The Canadian Hockey League, which consists of the Ontario, Western and Quebec leagues, is still the predominate supplier of
talent to the NHL. The Buffalo Sabres have in recent seasons taken full advantage of the talent supply available in the CHL by
drafting players such as Curtis Brown, Jay McKee, Brian Campbell and Martin Biron, to name a few.
While some of Buffalo’s best junior talent has graduated to the pros, it does not mean that the talent pool has gone dry. The
Sabres, in fact, have a handful of average-to-above-average prospects currently playing in the three leagues, with the WHL
housing some of the more promising youngsters.
With the CHL now in full swing, this article represents the first of periodic (“periodic” being defined as when I feel like writing
them) articles updating the play of Buffalo’s junior contingent. I’ll highlight the hot Buffalo prospect in each league, as well as
point out the player(s) not living up to expectations, however low those expectations might be. In addition, I’ll make brief
mentions of some of the other junior prospects whose performances fall in between the “hot” and “not” categories.
Western Hockey League
HOT! Barrett Heisten of the Seattle Thunderbirds, who is so far succeeding in his quest to land a fat free agent contract. Heisten
has picked up 15 points (3G, 12A) in just 8 games, a pace that, were he to keep it up throughout the season, would put him
amongst the top scorers in t Read more »
As previously stated, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had much luck in the later rounds of previous Entry Drafts – especially with players from eastern Europe. Some current Leafs including Sergei Berezin, Tomas Kaberle, and Daniil Markov were acquired in this way. On October 28th, I was fortunate enough to watch a Leaf prospect who just might turn out to be another “diamond in the rough.”
The Maple Leafs drafted defensemen Lubos Velebny in the 7th round of the 2000 NHL Draft. Last year he played with Zvolen Jr. of the Slovakian Junior League. He also played in 7 games with Zvolen in the Slovakian Elite League. As reported earlier in Hockey’s Future, Velebny participated in the Leafs’ Rookie Tournament this fall. At the conclusion of the Rookie Camp, it was reported that Velebny had been sent back to his junior team in Slovakia.
On October 24, 2000, I received a post on my guest book that Velebny was, in fact, playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League (USHL), a junior league similar to the Canadian Hockey League. The United States Hockey League however is a league where players can retain their US college eligibility. I live about 45 minutes from Rochester, Minnesota, home of the USHL’s Rochester Mustangs. I was lucky enough to find out in time that the Black Hawks were playing the Mustangs on October 28th .
The Black Hawks beat the Mustangs 6-2 that night with Velebny picking up a goal and an assist to go along with 4 PIMs. Velebny looked very good, but you can see he is still trying Read more »
Last Sunday night appeared to be another night of celebration for the
Western Conference’s come-back team of the year, yet not all in Portland
A dramatic third period goal by Florida Panther draft pick Josh Olson took
the Portland WinterHawks to another victory, leaving them undefeated at home
this season. The victory Sunday night was also against Western Conference
powerhouse Kamloops Blazers, led by Constantine Panov and Jared Aulin. So
everything was great in Hawk-land, right?
Unfortunately, in Blake Robson’s eyes, all was not well. Following the
Hawks victory, Robson went to Portland General Manager Ken Hodge’s office
with commentary on lack of playing time and a need for a change. What
resulted was a request for a trade. Final answer: Prince George Cougars,
make room for crafty center Blake Robson and raw defenseman Chad Grisdale.
Portland WinterHawks, please welcome power-play wiz-kid Willy Glover and
rookie defenseman Joey Hope. And the grand prize winner . . . everyone!
Let’s face it folks, if you have a player in the locker room who just
doesn’t want to be there, GET HIM OUT! This is major junior hockey, not
some scrub league where old-timers are trying to live their lives
vicariously through their kids. These players are the top prospects for
their age. No disrespect to the college ranks or foreign elite leagues, but
the CHL is where players experience the closest thing to a real NHL season,
including a tough travel schedule and a 72 game season. In light of these
facts, don’t let Read more »
The time has come for the Czech Zepter hockey cup semifinals. The Zepter Cup is a summer event, where teams form all Czech senior leagues take part. In the first rounds meet the clubs from the minor leagues and the weakest teams are eliminated. It’s simply just one game played and the winner continues to the next round, while the loser is eliminated. After that the 16 remaining teams build four divisions, where every team meets the three others in the division twice, home and away. The division champions are the semi-finals rivals. After the semifinals there is only the game for the championship left. It’s a completely new event in the Czech republic and the semifinal pairings were Vsetin-Pardubice (Pardubice won 3:1) and Ceske Budejovice-Litvinov. This second game featured three future Czech hockey stars. Possible 2001 first round pick Jiri Novotny hit the ice with the white-red jersey of Ceske Budejovice, along with 2003 eligible star Milan Michalek. Also 2003 eligible forward Kamil Kreps wore the gold-black jersey of Litvinov, where he centered the 4th line in this game. Both Michalek and Kreps are 1984 born, but due to their birth dates (Michalek 12-07-1984, Kreps 11-18-1984) they are 2003 eligible.
Big skilled center Jiri Novotny centered the 4th line, with Michalek and mature veteran Vaclav Kral on the wings. Since the puck was dropped, Novotny showed why he is a 2001 top prospect. He played very aggressive along the boards, always using his size to fight for the puck. Jiri also showed good forechecking and tried to hit the opponents and after that make Read more »
Igor Larionov was considered by many people to be the best playmaker in the
world not named Wayne Gretzky during the 1980’s when he was centering the
famed KLM line on the Soviet Red Army team. Generously listed at 5’11” and
only weighing 170 pounds, Larionov managed to put together a brilliant
international career before finally playing in the NHL in 1989 as a
29-year-old rookie. If he was an 18-year-old rookie today, he might not
have been given a chance to play in the NHL. With the trend in the NHL
towards big bodies, he probably would have been considered too small.
Many general managers today would rather take a 6’4” 215 pound center with
limited skills than a 5’ 9” 165 pound center who can skate and handle the
puck. The thought is that you can’t teach size, but you can’t teach skills
that a player just does not have the physical tools for, either. Players
like Theo Fleury, Pat Verbeek, and Larionov have proven that small players
can be top line NHL players.
If you look at some of the most feared body checkers in the game in the last
decade, most of those players are not huge. Vladimir Konstantinov weighed
190 pounds. Mike Peca is not much bigger. Chris Chelios is listed at 6’1”
186 pounds, and yet he has sent more than his share of opponents to the
trainer’s table. “Terrible Ted” Lindsay, one of the toughest men ever to
play the game was only 5’ 10” and weighed 160 pounds! Compare them to the
passive 210 pound Larry Murphy or Mario Lemieux, who weighed 220 pounds, and
you have Read more »
Matt Shasby was the Canadiens’ 5th round pick, 150th overall in the
1999 NHL Entry Draft. He’s built in a similar mold to three other Habs’
draft picks. Ron Hainsey, Chris Dyment, and Ryan Glenn. All of who play
in the US College ranks. Although Shasby’s name has not been mentioned
in the same breath as Hainsey and Dyment, his early season success is
beginning to merit some attention.
Through 4 games Shasby has already doubled his goal output of a year
ago. In fact, he scored more goals in an October 14th game against
Michigan (2) than he did the entire 99-00 season. After 6 games he has 2
goals and 2 assists, compared to 1 goal and 8 assists in 32 games last
As a 17 year-old he was selected to be a member of the USA Hockey
Development Program. This is a program which has turned out defensemen
Brooks Orpik, David Tanabe, and Doug Janik. Unfortunately Shasby had
already committed to Lincoln of the USHL. This decision likely slowed
down his development, as he missed out on some of the best coaching
available in the US, and a possible trip to the World Junior
Matt attended a Pro Conditioning camp in Minnesota during the
off-season. This camp allowed Matt the opportunity to develop a
conditioning program to increase his strength, and push his weight up to
Earlier this season he was selected as the top defenseman in the Nissan
Classic Hockey Tournament, which took place the weekend of October 13th.
He was also named to the All-Tournament team; An incredible achievement
consider Read more »
In most cases, attention tends to be focussed upon only the top draft
choices within any organization. Although this is also the case in
Toronto, I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of late round picks
that seem to be doing fairly well for the Maple Leafs.
2000 8th Round pick Lubos Velebny and 9th Round pick Jean-Philippe Cote
are both progressing nicely at this time. Both players have become
important defenders this season with Waterloo of the USHL and Cape
Breton of the QMJHL respectively.
Velebny, who many believed to be still playing in the Slovakian Jr.
League, has been placed with the USJHL team in Waterloo, IA by the Maple
Leafs. He had been reasonably impressive in limited duty at the team’s
Rookie Camp in September. Velebny has played in half of the (Waterloo)
Black Hawks’ games has one goal and one assist with 8 PIMs.
Cote, who was traded from Quebec last year to Cape Breton, is the (Cape
Breton) Eagle’s 2nd highest scoring defensemen after 16 games. He has
one goal and nine assists to go along with 15 PIMs. Like Velebny, Cote
possesses prototypical NHL size, plays a physical style and navigates
the ice fairly well.
With the recent success of other late round picks such as Kaberle,
Markov, and Berezin, the Maple Leafs will be well advised to remain
extremely patient with both of these youngsters.
Another in a series of weekly articles summarizing activity in Leafland
during the previous 7 days – with some personal observations,
commentary, prospect updates and fun thrown in for good measure.
Another Lindros Story: Apparently Mr. B. Clarke of Philadelphia is
ready to kiss and make up with the entire Lindros clan … its very
doubtful, though, that a proud man like Bobby would be willing to kiss
the particular part of Eric’s anatomy needed to bring that marriage back
off the rocks … there is a prevailing opinion out there that the Flyers
still effectively control Lindros’ destiny but I’m not really buying
into this view … Eric has no financial concerns (based on past earnings
and potential insurance income) and can basically refuse any trade
engineered by Clarke that is not to his liking … in the interim, he can
wait on the sidelines and regain his full health, knowing that
unrestricted free agency is now only approximately 1 ½ seasons away …
the law of diminishing returns is quickly coming into play here for his
former team … by the way, Eric is said to be still intent on playing for
the Maple Leafs and, given the situation outlined above, he’ll likely
get his wish if he simply remains patient and sticks to his guns …
incidently, I was very interested to note that the Flyers let Mark
Recchi play last week following a serious head injury … I suppose that
some things never change …
Keep The Faith: I have it on very good authority (and there is not a
greater Leafs’ expert in the world that my very goo Read more »
Preface: Once in a while a player comes along that is special. People
take notice. Imagine a player that takes no prisoners, slashes through
the opposition and breaks down the myth that a small player just can’t
make it in a big man’s game. Suppose this player also had the raw
skills and strength to show well on the international stage. Meet
Jordin Tootoo of the Brandon Wheat Kings, of the Western Hockey League,
JA = John Agar, JT = Jordin Tootoo
JA: Thanks Jordin for helping us out at Hockey’s Future and reporting
on hockey’s future which I think you are going to be a big part of. I
have seen some very good things over the last few years; heard a lot
about you. A lot of people want to know about you, so we are very
grateful for your participation.
JT: Thanks John, for having me here too.
JA: Now Jordin, you were born in what year?
JT: I was born in 1983. February 2nd.
JA: So that puts you in what draft year?
JT: 01. 2001.
JA: Is that this year?
Read more »