The Buffalo Sabres entered the 1999-2000 season with one of the most impressive prospect lists in the NHL. Little has occurred during the 1st quarter of this season that would change Buffalo’s standing as one of the more talent-rich clubs, so it is time to reflect on the more notable performances given by the top Sabre prospects thus far.
The order at the top of the prospect list has changed a good bit since my last offering (there is no truth to the rumor that this writer is suffering from a Stanley Cup hangover), with Cory Sarich losing the top perch he had held throughout most of last year, and a couple of new names entering the top 10. Several players near the top of the list started the season in Rochester, where they helped get the Americans off to a blazing start. The Amerks have since come back to earth, as 3 of their best players were called up to Buffalo, but there are still some strong prospects to watch in Rochester.
As for the prospects in juniors, some of the more prominent prospects (Kristek, Milley, Zigomanis) started slowly, but have recently improved their play. And, in the college ranks, ’99 draft picks Barrett Heisten, Doug Janik and Ryan Miller have been very impressive so far this season.
Players such as Martin Biron, Maxim Afinogenov and Cory Sarich are still on the list, in spite of the fact that they are with the Sabres. None of these three players have played 25 NHL games to this point, so I have decided to keep their prospect status intact.
And now, on with the show!
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When the reports came in for Jamie Lundmark before last year’s NHL Entry
Draft, not surprisingly, they were glowing.
There was talk that Lundmark ten years from now just might prove to be the best player out of that draft class. “(Eventual number one choice) Patrik Stefan is a man, Jamie Lundmark is a boy. All he needs is time,” gushed one
The Central Scouting Bureau said all the right things, including “displays
exceptional lateral movement when skating with the puck and is outstanding
in one-on-one situations.”
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With CSB’s rankings out a few days early, instead of a forward-looking piece on this year’s OHL draft-prospects, I’m left instead to take a mostly backwards look at the early-season rankings of Central Scouting.
There are six players who look like a cut-above the rest of the pack. The Big Six consist of three forwards and three defencemen. The best of each are d-man Kurtis Foster of Peterborough and forward Raffi Torres of Brampton. Nobody seems to mention Torres when talking about the 2000 draft.
The only knock that could possibly be put on him is his size. He’s a notch below the
benchmark 6’0″, but at 5’11″ he’s a sturdy 193 pounds. Other than that the kid has
above-average skills in every facet, especially skating, and especially especially in
hockey sense. This kid is a player, the real deal. A lead-pipe cinch for the Prospects Game, and really should get
a look at Team Canada’s final evaluation camp prior to the WJC, he’s that good.
You can’t miss Foster, he’s a 6’4″ giant with good skating ability, puck-skills, and he’s
putting up good offensive numbers already. Everything the scouts like about a player, this kid has it. He may be the No. 1 prospect in the OHL. A notch below these two would be the Erie Otters forward tandem of Nikita Alexeev and Brad Boyes, and on the blue-line you have Windsor’s Dan Growden and North Bay’s Chris Eade who’s currently out because of an
Torres is now
quoted 14 pounds heavier than his OHL Media Guide weight of 193 lbs., and at 207 it Read more »
Rookie St. Albert Saints netminder Tom Gillard is starting to come of age in
the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Before training camp even started, Gillard was the odds-on favourite to win
the open goaltending spot on the roster. It was vacated by the departing
Scott Kabotoff, who accepted a scholarship to join the University of
Wisconsin following last season.
Gillard spent last season with the Maple Leaf Athletic Club (Midget AAA). He
backstopped the MLAC to a solid fourth-place finish, with 11 wins, 9 losses,
a 4.40 GAA and a .885 save percentage.
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After losing a number of quality players, the Plymouth Whalers were expected to struggle this Ontario
Hockey League season.
And struggle they have. The Whalers sit in fourth place in the OHL’s Western Division at about the
one-third mark of the campaign.
However, there are some encouraging signs.
In goal, 18-year old Rob Zepp has been steady behind a largely inexperienced defense. The Atlanta
Thrashers draftee has a goals against average of 2.42 in 17 appearances.
First round draft pick Stephen Weiss leads the team in scoring with 25 points, and fellow rookie Tomas
Kurka has 18.
Weiss has speed and good puck sense. The puck seems to follow him around, and all things considered,
those 25 points are no fluke.He’s been named to Ontario’s Under-17 team at the World Hockey Challenge.
Kurka, from the Czech Republic, brings with him the reputation of a sniper. His 15 points are fifth on the
In between are second year wingers Justin Williams and Damien Surma, along with overage defenceman
A pleasant surprise has been the play of another Czech import. Defender Libor Urstrnul stands 6’5″ and
weighs 230 lbs., but has a fair amount of mobility, which is surprising for a big man. The soon-to-be
19-year-old also likes to mix it up, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves.
Indeed, a Urstrnul fight is quite a sight. It starts with the fact that he DOES fight, a trait not often seen in
European players. Read more »
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END:
The Kootenay Ice saw their 7 game undefeated and 6 game winning streak come to an end this past weekend when the Kelowna Rockets, Calgary Hitmen, and Regina Pats came to town. The Ice played three games in three nights and were defeated 3-2 by both the Rockets and the Hitmen before taking an 8-5 victory over the Regina Pats. The Ice are now 13-7-4-0 (8-5-1-0 at home and 5-2-3-0 on the road.) The Ice are still holding on to second place in the Central Division. The Ice take to the road this week for a 6-game road trip and are hoping to break the franchise record of five consecutive wins on the road, with which they are currently tied.
WHO’S DOING WHAT:
Mike Green is now only 7 points away from breaking the franchise record for career points.
Brad Tutschek has scored points in six of his last seven games (4-4-8).
Steve McCarthy recorded his 100th career WHL point on Wednesday, November 17th when he scored the first goal of the game (which turned out to be the game winner) versus Lethbridge.
Dan Blackburn bettered his average even after taking two losses this past weekend. Blackburn is now 7-3-0-0 in his last ten appearances with a 2.16 GAA and .920 save percentage with 12 shutout periods. Dan became the first 16 year old goaltender in the last 10 years to record a shut-out (vs. Lethbridge.) Kudos, Dan!
Graham Belak recorded his 700th career penalty minute in the Lethbridge game.
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This team has only one aim: The 2000 U-18 WJC! Playing at home will be
great motivation for these kids.
Due to preparation they travelled to the United States for a training
camp and exhibition games against the USA.
Playing without Sven Helfenstein, who is already a member of the U-20
team, they still had enough players to play some pretty good hockey.
“We have between 28 and 35 players on the extended roster. Only 20 of
them will play the World Champs”, coach Beat Lautenschlager said. “We
are very deep up front. A little lack in defense, that’s why we have
two 83 born in there. But they are very good.”
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The Detroit Red Wings have been the NHL’s most successful team both during the regular season and in the playoffs during the 1990′s. However, that success has come with a price. The Red Wings have consistently drafted very low in the entry drafts and traded away numerous draft picks in order to continue to win and remain a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.
While this strategy has worked, the number and quality of young prospects in the Detroit system is at an all time low. The Red Wings are at the bottom of the organization rankings and there is little light at the end of the tunnel. The future may be bleak to say the least in HockeyTown.
Though the Red Wings may be behind, a few rookies have already made an impact on Detroit’s NHL roster. Nineteen year old Jiri Fischer and twenty year old Yuri Butsayev both made the Red Wing’s opening day roster and have stuck with the team beyond the league ten game limit. Each will likely remain in Detroit for the balance of the year.
As for Detroit’s other prospects, while there are few blue-chippers left after the above mentioned, here is where they are and what they are doing this season.
1. Jiri Fischer, D
Detroit NHL 10 0 0 0 +1 10
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The U17 National Team headed to Slovakia to play three games against a
top class opponent.
“We didn’t perform the best.”, headcoach Charly Oppliger said. “But the
opponent was very good. We did join in well in these games, that’s
what I wanted.”
Defense seemed to be the big problem for nearly all players.
Coach Oppliger explained: “In the Swiss leagues the good players can
shine offensively, other take over the defensive part for them. With
the games the players adjusted well.”
The main goal was to “gain experience” and that was reached in this test series against
Slovakia. The coach didn’t want to talk about the certain players. He
only mentioned: “All players are good. They wouldn’t be in the national
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This is the first time the Swiss U-16′s have played as a natioanl team, against opposing national teams. Until just last season the U-16′s played only against regioanl teams.
It was time to adjust to the international standard and build an U-16 national team.
This team has never had a training camp let alone played a hockey game
together. Despite that, the team traveled to the Czech Republic to
battle the U-16′s of a leading hockey nation.
“We played excellent. Very fresh. I’m very satisfied with my team”, coach
Roger Bader said. “There was no player in the team of whom I could say it
a wrong selection.”
In a high scoring first game Mattia Bianchi, Gianrico Vivalda (2 goals),
Florian Conz, Martin Stettler and Spencer Rezek scored the Swiss goals as they played to Read more »