Back in the early days of the Sabres franchise, former Buffalo GM Punch Imlach used his top pick in both the ’70 and ’71 drafts to select offensive stars from the Quebec League. Those two selections, C Gilbert Perreault and LW Rick Martin, went on to form 2/3 of the high-flying French Connection line that terrorized NHL goaltenders throughout most of the 70s.
Recent incarnations of the Sabres have been about as offensive as a Disney animated feature, so it is no surprise that current GM Darcy Regier placed an emphasis on offense during the 2001 draft. One of those ’01 selections, RW Jason Pominville of the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, is bringing back memories of those early draft successes, perhaps signaling an end to the Sabres’ long search for a sniper.
Jason is off to a blazing start this season, as his 34 points in 15 games will attest. Pominville has scored 15 goals and added 19 assists, which is good enough to make him the Cataractes’ leading scorer, while leaving him second in scoring in the QMJHL. 7 of Jason’s goals have come on the power play, while 4 goals have been game-winners, both totals being an indication that Pominville has a knack for scoring important goals. In one early season contest, Jason racked up 7 points (4G, 3A) in a Shawinigan victory.
Shawinigan is currently tied for first overall in the "Q" with Rimouski, although the Oceanic are the higher-ranked team in the CHL rankings. The Cataractes are currently ranked 9th in the CHL.
Jason’s fast start is most likely the product of his having a good training camp with Buffalo. Pominville made his mark during the scrimmages, as he and his linemates Tim Connolly and Stu Barnes lead the way for the victorious Black team. Jason netted 3 goals during the camp tournament, while also adding a couple assists, which placed him amongst the top scorers in training camp. Pominville’s performance did not go unnoticed, as coach Lindy Ruff went out of his way on more than one occasion to praise Jason’s effort. Ruff especially liked Jason’s speed, strength, and soft hands.
Before Buffalo fans start breaking out the bubbly in anticipation of the Sabres finally landing a goal-scorer, it should be noted that the QMJHL is definitely a more offensively oriented league than either the OHL or WHL. There have been many Quebec League players over the years that have put up eye-popping numbers, only to go on to undistinguished pro careers, so a fast start in this league may not be anything to be excited about.
Still, Pominville appears to have the attributes necessary to one day be a scoring threat in the pros. He has good speed and a good touch, and he has a knack for finding (or creating) open spaces in which to operate. Jason is somewhat slightly built, so he may need to bulk up a little, but he should be able to withstand the rigors of the pro game.
Around The CHL
QMJHL: Buffalo’s other "Q" prospect, goaltender Ghyslain Rousseau, is off to a decent start this season following his forgettable 00-01 campaign. Ghyslain was named the QMJHL Defensive Player of the Week for the week ending 9/23/01. Rousseau picked up 3 wins that week, while currently sporting an 8-7-0 record for Baie-Comeau.
OHL: Derek Roy has returned to the Kitchener lineup from a 6-game stick infraction suspension. Roy was amongst the scoring leaders in the OHL before his suspension, and currently has 14 points (6G, 8A) in 8 games. A pair of Derek’s teammates, Petr Kanko and Steve Eminger, are two of the better OHL prospects for the 2002 Draft…After a slow start, Chris Thorburn and his North Bay teammates have posted a 5-2-3 record in their last 10 games. Through 15 games, Chris has 13 points (6G, 7A)…Sean McMorrow has been moved from defense to the right wing by the London coaching staff. Sean has registered 48 PIMs in 13 games for the Knights…Swedish rearguard Calle Aslund played in just 1 game for London before returning to Sweden to play for the Huddinge U-20 junior team. Aslund will most likely not return to the Knights…Derek Roy and Jason Pominville are two Buffalo prospects with a chance of being selected to Canada’s WJC roster.
WHL: Portland captain Paul Gaustad has already scored 10 goals for the Winterhawks, with 4 of those goals coming on the power play, and 2 being game winning goals. Paul scored just 11 goals all of last season, before lighting it up during the playoffs…Gerard Dicaire and his Seattle teammates are off to a rocky start this season. Dicaire was slowed in the early going by a foot injury, but has picked up his offensive game a bit since returning to the lineup. He currently sports 7 points (1G, 6A) in 12 games…Ryan Jorde has been slowed by an ankle injury, although he has missed just 2 Tri-City games. Jorde has just one assist in 10 games, to go along with 13 PIMs.