), LW Seneque Hyancinthe (18th to 12th), and G Ryan Miller (8th to 3rd). Two players entering the Top 20 for the first time this season are RW Ales Kotalik (18th) and LW Vasily Bizyayev (20th).

Those prospects on the decline this time around include LW Barrett Heisten (3rd to 6th) and RW Jaroslav Kristek (9th to 14th). This is not to suggest that these players should be disregarded, it is just that their recent performances have suffered for various reasons.

Overall, Buffalo still has a decent crop of prospects, although the quality falls off a bit after the 8th or 9th slot. If, however, players like Artem Kriukov and Gerard Dicaire end up being duds, then Buffalo’s current overall pool of talent may end up being their weakest since the mid-90′s. Not a bad crop, mind you, just not up to recent standards.

Honors

Several Buffalo prospects have received special recognition over the past several weeks, so it would be wrong not to recognize their accomplishments. Those players are the following:

  • Mike Zigomanis – The Kingston Frontenacs center was named both Player of the Week for the week ending 11/19/00, as well as Player of the Month in the OHL for the month of November. In addition, Mike was named to the OHL’s Eastern Conference All-Star Team. Mike scored a goal in the OHL’s 8-5 loss to the QMJHL’s Lebel Division team on 1/17/01, which was the first game of the CHL’s Hershey Cup series.
  • Mika Noronen – Mika was named the ITECH AHL Goaltender of the Month for December, a month in which he posted a 6-1-1 record, along with a 1.86 GAA. In addition to his league honor, the Rochester Press-Radio Club also recently named Noronen the 2000 Local Professional Athlete of the Year.
  • Brian Campbell – Brian played in the AHL All-Star Game for the Canadian All-Stars. Canada defeated the PlanetUSA All-Stars 11-10 in a wide-open affair, with Campbell picking up two assists on the night. Brian’s strong play this season led to his promotion to Buffalo on 1/23/01.
  • Ryan Miller – It just gets better and better for Ryan, as he tied a 70-year-old NCAA record for career shutouts when he recorded his 16th shutout in MSU’s 3-0 victory over Lake Superior State on 1/23/01. This shutout extended Miller’s current shutout streak to 207 minutes, 12 seconds. Ryan also was named the MVP of the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament in December, as he stopped 68 of the 71 shots he faced in that tourney. In addition to these honors, Ryan is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s best player- not bad for a sophomore!
  • Matt Kinch – Matt, of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, was named the Eastern Conference’s Defenseman of the Month for November. In addition, Matt was named to the WHL’s Eastern Conference All-Star Team that will be competing in the Hershey Cup series.
  • Gerard Dicaire – Gerard, a defenseman for Seattle of the WHL, was named to the WHL’s Western Conference All-Star Team that will be competing in the CHL’s Hershey Cup series.
  • Milan Bartovic – Milan, a RW for the Brandon Wheat Kings, was named to the WHL’s Eastern Conference All-Star Team that will be participating in the Hershey Cup series.

  • Kamil Piros – Kamil represented the Czech Republic in the Baltica Cup Tournament that took place in Moscow on 12/17-12/20. Piros was the leading scorer of the tourney, potting 4 goals and 2 assists in the 3 games played. Ales Kotalik also played for the Czechs, chipping in 1 goal and 1 assist in the 3 games.

If it’s Tuesday, it must be London

If nothing else, 2000 draft pick Sean McMorrow (D) has a head start on a career in Ontario tourism. Sean was traded for the 2nd time this season, and the 4th time in his 2-year career, as he moved from the Kingston Frontenacs to the London Knights. Prior to the start of the 2000-01 season, McMorrow was traded from the Kitchener Rangers to the Mississauga Ice Dogs, which was followed by the in-season trade to Kingston. Last season, Sean was traded from the Sarnia Sting to Kitchener.

The Theoret of Invisibility

The Luc Theoret Watch continues, although there is nothing new to report. I was told by someone in the South Carolina Stingray organization that Luc was skating with Rochester, but he had not yet been cleared to play. I have seen other mentions of Luc having suffered an injury, but I have not confirmed what that injury was (my guess is another concussion). The Amerks have not responded to my latest query (they’re probably sick of me contacting them), but I hope to have some concrete news shortly. Hopefully Luc will end up being worth the trouble!

Seneque Preview

I received this past weekend an e-mail from a gentleman named Evan Beloff. Evan is a filmmaker up in Quebec who recently completed a documentary for the CBC entitled “Too Colorful for the League: A history of Blacks in Hockey”. Mr. Beloff indicated that one of the “stars” of his film is Buffalo draft pick Seneque Hyancinthe of the Val d’Or Foreurs. The film crew followed Seneque for the past 2 seasons, so he is obviously fairly prominent in the film. Unfortunately, I was away this weekend when Evan’s e-mail arrived, so I missed the fact that the show aired on CBC on 1/20. I’m checking to see if this show will run again; if it does, I’ll be sure to post the information at the Sabres’ Message Board.

“Face it, you threw up ON Dean Wormer!”

The Rochester Amerks recently completed a dubious double, as they were visited by a bout of food poisoning for the 2nd time within the past year. The offending items were apparently subs that were delivered following a game vs. Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Several players fell ill before and during Rochester’s next game, which left the Amerks a little short on bench depth as the game wore on.

In other Amerks injury news, LW Andrew Peters has been in and out of the lineup recently due to a pectoral injury, while Darren Van Oene missed a couple games due to a flu bug after having missed several games due to a fluid build up around his heart. Norm Milley was out of the lineup for 3 games at the end of December, not because of injury, but instead due to a perceived cheap shot Milley placed on Alex Henry of the Hamilton Bulldogs. Henry sustained a broken wrist, which no doubt played a part in the league’s decision to suspend Norm.

There are no significant injuries amongst the junior, European or college prospects at this time.

Moravec Czech-Up

I have received a couple e-mails from readers inquiring as to the status of David Moravec, the Czech forward who was with Buffalo briefly in the early part of the 99-00 season. David is once again playing for Vitkovice of the Czech League, where he is tied for the team scoring lead (39 GP, 11G, 15A, 26 Pts).

Given the fact that Moravec will be 28 in March, it does not seem likely that he is in Buffalo’s plans at this time. I think the Sabres would have found a place for him on the team last year had they truly been interested in keeping him on the team.