Two of the most promising players the Sabres picked up in the 1999 draft are Buffalo’s first round selection Barrett Heisten (Left Wing, 20th overall), and one of their second round picks, Doug Janik (Defense, 55th overall). The two draft Sabre picks were both freshman standouts at the University of Maine and were cornerstones of the Black Bears’ 1999 NCAA Championship season. Heisten and Janik also played together in a National Development Program held last year.
Heisten, an Anchorage, Alaska native, seems to be a prototypical Buffalo Sabre. He turned down offers to play Major Junior so he could come to Maine. A lot of people were interested in him, as he is a player who can score and has speed, yet also possesses a nasty side. Sabres GM Darcy Regier stated that he “has some Rasmussen and Varada in him” (referring to gritty wingers Erik Rasmussen and Vaclav Varada). He stands at 6′ 1″, 191 lbs. and needs to work on his scoring; like the aforementioned Varada and Rasmussen, Heisten can score at times but can be very streaky. One has to keep in mind that the Barrett is only 18 and has time to develop. Up to this point he has tried to make up for a lack of scoring with speed, grit and tenacity and has been fairly successful at it. Heisten struggled early on in the 98-99 season but, after a strong performance at the ’99 World Junior Championships, he picked up his game tremendously and was named the Hockey East Player of the Month for his strong play during January.
Doug Janik is a very intriguing prospect. He was a key component of the Maine defensive core during their championship run. The Massachusetts native stands at 6′ 1″ / 206 lbs., and played for several Development and Junior teams before joining the U of M. Buffalo had a glut of second round choices, which allowed them the chance to pick up a clutch defensive player such as Janik. He was very strong for Maine during the playoff run and in the Final Four. Overall he’s just a solid defensive prospect, a player who does the little things well and is a good two-way player. One shortcoming Janik has is a lack of quickness, although he does have speed once he gets going. He does have the strength to play the defensive zone well, but his consistency is another area of question. As always, when dealing with teenagers, consistency is an area that can be addressed.
While some teams wonder about the development of the young players they drafted, the Sabres are safe with Janik and Heisten in the hands of the University of Maine hockey program. Drafting players from a solid program like Maine is always a good idea. Another good idea is drafting tough, solid players that can be building blocks for the future, which is what the Buffalo Sabres have done here.