Ramzi Abid. LW. 6’2, 209. Born: 1980-03-24. Phoenix Coyotes (played with Springfield of the AHL).
Ramzi is a prototypical hard-working guy, with toughness and finishing ability along with that. Just two seasons ago Abid collected 209 penalty minutes in 72 games with Halifax of the QMJHL.
He had a solid start to his season last year, as he had 6 goals and 10 points in 17 games in the AHL. He also showed plenty of grit with 38 penalty minutes. However, wrist injuries shortened his season considerably.
Abid had a great camp last year, and nearly made the club. With the Coyotes in the rebuilding mode, he would fit nicely in Phoenix’s youthful lineup. Phoenix is pretty deep at Left Wing however, so making the team behind the likes of Berezin and Johnson will not be an easy task.
Radim Bicanek. D. 6’1, 210. Born: 1975-01-18. Columbus Blue Jackets (played with Syracuse of the AHL).
Bicanek is 26 years old, but getting picked in the expansion draft renewed his NHL career. Radim’s minor league stats underwent a dramatic increase, as he amassed 65 points last year, comparing to only 32 the year before.
A native of Uherske Hradiste, Czech Republic, Bicanek had seen time with the Ottawa Senators and the Chicago Blackhawks before getting drafted by Columbus.
Radim has earned a reputation for being a big hitter. Although he has never had much more than a few cups of coffee in the NHL, Bicanek consistently delivered roughly 2 hits a game. He will join a solid defensive lineup that includes Rostislav Klesla, Deron Quint and Lyle Odelein. With considerable even strength and powerplay duty, Bicanek will be expected to collect over 20 points, and somewhere around 100 hits.
Yuri Butsayev. LW. 6’1, 183. Born: 1978-10-11. Detroit Red Wings (played with Cincinnati of the AHL).
Detroit’s first choice in the 1997 draft seems ready to take over fourth-line duty for the Red Wings. Yuri had a checking role in the grand total 15 games for Detroit last year, playing under 10 minutes a game. After getting sent down to Cincinnati of the AHL, Butsayev quietly had an all-star year. In 54 games, Yuri amassed 29 goals and 46 points at the age of 21.
Butsayev is not extremely skilled; he is a hard-working two-way checking centre. He plays well along the boards and finishes his checks. Yuri makes good on-ice decisions and is an excellent puck handler.
Although Butsayev is not a strong skater, he has virtually no weaknesses. He is solid in all aspects of the game and is capable of a lengthy NHL career.
With Detroit’s aging lineup, Yuri could see some playing time. Making the team at camp might be unlikely, but the aches and pains of the regular season might open up a spot for Butsayev.
Artem Chubarov. C. 6’1, 189. Born: 1979-12-12. Vancouver Canucks (played with Kansas City of the IHL).
A shoulder surgery ended Chubarov’s short season. He had a good start with Kansas City of the IHL, with 7 goals in 10 games. But the nagging shoulder eventually put an end to a promising season.
Like Butsayev, Artem does not have one area where he specifically excels. A strong skater, Chubarov is solid on one-on-one situations with accurate passing skills. He has grit and plays good defense, especially well along the boards.
Just two seasons ago, Chubarov played in 49 NHL games. Therefore, with his experience, a good training camp should result in either third or fourth line duty.
Pierre Dagenais. LW. 6’5, 210. Born: 1978-03-04. New Jersey Devils (played with Albany of the AHL).
If you had the opportunity to look over Pierre’s career stats, you would come to the same conclusion as I: Pierre is a finisher. After compiling excellent stats in the QMJHL, Dagenais’s offensive prowess continued at the pro level. In his last two seasons in Albany of the AHL, Pierre had seasons of 35 and 34, respectively.
One thing to point out about Dagenais is that he seems to take control at any level he is playing. After a call-up to the NHL last year, he collected 3 goals and 5 points in 9 games with 20 shots on goal last season.
The boundary that is holding up Pierre’s career is New Jersey’s two-way defensive style. Dagenais, who is mainly a sniper, has never been praised for his defensive play, nor his skating or passing skills. He is somewhat one-sided, and unless his two-way game improves, he might turn into another Steve Maltais.
However, with Alexander Mogilny leaving, do not be surprised if the Devils go out looking for more offense. And Dagenais might be there to provide it.
Jeff Farkas. LW. 6’0, 190. Born: 1978-01-24. Toronto Maple Leafs (played with St. John’s of the AHL).
He will get a shot to make the team at camp. In fact, it might be either Farkas or Ponikarovsky to take over the empty left wing slot in the Leafs lineup. Fourth line is for the taking.
However, Farkas will need a pretty good performance in the pre-season even to earn the dubious honour as the team’s fourth liner. The Leafs will have to decide whether to send Jeff to St. Johns’s to earn more playing time, or to let him develop defensively with the big club. Although Farkas has bulked up to 190 lbs, he is still a soft player that is known for avoiding traffic. Unless he becomes more physical along the boards, Jeff might not see much more than a late-season call-up.
However things could still go Farkas’s way. The leafs are weak on the left side; after Gary Roberts, there is Shayne Corson, Jonas Hoglund, and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Farkas could climb the ladder if the team struggles to score consistently. Hoglund is barely hanging on to his job; Corson is no prototypical second-liner, and Ponikarovsky hasn’t realized his potential.
It is possible for Pat Quinn to juggle his lineup, and we might see some second-line duty for Farkas. That is, assuming he finishes his checks.
Alexander Riazantsev. D. 5’11, 200. Born: 1980-03-15. Colorado Avalanche (played with Hershey of the AHL).
The defending Stanley Cup champions appear to have some holes in the armour. Ray Bourque retired and Jon Klemm signed on as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks. It appears that Hershey’s Rick Berry will take over as the Avalanche’s fifth defensemen. Aside from that, the sixth and seventh positions are wide open.
Unless the Avalanche make further acquisitions, Riazantsev is one of the candidates for the job. A dominant offensive pivot for Victoriaville of the QMJHL a couple of seasons ago, Alex adjusted well to the pros with a solid year in the AHL.
Riazantsev is a solid puck distributor with a sneaky shot from the point. He is not a defensive stopper, nor is he physically dominating. He does play a consistent style and has showcased maturity beyond his years.
Peter Smrek. D. D. 6’1, 220. Born: 1979-02-16. New York Rangers (played with Worcester of the AHL).
Acquired in March for Alexei Gusarov, Smrek might have become a steal for the New York Rangers. The Slovakian defenseman plays a tough, two-way game. Known for his huge frame, Smrek is also very sure-handed and consistent in his own zone. He battles hard along the boards, and has the speed to get involved in offensive situations. Smrek stickhandles well, and distributes the puck effectively.
The trade of Kim Johnsson now virtually guarantees Smrek a job with the Rangers. He has the hockey sense and maturity to play twenty minutes a game.