In the preseason version of this listing of the Buffalo Sabres Top 20 prospects, forward Thomas Vanek knocked goaltender Ryan Miller from the top slot that the goaltender had held for some time. But the pendulum has swung back towards Miller in this mid-season presentation of the Top 20, with the two Rochester Americans teammates reverting back to their former standings.
This reversal is probably the most significant change in the top ten rankings, but there has been other movement in the lower half of the list that has a few new names appearing in the top 20 for the first time. Newcomers to the list include goaltender Michal Valent, a 2004 selection, and defenseman Nathan Paetsch, one of a handful of rearguards chosen by the Sabres in the 2003 NHL
As has been the case for the past couple of seasons, forwards have a solid hold on the top ten, with defensive prospects being better represented in the lower half of the list. There appears to be a solid mix of offensive players and grinders amongst the forwards, with Vanek, Roy and Pominville representing the former and Paille and Stafford amongst the latter. On the other hand, the defensive prospects seem to suffer from the lack of a real standout performer, while the group itself is characterized by more undersized players with decent ability. The goaltending is obviously topped by Miller, with the Slovakian netminder Valent having the potential to develop into a solid goaltendi Read more»
A quick reading of Drew Stafford’s pre-draft scouting report might have given the impression that the Buffalo Sabres used their top pick in the 2004 NHL Draft on a moderately skilled winger with a strong work ethic. To some, Stafford’s profile screamed “Barrett Heisten”, the Sabres 1999 top selection who, six years on, is still trying to secure regular employment in the NHL.
For his part, Stafford, currently one of the better forwards at the NCAA level, may have quieted some of the concerns for his game with a strong performance at the 2005 World Junior Championships held in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Perhaps it was a case of some home cooking for the University of North Dakota star, since the Ralph Englestad Arena where many of the WJC games took place is UND’s home arena.
Whatever the case, Stafford’s performance should have the Sabres hockey department feeling good about their most recent first round selection. They may even be feeling some pride in the play of two more of their WJC participants, Clarke MacArthur and Denis Ezhov. The pair turned in solid performances of their own, with MacArthur taking home a gold medal playing for Canada and Ezhov bagging silver with the Russian team.
Although his USA squad failed to defend their 2004 gold medal, Stafford showed that he is more than just a grinder with some ability. Indeed, the Faribault, Minnesota native finished the tournament as the team’s leading scorer and goal scorer. He finished with eight points (5 goals, 3 assists) to finish tied for eighth in scoring in Read more»
After three consecutive years of playoff futility that saw the Rochester Americans ousted in the first round of the AHL playoffs, the club made a nice run in the 2003-04
postseason only to fall in the Western Conference final to their new nemesis, the Milwaukee Admirals. Although a series loss on the brink of the Calder Cup final was no doubt some hard medicine for the Amerks, the upside was that the team experienced some success with a roster that included several young NHL prospects.
Many of those same young prospects are returning to the 2004-05 edition of the Amerks, with some additional highly touted young guns added to the mix.
Rochester’s parent club, the Buffalo Sabres, signed two first round selections in the offseason, including 2002 selection and former Guelph Storm star Daniel Paille, and former Frozen Four MVP and 2003 top pick Tomas Vanek. In addition to those two highly anticipated signings, the Amerks also inked young Sabres defenseman Jeff Jillson to an AHL contract, which adds three former first round picks to a lineup already sporting some emerging young talent.
The foundation for the Amerks success last season was the special teams units, which included a power play that ranked first overall in the AHL plus the eighth-ranked penalty killing contingent. The powe Read more»
Sabres Top 10 Prospects
- Ryan Miller, G
- Thomas Vanek, LW
- Jason Pominville, RW
- Dan Paille, LW/C
- Milan Bartovic, LW
- Clarke MacArthur, LW/C
- Paul Gaustad, C/LW
- Chris Thorburn, W/C
- Branislav Fabry, RW
- Denis Ezhov, D
The Buffalo Sabres enter the 2004 NHL Draft with a prospect list that looks very familiar towards the top, but is a mad scramble beyond the top five. Overall, however, the needs for this team in terms of prospect depth should be obvious with only a cursory glance at the prospect chart.
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier will preside over his eighth NHL Draft with this club. The team’s performance at the draft table has been spotty during Regier’s tenure, with the Sabres missing on a few first round selections, but also finding some solid talent in later rounds. Upon further review, though, this draft record is not out of line with that of previous Sabres’ GMs, so the mediocrity of Regier’s time in Buffalo may be less a reflection of his abilities than it is an affirmation of the personnel department’s inability to help build a true contender.
The Sabres have eight picks in this draft, including picks in all rounds except the fourth. The club will be drafting 13th in the order, except for picks acquired from other teams.
With the Buffalo Sabres positioning themselves as a team that is building for the future, the expectation going into the season was that there would be several rookies gracing the lineup over the course of the season. Indeed, the Sabres did find occasion to use seven rookies during the 2003-04 season, with three of them having at least some impact, and the other four dropping in for a cup of coffee.
The most prominent rookie to skate for the Sabres this past season was 2001 second round pick Derek Roy. Roy had signed with the team at the NHL signing deadline last year, with the expectation having been that the stocky center would spend his first season learning his craft with AHL affiliate Rochester. A solid performance by Roy in the preseason nearly changed that view, but the Sabres nevertheless elected to send the 2003 Memorial Cup MVP down the thruway to Rochester to start the season.
A strong first quarter of the 2003-04 season with the Rochester Americans, combined with a poor start by the Sabres, led to Roy being summoned to Buffalo in early December. His primary role may have been to light a spark under some more veteran talent on the club, but the young pivot instead made such a good impression that he stuck with the club for the remainder of the season.
While Roy was not contributing a great deal of offense early on, he was instead making his presence felt through his effort and defensive play. That changed a bit in January, when the Sabres called up speedy left winger and fellow rookie Milan Bartovic from Rochest Read more»