Following the initial portion of the Buffalo Sabres’ 2001 training camp, the club began to whittle down the number of players on the camp roster. This process is no doubt excruciating for both players and coaches, alike, as it places players on the outside, away from their goal of being on the inside as a member of the Buffalo Sabres hockey club.
As is usually the case, the first players to be dropped from the camp roster are the players still possessing junior eligibility. The prospects returned to their respective junior teams from this year’s camp include Gerard Dicaire (Seattle-WHL), Paul Gaustad (Portland-WHL), Ryan Jorde (Tri-City-WHL), Sean McMorrow (London-OHL), Jason Pominville (Shawinigan-QMJHL), Ghyslain Rousseau (Baie-Comeau-QMJHL), Derek Roy (Kitchener-OHL) and Chris Thorburn (North Bay-OHL).
In addition to these players, Marek Dubec and Calle Aslund have apparently returned to Europe. Calle has returned to Sweden, and is playing for Huddinge of the Swedish junior league while he considers his options. Marek has most likely returned to the Czech Republic, but I have not found his name on any roster.
From these youngsters, the player that clearly stood out during training camp was RW Jason Pominville, a 2001 2nd round choice. Jason possesses good speed and strength, as well as a scorer’s touch and the knack for being around the puck. Pominville lined up with C Tim Connolly and LW Stu Barnes for most of the camp scrimmages, with Jason being on the receiving end of several deft passes from newcomer Connolly. Jason finished camp tournament with 3 goals while adding 1 assist, as he and his Team Black teammates took the Jack Gatecliff Memorial Cup.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff went out of his way to compliment the work of Pominville, and was no doubt impressed with Jason’s finishing skills. The Repentigny, Quebec native appears to be the most advanced of all the 2001 draft picks, and might well be the sniper that the Sabres have been looking for since Alex Mogilny was traded back in ’95.
Two other 2001 picks, centers Derek Roy and Chris Thorburn, displayed some of the skills that made them 2nd round picks. Roy has good speed and a good shot, while performing like a player who is several inches taller than Derek’s listed height of 5’8″. Thorburn displayed good playmaking skills during the scrimmages, but was less effective on his own scoring chances. Ultimately, both players are in need of further development, and they’ll no doubt receive plenty of playing time with their respective OHL teams.
Another of the young prospects, Slovak forward Marek Dubec, displayed a scorer’s touch last season while playing for Vsetin in the Czech junior league. Dubec displayed a little of that form during the camp scrimmages, as he netted two goals for Team Red (the players were divided into Red, Black and Grey teams).
As for the remaining junior talent, enforcers such as Ryan Jorde and Sean McMorrow rarely had the opportunity to display their pugilistic talents. The scrimmages tend to be more wide-open affairs, so there isn’t much in the way of physical contact. 2000 draft picks Paul Gaustad and Gerard Dicaire returned to their WHL teams, where they will be looked to for leadership and offense, as both players look to build on solid 2000-01 seasons. Another 2000 draftee, Ghyslain Rousseau, will be looking to erase the memory of a disappointing 00-01 season, as he will be the starting goaltender for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL. Finally, Swedish draftee Calle Aslund will attempt to improve his game while also adjusting to the North American rinks, as he moves to the London to play for the Knights of the OHL.
Part II: Rochester and Europe