The Tampa Bay Lighting have been going through some major changes very early in the season, most notably the firing of general manager Phil Esposito and director of scouting and player development Tony Esposito. The Espositos are known to be friends with Larry Gordon, owner of the International Hockey League’s Cleveland Lumberjacks. Over the off season, the brothers were instrumental in reaching a working agreement with the Cleveland Lumberjacks, and as a result will have up to 14 players with Cleveland over the next three years…
BONSIGNORE BUSTED: The most interesting news probably stems from the enigmatic Jason Bonsignore. Bonsignore, who was the fourth overall pick for Edmonton in the 1994 draft, and made his way to the Lightning in the late 1997 trade that sent Roman Hamrlik to the Oilers, was up and down with Tampa Bay last season, and started the season back in the minors with Cleveland.
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are committed to a youth movement and we shall examine the players who serve in this movement. We’ll look at what they’ve accomplished thus far and what they need to do to improve in the future. The club has made some noise as to the acquisition of some veteran free agent talent, but let’s be honest. One or two veteran free agents are not totally going to put the Leafs over the hump. The key to the Leafs success will not totally depend on who the team acquires in a Felix Potvin trade. The key to the club’s fortunes will be the development of the young talent which is largely now in place. These are players who have less than 3 years in the NHL. All have at one time or another shown some promise, but all have also shown the plague of most young players: inconsistency. If all or most of these players continue to move up the ladder in their development, the Leafs and their fans will have a lot to look forward to in future years. The potential talent to be solid, not superstar, but solid players is there. It is up to the Leafs’ coaching staff, now headed by head man, Pat Quinn, to nurture and develop that talent to its fullest. It is up to the Leafs’ management team to exhibit the patience needed to aid in the development of that talent as well. The Leafs of the past have shown an unfortunate propensity to give up too soon on rising young players. If the team is truly to contend, that tendency must end. The first year of the Ken Dryden era did show some good patience with the “kids”. That patience must continue, even if some hard times still follow.
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WHERE’S THE GRIT ?
Top prospects for the 1999 NHL Draft Daniel and Henrik Sedin has established themselves as Elitserien-regulars this season while playing together on a scoring-line in MoDo along with Czech national-team veteran Jan Alinc, and they’re not doing a bad job if you look at their stats. Daniel has two goals and five assists and is a plus five in nine games played, and Henrik has scored once, assisted on three and is a plus six in nine games.
These are very good numbers for two 18-year olds in a defensive- minded league, and their stock for the draft cannot possibly have been hurt by the fine start to the season that the Sedin’s have had. All the skills are in place, they both have very good vision and they can pass the puck excellently. They also seem to fully grasp the team-concept and they have already learned how to play defensive hockey.
There’s one thing lacking though, something you could immediately see in Peter Forsberg when he entered the Elitserien as a 17-year old : The will to win at all costs, the emotion.
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For this month’s edition of the Sabres Top 20, I’ve decided to remove the name of Vaclav Varada, the man that occupied the top spot in my last Top 10 offering. Vaclav has been removed, not because of poor play or a trade, but because he has convinced me that he is a bona fide NHL forward. He may not put up great numbers this season, but I believe that he could develop into a player capable of 25-30 goals a season.
As for the rest of the list, I am including a few 1998 draftees that had not previously been listed. These players have begun their junior seasons, so I’ve been able to get a better feel for what players are displaying NHL potential. I’ve included statistics as of 10/12/98 for most of the players (Rochester stats will be added once they’ve played more games) so that prospect-watchers will have an idea of how these players are performing.
Cory Sarich D
Cory did not have as good a camp as the Sabres would have liked, so he will receive more development time in Rochester. He has all the tools to be a top-notch NHL defenseman, but he needs to play with a little more control. He has earned the reputation of being a big hitter, but he sometimes goes for the big hit at the expense of being caught out of position. There are several defensemen on the Buffalo roster, so there is no need to rush Cory into the NHL.
Dimitri Kalinin D
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Well, the San Jose Sharks have completed their 1998 training camp. As always, some guys were impressive, some not. The players who were sent down in the first set of cuts I did not get the chance to see… The others however, I have seen. Some of the guys sent down in the first set had write-ups in the paper about them, and I recorded those comments in the players review…
1: Sean Gauthier: G-Many have been impressed by him; unfortunately, I’m not one of them… He has given up tons of rebound opportunities… Bruce Racine should get the #3 job, only question is does Gauthier go to AHL or the ECHL?
2: Bill Houlder: D-Very typical Billy Houlder defensive hockey… Nothing flashy, but doing his job… Not allowing the forwards to get any great shots off…
3: Bob Rouse: D-He’s looking like a very good pickup… Largely overshadowed in Detroit…
4: Andrei Zyuzin: D-The fact that he has not shown much improvement since last year is a bit disheartening, but I wouldn’t get to worried quite yet… Darryl Sutter has voiced displeasure of his play, but also has implied that there has been progress as camp goes on…
5: Brad Stuart: D-You could tell he was a bit overwhelmed… He seemed surprised at times at the extra speed and intensity of the NHL players… Sent down to Regina at the last minute. (WHL) Read more »
Thank goodness the exhibition season is over! At least, I’m sure that is what most Buffalo Sabre fans are thinking as they watched their favorite NHL team go 1-6 in pre-season play (2-6 if you count the win over the Austrian team).
While I’m sure many are heaving a sigh of relief at not having to endure another sloppy exhibition game, the bad news is the 98-99 season begins for the Sabres Saturday in Dallas. To say that this team does not even remotely resemble the team that made the final four last season would be an understatement. True, there are four players holding out, but this does not explain the sometimes-indifferent play by many of the players that were regulars last season. If the Sabres believe that they can flick a switch that will improve their play, then they could be in for a rude awakening in their first two contests in Dallas and Denver.
With regard to the Sabre prospects attempting to make the team, the main battle has been for the 7th defensive slot, i.e. the guy who will spend most of the season watching games from the press box. The top two contestants for this position are Jason Holland and Rumun Ndur, with Mike Hurlbut also receiving some consideration. To my eyes, Holland appears to be the more accomplished player, but he is not the physical presence that Ndur can be. The player that ultimately will win this position could be decided by what type of player the Sabres would like to have in reserve. Still, my feeling is that Ndur’s skills are not quite NHL caliber, and that Holland will prevail.
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September 1998 will go down in Blues annals as one of change with an optimistic eye toward the future. This camp was the first one in more than 10 years in which Brett Hull was not present. Also missing from last year’s roster were defenceman Steve Duchesne and forwards Blair Atcheynum and Darren Turcotte.
The Blues made no major trades over the summer and the training camp would provide an opportunity for some of the Blues’ new young talent to step to the forefront.
The major holes the Blues were looking to fill were a #2 center, which would enable Pavol Demitra to move to wing, a checking line RW to replace Blair Atcheynum, provided Scott Young was playing on one of the top two lines, and a scoring line LW, where the Blues have little depth. The Blues have good depth on defence and appear to be set in goal with Grant Fuhr and Jamie McLennan.
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The overwhelming story at the Leafs camp this fall has of course been the trade rumours surrounding Felix Potvin. It hasn’t had too much of an effect on the team however, as they improved to 5-0-1 in preseason action with an overtime victory over Montreal. New coach Pat Quinn has brought a much-needed fresh perspective to camp, and has given many prospects extended looks in preseason games. Standing out on occasion has been a crop of good young defensemen, including Marek Posmyk, Tomas Kaberle, Yannick Tremblay, Daniil Markov, and Jeff Ware. Forwards making an impression have been Lonny Bohonos, Mark Deyell, Adam Mair, and Frantisek Mrazek. Their goaltending is of course deep at the NHL level, and their group of four young minor league goaltenders – Jamie Hodson, Marc Robitaille, Francis Larivee, and Doug Bonner – bode well for the future. Here is a look at the Leafs camp and their suddenly promising prospects. (ages as of opening day)
Several marginal veterans were invited to the Leafs camp, including Steven Rice, Nikolai Borshevsky, and Garry Valk. Veteran Steve Thomas was signed as an unrestricted free agent, and will start the season on the top line. The diminutive Borshevsky, for one, has shown that he can still provide some much-needed goals and has a chance to stick, and at least one or two of these additions will take a roster spot away from an otherwise deserving youngster.
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After the 98/99 season, the Troja/Ljungby right winger Mattias Weinhandl became a wanted player in Swedish hockey. Even though Troja/Ljungby failed once again to qualify to the Elite League, the hockey world opened it’s eyes for Mattias and no less than 11 out of 12 teams in the Elite League (all but Luleå) wanted his signature on a contract.
MoDo finally became the team lucky enough to sign this, then 18-year-old, player who is the latest talent from Troja, in southern Sweden. However, the likely thing happened and he got drafted by the New York Islanders, and Mattias became “one of eight MoDo talents drafted this year” to the whole world although he probably hasn´t even tried on his MoDo jersey just yet. Though this is an extreme case, it tells something about how MoDo sometimes buys their prospect success. Still, this is not MoDo’s fault – it’s just a media trend to try to connect as many players as possible to MoDo nowadays, because MoDo has a good name that sells.
Mattias got a good start in the 98/99 season with 18 goals, 15 assists and 18 PIM in 28 Div. 1 games. Troja/Ljugby then qualified to Allsvenskan among with seven other leading Div. 1 teams and the harder competition here made Mattias’s stats decrease a little, but they are still very impressive for an 18-year-old:
LEAGUE TEAM GP G A TP PIM +/-
Allsvenskan Troja/L 14 2 4 6 10 -3
Play-off (to qualify round) Troja/L 5 4 3 7 4 +6 Read more »
SIMON GAGNE- If there is one position that the Philadelphia Flyers are a little short on as far as organizational depth is concerned, it would be the center position. And that is almost humorous because at the NHL level, it is difficult not to trip over a center as one walks to the First Union Center since the Flyers have about eight players that could play the pivot on most any NHL team.
The one sure fire future gem at the center spot for the Flyers would be the Quebec Ramparts Simon Gagne. Gagne is a very good skater but it is his hockey sense that has the faithful of the Delaware Valley excited about his pending debut as a pro. He should be invited to go to camp with the Canadian National Junior Team later in the fall which should only help Gagne hone his skills as the Flyers keep an eye on their top offensive prospect.
Tickets could go on sale for Gagne’s first pro game as soon as September of next year, but a cup of coffee with the big club after the 99-00 QMJHL season is finished is a more realistic timetable.
Mike Maneluk- I know. I know. Maneluk is skating the preseason as Eric Lindros’ right wing on the Philadelphia Flyers top line. But the Flyers are reportedly looking for an established NHL top flight RWer and that should drop Maneluk back a couple of lines and into his normal left side position. And that is not too bad for a player that cost Philadelphia one dollar to pry him out of the Ottawa organization
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