Buffalo Sabres Prospect Rankings- November Update

By Ken McKenna

There has been a fair amount of both upward and downward movement in the prospect rankings this month, with one player being added to the list (Brian Campbell) and one player removed (Andrew Peters).

In the case of Campbell, a player performing at the level that Brian is playing simply can’t be ignored. As for Peters, however, a player performing as poorly as Andrew is at this time can’t help but be ignored. While it is too early to write off Andrew Peters as a bust, the Sabres scouts no doubt get a lump in their throats when they get the latest reports on Peters’ play. Andrew has but 3 points in 12 games, with his main attribute being his ability to fight. There is talk that Andrew doesn’t get along with the Oshawa coach, and that a trade might be the best thing that could happen to him. Whatever the case, Peters needs to straighten out his game if he wants to live up to the expectations that come with being a high 2nd round pick.

Rankings

Cory Sarich D
6′ 3″
182


Cory retains the number one spot, not due to superb play, but rather because he has done nothing to hurt his standing as a top prospect. He has received some playing time on Rochester’s power play unit, and his play in general has been steady if not spectacular. Cory does have 2 points in his last 2 games, so this may be a sign that the offensive part of his game is coming around. Hitting also is a big part of Sarich’s game and, in the 2 games I saw him play, he was able to land a couple big checks on an opponent. My feeling is Cory will continue to develop nicely as he receives an increasing amount of ice time.

GP
G
A
Pts.
PIM
“+/-”
Team

14
0
4
4
19

Rochester (AHL)

Martin Biron
G
6′ 1″
160

Martin had an up-and-down 97-98 season in Rochester, but his game this season has improved to the point that he has regained his status as a top goaltending prospect. Biron has racked up 2 shutouts in 7 games played, and has logged a stingy goals-against of 1.70. While the Rochester team in front of him has been a juggernaut throughout most of the season, Martin has had to be the difference in a couple games. In general, Biron has improved his positioning in the net, and he is better at reading plays as they develop. The Sabres brass must no doubt be very pleased with Biron’s development.

GP
Minutes
Shots
GAA
Save %
SO
Team

7
423
179
1.7
0.933
2
Rochester (AHL)

3) Dimitri Kalinin

D
6′ 2″
198

Dimitri, who had a strong training camp and was off to a good start in the QMJHL, recently suffered a setback when he injured his left knee. Although his knee injury was not a complete blowout, Kalinin will miss the next 8-12 weeks of the season. This is a shame, because Dimitri was showing signs that his offensive game was almost the equal of his defensive work. Should Kalinin sufficiently develop the offensive aspect of his game, the Sabres will have truly landed a gem of a player, maybe the best defenseman from the ’98 draft.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

11
2
6
8
21
1
Moncton (QMJHL)

4) Eric Rasmussen

C
6′ 2″
207

Eric recently received a call-up to the big club, where he received a good amount of playing as a winger on a couple different lines. While he picked up just one assist during his stint in Buffalo, he showed flashes of being the power forward that the Sabres expect him to become. Prior to his Buffalo call-up, Eric was displaying the offensive ability that had seemingly left him after his great performance in the ’97 WJC. Rasmussen had a 4-point game for Rochester, as well as a

2-goal game immediately following the 4-point performance. Eric at this time has a better chance to improve his offensive play in Rochester, where he will see plenty of ice time at even-strength and on the power play. Eric will be ready to play in Buffalo once he becomes more consistent offensively.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

10
3
5
8
15

Rochester (AHL)

4
0
1
1
17
4
Buffalo (NHL)

5) Mika Noronen

G
6′ 1″
191

Mika has had a rollercoaster season thus far, playing wonderfully in stretches and horrendously at other times. On balance, he has played reasonably well for a poor Tappara team in the Finnish Elite league. Two factors contributing to Noronen’s inconsistent play are the lousy team in front of him, as well as Mika’s mandatory military stint. Clearly, Martin Biron has surpassed Noronen as the Sabres top goaltending prospect, but Martin is also 2 years older than Mika. Mika should be playing in the WJC coming up at the end of this year, so we should be able to get a better read on where he is at in his development. Stay tuned.

GP
Minutes
Shots
GAA
Save %
SO
Team

16
911
427
3.29
0.883
0
Tappara (Fin)

6) Alexei Tezikov

D
6′ 1″
198

Since my last update, Alexei has returned to Moncton of the QMJHL. He is playing the negotiating game with the Sabres while honing his skills with the Wildcats. The Sabres would likely lose Tezikov were he to remain unsigned through the remainder of the 98-99 season, so it will be interesting to see how this situation develops. If the Sabres are looking to make a trade, they might make him part of a package, rather than get nothing for him (just my speculation). To be sure, Alexei is a talented offensive defenseman who could have a great future in the NHL. He is putting up good numbers in Moncton, but he has little to prove in that league. The Sabres would like to have him developing in Rochester at this time, but they’ll have to sign him first.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

9
3
9
12
23
2
Moncton (QMJHL)

7) Maxim Afinogenov

RW
5′ 11″
176

Maxim is putting up decent numbers as a young man in a men’s league. In the just-completed Karjala Cup tournament in Finland, Afinogenov was named to the second team for his 2 assists in 3 games played. His main asset continues to be his great speed, but it remains to be seen whether he has what it takes to play in the NHL. Maxim is another Sabre draftee who should be appearing in this year’s WJC, so that may be a better yardstick of where he is at in his development.

GP
G
A
Pts.
PIM
“+/-”
Team

3
2
2
4
25
3
Moscow Dynamo (EHL)

16
6
4
10
10
N/A
Moscow Dynamo (Rus)

8) Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre

D
6′ 3″
207

Jean-Luc has a future as a NHL player if he does two things well- he has to play a sound defensive game and he must take the body. He didn’t have the best training camp, so he was sent back to Rochester to further develop his game. From what I have seen, the physical side of his game is sound, but his positional game still needs a little work. His skating is not a problem, and in fact he has shown good closing ability when forced to keep up with faster skaters. I believe that J-L has a future as a NHL defenseman, but that won’t be until next year at the earliest.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

14
2
2
4
26

Rochester (AHL)

9) Norm Milley

RW
5′ 11″
185

Norm is a player who has displayed good offensive potential in the past, and he is living up to that potential this season. Norm is currently 4th in scoring in the OHL, and he is the top scorer for the Sudbury Wolves. Milley has had several multiple-point games, and most recently has put up 9 points in his last four games. I have some reservations about his size, but clearly there is nothing wrong with his offensive game. In addition, Norm has a decent +/- on a mediocre team, so that suggests to me that his defensive game isn’t too bad either.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

21
15
19
34
10
8
Sudbury (OHL)

10) Henrik Tallinder

D
6′ 3″
194

Henrik continues to play a steady, if unspectacular game, for AIK in Sweden. Defensive play continues to be Tallinder’s forte, as he remains pointless to this point in the season. Henrik should play for Sweden in the WJC this year, assuming he is eligible (he turns 20 in January). Competing against players his own age should give an indication of how much Henrik has progressed.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

15
0
0
0
18
-3
AIK (Swe)

11) Jaroslav Kristek

RW
6′ 0″
183

Jaroslav’s strong play in his first season in North America has raised eyebrows in the WHL. Kristek is currently playing on a line with NJ 1st pick Scott Gomez, which gives him the opportunity to display some of his offensive talents. Thus far, Jaroslav appears to be more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, but he is on a pace to score more than 20 goals. Kristek has quickly won the hearts of Tri-City fans, and the Sabres are hoping he does the same with Buffalo hockey fans in the future.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

22
7
14
21
20
6
Tri-City Americans (WHL)

12) Luc Theoret

D
6′ 2″
197

After a slow start, Luc’s game appears to be rounding into form. He still has the occasional bout with indifference, but there are also nights when Luc is one of the best players on the ice. He is currently playing for a rebuilding Lethbridge team, so it would not surprise me if Theoret were to be traded to a contending team later in the season. Luc may also have the chance to strut his stuff in the WJC next month, but the Canadian team has not yet been finalized.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

20
3
15
18
48
2
Lethbridge (WHL)

13) Denis Hamel

LW
6′ 2″
205

Denis is off to a good start in Rochester this season, where his 7 goals leaves him tied for the team lead in goals scored. Hamel is seeing far more ice time this season, both at even-strength and on the power play. Denis is most effective when he uses his size to get himself into a good scoring position, but he needs to do this on a more consistent basis. His skating appears to have improved to the point where he is a viable NHL prospect, but it remains to be seen whether Denis has the desire.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

14
7
3
10
24

Rochester (AHL)

14) Matt Davidson

RW
6′ 2″
190

Matt was sent a message by the Sabres at the end of last season when he was not called up to be one of the “Black Aces” during the Sabres playoff run. While his play had improved as the 97-98 season went along, Matt did not do enough to catch the scouts attention. Matt had a respectable training camp this season, but was sent to Rochester for more development. He is off to a better start this season, although his offensive numbers are not eye-popping. One aspect of Davidson’s game that has taken shape is his penalty-killing ability, something that he did well in juniors. Davidson is a marginal prospect at this time but, should he show continued improvement throughout this season, he might get that call-up to the big club come playoff time.

GP
G
A
Pts.
PIM
“+/-”
Team

14
4
3
7
10

Rochester (AHL)

15) Francois Methot

C
6′ 0″
175

Francois is a first-year player in the AHL, which means he is not going to receive a great deal of ice time early in the season. Methot is a finesse player who possesses good skating skills and a nifty passing touch. What remains to be seen is if Francois can handle the physical aspects of the pro game, which might be a big hurdle considering his slight build. Methot is definitely a work in progress at this time.

GP
G
A
Pts.
PIM
“+/-”
Team

11
0
4
4
2

Rochester (AHL)

16) Mike Pandolfo

RW
6′ 3″
226

As a freshman on the Boston University squad, Pandolfo is already asserting himself as one of the better players on the Terriers. Mike had a 4-point game against Princeton recently, and in general has displayed good skating ability to go along with his gritty style of play. It remains to be seen whether he will display the talent necessary to play in the NHL, but he is certainly off to a promising start. The Sabres might have a real sleeper in Pandolfo.

GP
G
A
Pts.
PIM
“+/-”
Team

7
5
2
7

Boston Univ (HE)

17) Jeff Martin

C
6′ 1″
177

Jeff, playing for a poor Windsor team, got off to a slow start this season, but more recently has picked up the pace. Martin is a finesse player with adequate skating ability who is, perhaps, not the most physical player. His poor plus-minus rating suggests some poor defensive play on his part, but could also be a function of his playing on a bad team. Like Sabre prospect Luc Theoret, Jeff is a candidate to be traded to a contending team at a later date. In the meantime, however, Martin will have to do what he can to impress the Sabres while playing for a bad team.

GP
G
A
Pts.
PIM
“+/-”
Team

22
11
10
21
8
-15
Windsor (OHL)

18) Darren Van Oene

LW
6′ 3″
207

Like Sabre prospect Francois Methot, Darren Van Oene is a first-year pro, which means that Van Oene will be used sparingly at the outset. He will never be a great point producer, but will instead be valued for his physical ability and leadership qualities. Next year’s training camp will likely be the time that Darren’s play will be scrutinized more closely by the Sabres’ scouts, as this year will be a learning experience for him.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

9
1
1
2
31

Rochester (AHL)

19) Brian Campbell

D
5′ 11″
185

Brian is having an outstanding season for the Ottawa 67s of the OHL. He is currently 6th in scoring in that league, and he is the leading scorer for a strong Ottawa team. Brian would likely receive a much higher rating were it not for his lack of size; defensmen under 6 foot are increasingly rare in the NHL. But, then again, that’s what everyone said about Derek Morris of the Calgary Flames, but he has managed to make a splash in the NHL. Brian will never be admired for his physical play, but his offensive work has likely caught the attention of the Sabres management.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

21
2
32
34
13
22
Ottawa (OHL)

20) Kamil Piros

C
6′ 1″
183

I’ve dropped Kamil a couple places, not because of poor play, but because I’m not able to find much information on him other than his point totals. Piros is a finesse player who can score a few goals as well as set them up, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be successful playing the more physical North American style of hockey. Kamil is an interesting prospect, but it is possible that he will never play for the Sabres.

GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
“+/-”
Team

15
5
2
7
2
N/A
Litvinov (Cze)

3
1
1
2
4
-2
Litvinov (EHL)

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