Welcome to this belated edition of the Sabres’ Top 20.
There has been only slight movement since my last
offering, but there have been noteworthy
accomplishments by some of the prospects since November. The most notable achievements took place in the recently completed World Junior Championships, but there were also some individual game heroics by other prospects that deserve a mention. Here is the latest edition of the Top 20 prospects of the Buffalo Sabres.
1) Cory Sarich D 6’3 182
Holding steady in the top spot is Cory Sarich, the fine
young defenseman playing in Rochester. Cory has shown
continued improvement as the season has progressed, to
the point where some are referring to him as the total
package. He makes few mistakes for a rookie, plays the
body very well, has a good shot and contributes
offensively. The coaches have shown a lot of faith
in Cory, using him to kill penalties, play the point
on the power play, and play in the final minutes of
tight games. Recent offensive highlights for Sarich
have been two-assist games on 12/2 and 12/27, as well
as a first star award in the 11/27 contest. In short,
Cory is becoming the player that the Sabre scouts thought
he would be.
Team GP G A Pts PIM +/- GWG
Rochester (AHL) 34 3 16 19 42 N/A 0
2) Erik Rassmussen C 6′ 2″ 207
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SAME OLD STORY – SWEDES CHOKE AGAIN.
After yet another failure for the Swedish national team in the World Junior Championships, no major criticism has been directed towards the team, the coach or the players. It seems like Swedes have gotten used to constant failures and constant choking in key-games.
The way I see it, the main reason for this is a lack of emotion from the players. Swedes are always disciplined, and they know how to play a system. They usually have a couple of very skilled players too, but as a team there is not enough heart and emotion. On-ice leadership is a problem too.
Just like stickhandling or skating is a talent, heart and grit is one too. Players can improve it to a certain point, but not all players can be the best skaters, stickhandlers, and not all can have the biggest hearts on the ice either. It seems to me like Sweden has been focusing so much on the defensive side of the game, and downplayed the importance of heart, that not many Swedes show emotion on the ice. The players who defy the system-hockey and show a lot of emotion on the ice are often told to play the system first, and that the emotion is secondary. It should be the other way around. To me, having the desire to win is the single most important quality in a player and when the players with the biggest desire to win are slotted into a role with little room to lead and change momentum of a game, the heart the player will show will suffer.
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In this report, I’m going to cover what is undoubtedly the most important position on the ice. Take a look at Stanley Cup winners throughout history, and what do they all have in common? Goaltending. At the very least, it’s been good, if not great. Detroit has had Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon. In previous years it’s been names such as Broduer, Roy and Richter. So who’s going to be the goaltender for the Sharks when they eventually win the Cup? Will it be one of the below named players, or someone else currently with another team or in juniors?
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December 31st, 1998
Well now that the new year is almost upon us and the holidays have taken their toll on myself(and my car, may it rest in peace), I’ve decided that the slacking off is going to stop. The most recent of these updates have been few and far between and I hope to remedy that right now. So enjoy it and the New Year’s celebrations, because a good number of us will be regretting it in the morning(the over-celebration that is).
World Junior Championships: Three Penguins draftees are participating this year, Andrew Ference, Mika Lehto, and Alexander Zevakhin. First round draftee Milan Kraft was left off of the Czech roster for seemingly no reason other than his migration to North America. Ference was medically cleared to play at the last minute and should help bolster a strong Canadian defense. Mika Lehto is seeing little ice time (just under 20 minutes in 3 games) for the Finnish team, playing backup to Mika Noronen. Alexander Zevakhin made the Russian roster by the skin of his teeth (he was considered a longshot to make the team) and has one goal for the offense-minded Russian team.
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In the recent update of the Philadelphia Flyers page, I reshuffled the deck when it came to the new Hockey’s Futures’ Flyers Prospect Top 10 List and boy- o-boy did many of you out there notice. The feedback was both swift and strong. Players like Jesse Boulerice and Brian Wesenberg would sleep much better at night if they knew the rabid backings they already have attained in the Delaware Valley. A fan inquiring about the omission of Paul Healey from the latest list even used the Hockey’s Futures’ Message Boards, a spot in the HF Newsletter that all hockeyheads should check out.
Momma didn’t raise no dummy and I quickly got the feeling that there was a need for more information on the players just sitting on the outside of the Top 10 List looking in. The Flyers are finding that having your top farm team play 300 yards from your home rink does wonders for fan interest in your younger players. It also speaks very favorably on the depth in the organization. Three years ago I would have had trouble coming up with a Top 7 List. The club’s future as far as drafted prospects go, while not great compared to the best drafting NHL clubs, is certainly showing signs of regeneration after cleaning out the cupboards to acquire Eric Lindros in 1992.
Now a little more info on the boys on the bubble….
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ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS 10 BRAVE COACHES !
For many swedish NHL-prospects, this season has so far been an endless practice. Yes, they may dress for games and they are almost always included in their respective clubteams squad, but many just dress to sit on the bench for entire games – or possibly serve “too many men on the ice” – penalties on the much shorter bench at the opposite side of the rink.
The NHL teams that drafted them are surely concerned about this, at least to some degree. It would be better if they played, but experience also shows that players mature into regulars on their club teams after serving a couple of years or so learning how to not be a defensive liability and how to best fit into the teams defensive system. To most coaches in Sweden, knowing how to be a good defensive player is the most important quality if you want to be a regular on a team. The second most important quality is discipline. Don’t show any emotion – just obey the defensive system.
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Well, first off, I owe everyone an apology. I said in my last post that I would be writing stories back to my normal pace, but unfortunately things came up, and that wasn’t possible, but I’m back…
In this report I’m going to focus on some players currently in Kentucky of the AHL, and briefly on one player currently playing in Richmond of the ECHL.
The Sharks have had some surprises in Kentucky this year, fortunately, they have all been pleasant surprises thus far. Perhaps the biggest surprise is right up at the top, in their coach, Roy Sommer. Last year, Sommer was the eye in the sky for the San Jose Sharks. At that point, the Kentucky Thoroughblades decided that while Jim Wiley may be a good guy, being the Head Coach of the team wasn’t quite his spot, so he was re-assigned, demoted, whatever you want to call it to Director of Hockey Operations. Roy Sommer was brought from the San Jose Sharks to fulfill his first Head Coaching job in the AHL. Roy has coached in the ECHL, oddly enough with the Richmond Renegades, now the Sharks ECHL affiliate, and won it all there on multiple occasions. Many people will tell you that Sommer could possibly be the next Head Coach of the San Jose Sharks if things work out well enough there. After a very disappointing season in Kentucky last year, rookie Head Coach Roy Sommer has put the Tblades into a position where they are challenging for their division title.
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YOUNG AIK-DEFENDERS SHOWING PROMISE
AIK has been a pleasant surprise after having played the first half of the Elitserien. They’re currently 6th in a 12-team league, and they’re sporting a 12-12-3 record after 27 games. Most experts thought they would struggle for points, so having a .500-record more than halfway into the season should be thought of as a successful first half of the campaign.
The team as a whole is not the only ones showing promise though. Two NHL-drafted defensemen have also established themsleves in the league. One of them as a star, and the other one is quickly making a name for himself.
The two players I’m thinking of is Dick Tärnström, drafted 272nd overall in 1994 by the New York Islanders and Henrik Tallinder, drafted 48th overall on 1997 by the Buffalo Sabres.
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SWEDEN NAMES SQUAD FOR JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
When Team Sweden Head Coach Mats Hallin named his team for the Junior World Championships it was quite clear to everyone what kind of attributes he was looking for in his players;
The smallest defenseman on the team is Edmonton Oilers draftee Jonas Elofsson (6’1, 180), who is a rushing defenseman, who has good offensive instincts, but he is not reliable in his own zone nor with his effort. The smallest forward is Södertälje’s Per Hallin (5’11, 185), who happens to be Coach Mats Hallin’s son.
The biggest player on the team is MoDo’s Henrik Mellinder (6’5, 225), who was also the biggest surprise to be named on the team. Mellinder has played only two Elite League games in his career, and he only got to play because MoDo has been struck hard by injuries to their defensemen. Mellinder seems to like the physical side of the game, and he is by no means a finesse player. He is a slowfooted stay-at-home defenseman with limited skills.
Given the size of the players on the team (average size is 6’2, 194), they shouldn’t be pushed around in any game, and the thinking is that they will be more effective on the North American ice-surface than smaller players.
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There has been a fair amount of both upward and downward movement in the prospect rankings this month, with one player being added to the list (Brian Campbell) and one player removed (Andrew Peters).
In the case of Campbell, a player performing at the level that Brian is playing simply can’t be ignored. As for Peters, however, a player performing as poorly as Andrew is at this time can’t help but be ignored. While it is too early to write off Andrew Peters as a bust, the Sabres scouts no doubt get a lump in their throats when they get the latest reports on Peters’ play. Andrew has but 3 points in 12 games, with his main attribute being his ability to fight. There is talk that Andrew doesn’t get along with the Oshawa coach, and that a trade might be the best thing that could happen to him. Whatever the case, Peters needs to straighten out his game if he wants to live up to the expectations that come with being a high 2nd round pick.
Cory Sarich D
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