Buffalo, NY (GS) — If you are a fan of the Buffalo Sabres, then you have learned that bigger isn’t always better. Players like Mike Peca, Brian Holzinger, Curtis Brown, Dixon Ward and Derek Plante hardly have the desired NHL size, yet they still have been very successful here at times. Brown is one of the true underrated players in the entire NHL, while Peca, despite being only 5-foot-10, is one of the most feared checkers. For several years, NHL teams became obsessed with size when it came to drafting players, often selecting big raw projects, rather than selecting pure talent, and the Buffalo Sabres were no different (note the selections of Brad May, Joel Savage and David Cooper). Recently, the Sabres have stepped away from the draft “big” philosophy, looking more towards talent. In several cases they appear to have taken players with potential big time upsides, and in other cases they may have been gambles.
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Name: Hnat Domenichelli
Birthdate: February 17, 1976
Acquired: Traded to Calgary from Hartford with Glen Featherstone and two picks (1997 draft: Kokorev, 1998 draft: Paul Manning) for Steve Chaisson and a 1997 pick (Francis Lessard.)
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Steve Valiquette’s stellar play in January earned him honors as ECHL Rookie of the month, as well as Goaltender of the month. Steve was stellar posting a 1.78 GAA during a month when his team experienced a rash of injuries and call-ups, making his performance is even more impressive. However, Steve is not the only hot Islanders prospect. Both Ray Giroux and Warren Luhning are having excellent season’s and were about to be recalled before they were injured early in 1999. Hopefully they will be able to regain their top form upon their returns.
Many of the Islanders top prospects have stepped their games up as of late. Mike Rupp has been coming on after Zehr was traded opening up a spot on Erie’s top line. Mike has posted 4 goals and 9 points in his last 10 games to go along with 18 penalty minutes. These numbers show falshes of Mike’s potential as a power forward. Sean Haggerty recently broke out of his post All-Star slump with 5 goals and 9 pts in his last 10 games as well. Bubba Berensweig also ended his drought with 7 points in his last 7 games. Vladimir Orszagh is enjoying a recent hot streak with 6 goals and 10 points in his last 10 games. And after not recording a goal in his first 30 games Evgeny Koroloev sparked the Lowell team with his first two professional goals in a recent game.
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Montreal has drafted Centers as their top two picks in each of the last two drafts. But goaltending still remains their deepest position, with Garon and Theodore projected to be number one goalies at the NHL level. Currently the Habs have only adequate prospects on defense. A defenseman with the ability to quarterback the power play has remained ever elusive. Only two of the Habs current defensemen were drafted by the team.
POS HT WT AGE DRAFTED
Mike Ribeiro C 5-10 167 20 D-Mtl98 (2/45)
GP G A PTS +/- PIM PP SH
98-99 Stats 60 59 90 149 +55 125 19 7
#1 Strength- Vision and creativity.
#1 Weakness- Size.
Playing with Rouyn-Noranda, the QMJHL’s top offensive team, Ribeiro has been on fire this season. He is currently averaging almost 2.5 points per game and is leading the CHL in scoring. His +55 is a product of his great offensive skills, while his 7 short handed goals testify to his intelligence and ability to create offense in almost any situation. His penalty minutes have more than doubled his total from last year, which indicate he is drawing much more attention from his opponents, but is not backing down.
Ribeiro’s output of 6 points in 3 games is slightly below his season average. He had 2 points in a 6-5 win over Acadie-Bathurst, 2 goals and 2 assists in a 7-4 win over Rimouski and was shut out in a 4-0 loss to Shawinigan. (Week ending 2/21/99)
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Sioux City clinches birth while Des Moines continues to roll
The Sioux City Musketeers became the 4th team to clinch a USHL playoff birth over the weekend with 2 victories. The Musketeers scored 4 goals in the first period of Friday’s game against the Fargo-Moorhead Ice Sharks and that would be enough as they eventually roll to a 7-2 victory. Morgan Roach, last weeks offensive player of the week, got the game winning goal in the Friday contest. Ruslan Fedotenko also added to his league leading goal tally twice on Friday bringing his season total to 47. Sioux City then took a game from the Twin Cities Vulcans 5-2 the following night to join Des Moines, Omaha, and Green Bay as teams that have clinched playoff births.
Des Moines continued their winning ways with a 10-5 drubbing of Twin Cities on Friday and then blanking the Dubuque Fighting Saints 6-0 in a game played in Davenport, IA on Saturday night. The wins were numbers 6 and 7 in a row, which is the longest current winning streak in the league. While offense was the order of the night on Friday with Des Moines receiving goals from Peter Sejna(2G), Pete Fregoe(2G), Nick Field (2G), Noah Clarke, Jerrid Reinholz, Nick Stodgell, and Garrett Stafford, they quickly turned to stingy defensive play on Saturday. Matt Carney stopped all 23 Dubuque shots and CSB ranked Matt Shasby was a +3 with an assist. Des Moines continues to lead the league with 79 points and an impressive record of 25 wins, 5 losses, and one shootout loss.
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For those who continue to believe that the Washington Capitals still have one of the best groups of prospects in all of hockey, I would suggest you take a another look. The continual injury crisis in Washington has slowly and steadily drained much of Washington’s youth, rushing many of them into the NHL. Now, if you choose to include players like Jan Bulis, Jaroslav Svejkowski , Richard Zednik and Brendan Witt as prospects, there is little doubt that the Capitals are still powerful. However, in all fairness, all four of those players have shown they do belong in the NHL and they can no longer truly be considered prospects. The current state of looks rather bleak mainly because Washington has had two sub par drafts in a row and much of their current talent pool appears to be more career minor leaguers than NHL. If I was to honestly rank the Capitals I would have to place them somewhere between 8 and 14.
Examining the players currently within the system, the Capitals do show some balance. They appear to have at least one fairly strong prospect at every position but beyond that it looks thin. The center position appears to be Washington’s strongest area though the team seems to be fairly deep on defense as well. If a few of the goalies can regain their previous forms, the Caps seem set at that position as well for years to come.
Let’s take a look at what is left in Washington’s system position by position.
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MODO LIKELY TO REMAIN AS ELITSERIEN POWERHOUSE IN 99/00
With MoDo running away with the number 1 spot in the regular Elitserien-season and them probably having the among the largest number of NHL-drafted players on their team, one has to wonder whether they will remain as strong next season, or if NHL-teams will sign MoDo’s keyplayers and have them take a shot at the NHL.
The players that have proven themselves in the Elitserien, and could make it to the NHL even next season are the following:
Hans Jonsson, D, 25, 6’2, 190, 32-3-3-6, +11, 38 PIM. Pittsburgh – 286th 1993.
A defenseman without any obvious weaknesses who is strong in his own zone. Not patricularly physical, but mature and calm with the puck. Could be able to step right in, in the NHL and be a solid 4th- to 6th defenseman. Only question is how big his desire to play in the NHL is, and how big the Penguins desire is to bring him over.
Samuel Pahlsson, C, 20, 5’11, 200, 41-14-25-29, +15, 38 PIM. Colorado – 176th 1996.
Was hyped during the summer and the pre-season as the next big star in Sweden, but started out the season struggling to score. He regained his touch after winger Magnus Wernblom returned from suspension, and is now on his way to putting up respectable numbers. He is ready physically, and can throw the occasional hit. He won’t hesitate to take a beating in front of the net either. He won’t be more than average in the NHL, but he will likely make it as a third- or fourth liner.
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The USHL hopes to take its place beside other leagues in talent production. Few are aware of this league that often comes before college hockey for many players.
The USHL is not like the junior hockey played throughout Canada. The players in this league (ages 16-20) are not allowed to be paid because they are trying to maintain eligibility for US College Hockey which, by NCAA rules, does not allow a player who was paid to play hockey at any other level of play to participate. The USHL is known as Junior A hockey or “Tier II Juniors”. Many of these players do not expect to get drafted immediately by NHL franchises, although some are, and want to continue to develop their hockey skills in this league and eventually in college level hockey.
Besides maintaining eligibility for college hockey, there are many other reasons players choose to come to the USHL. Some are following coaches who may have coached them in high school before moving into the USHL. Others simply prefer to play hockey in the United States instead of moving North to Canada.
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In the past two games the Buffalo Sabres have played rookie defenseman Corey Sarich. He has played very strong these two games, including some key times in overtime game against Ottawa. He currently holds a rating of +2. With recent trade talks it is expected that Corey might be playing with Chicago or Pittsburgh with in the next couple of weeks. He would be involved in a trade that would involve Mike Wilson, Derek Plante and Matthew Barnaby. But if he does stay with Buffalo, expect to see Buffalo draft his younger brother Rod Sarich in the upcoming 1999 draft.
Rod Sarich who also plays defense will most likely make the NHL by the year 2002, depending on the team that he goes to. Rod is an intelligent and strong skater, who has the intangibles of a great defenseman but has to get a little bit more into his checking game. His brother, Corey, is completely opposite and has to learn not to hit every thing he sees. Rod currently plays for the Calgary Hitmen who also brought players like Boris Protsenko, Peter Bergman, Kevin Marsh, Aaron MacDonald and Ray Schultz. Rod Sarich so far has played 17 games but had no points and a –2 rating which equals not a very productive year.
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