The top talent in the hockey world under the age of 20 has gathered in Finland for the 2004 World Junior Championships. Included amongst the legion of talented teens are three draftees of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
This gathering of talent features players from many different countries, so it is only fitting that the trio of Sabres prospects have varied backgrounds. One player, Daniel Paille, hails from the Ontario Hockey League, one of the top developmental leagues in the world. The Sabres top pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and second WJC attendee, Thomas Vanek, has starred in the NCAA for the past two seasons. The Sabres third WJC entrant, Branislav Fabry, plays in Slovakia’s top league despite being just 18 years of age.
This is the second appearance in the WJC for Paille. He was a member of last year’s silver medal-winning Canadian squad, and this year has been named the captain of Team Canada. The left winger earned a spot on the national team after a strong first half to his 2003-04 season.
Paille plays for the Guelph Storm of the OHL, a team currently tied for first overall in that league. The Welland, Ontario native is second in scoring on the Storm, having picked up 16 goals and 22 assists in 29 games. His 38 points places him 17th in scoring in the OHL, while his goal total has Paille 10th in the league in that category.
Through three WJC matches, Paille has netted three goals for the undefeated Canadian squad. He is currently ranked fifth amongst Sabres prospects by Read more»
The tumult of the Buffalo Sabres’ 2002-03 season may have overshadowed the fact that the team seems to have its most solid list of prospects in several years. The high draft position the Sabres “earned” as a result of their poor season was perhaps the one silver lining, but it also presented the team’s hockey department their best opportunity in many years to add high-end talent to their existing stable of prospects.
The Sabres did not disappoint their fan base at the 2003 NHL Draft, as they used their first selection on University of Minnesota star forward Tomas Vanek. Vanek wowed both hockey fans of Western New York as well as a national TV audience while earning MVP honors at the Frozen Four Tournament held in Buffalo last spring. The Austrian appears to possess a scoring touch not seen on the shores of Lake Erie since Alexander Mogilny was shipped to Vancouver back in 1995.
Vanek will fill a void left near the top of the Sabres’ prospect list, a void created with the departure of 2002 first selection Keith Ballard. Ballard, a teammate of Vanek’s at the University of Minnesota, was Buffalo’s best defensive prospect; in fact, the stocky rearguard was probably one of only two defensive prospects worthy of top ten consideration.
The player that finished atop the Sabres’ prospect list last season, go Read more»
Following a season that featured enough plot twists and dark tidings for an Alfred Hitchcock film, the Buffalo Sabres seemingly approach the 2003-04 NHL season a much more stable franchise. With new ownership in place in the form of Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano, plus the infusion of offensively talented newcomers Chris Drury and Andy Delmore, there is certainly a more upbeat atmosphere surrounding the club than there was at this time last year.
Given the nightmare of a season that the team merely endured both on and off the ice, it might be logical to assume that the Sabres would have several roster spots up for grabs when training camp begins in St. Catherines, Ontario next Thursday.
That assumption may be a faulty one, however, since the Sabres are already one of the youngest teams in the NHL. At best, there may be two or three slots up for grabs in camp, with those openings being on the team’s third and fourth lines. The battle for those openings should provide most of the excitement during the preseason, and could provide the fans with a couple of fresh faces from the team’s prospect ranks.
Although the team’s prospect list swelled by several players at the NHL Entry Draft, General Manager Darcy Regier was not nearly as active in the prospect signing department this off-season. Last summer, the team signed seven prospects. This summer, only two youngsters, Derek Roy and Chris Thorburn, have thus far been signed.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the Sabres system, 2003 No. 1 selection and Univer Read more»
With the dust now cleared following the completion of the 2003 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres appear to have a slightly more balanced prospect chart than they had going into the draft. Positions that were wanting for prospects have now had some depth added, while the team continued to add some depth at positions where there isn’t that great a need.
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier and his scouts clearly saw that they needed to add some depth on defense, as evidenced by the five defensemen selected on the second day of the draft. Also addressed was a lack of compelling youngsters for the left wing, a need that was convincingly filled with the selection of University of Minnesota sniper Tomas Vanek. The Sabres also added some depth to the center, right wing and goaltending positions, which were areas that didn’t necessarily need attention.
The breakdown by country of the players chosen by the Sabres is the following: Canada (4), Russia (2), United States (1), Czech Republic (1), Slovakia (1), and Austria (1). The 10 selections the team made equaled the number of players chosen by the Sabres in the 2002 NHL Draft, and marked the fifth time during Darcy Regier’s tenure as GM that the Sabres have had 10 or more selections in an NHL Draft.
In each of the profiles below, CSS= Central Scouting Service, while PA= Prospect Adviser, Hockey’s Future’s own scouting service. The height and weight for each player is taken from the CSS Final Rankings.
2003 Draft Selections of the Buffalo Sabres
Vanek a #1 Hit in Music City for the Sabres
Was there ever any doubt?
For the Buffalo Sabres, the choice of how they would use their first round pick, fifth overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft held in Nashville this past weekend has been a foregone conclusion since April. The MVP performance of University of Minnesota left winger Tomas Vanek during the NCAA’s Frozen Four Tournament, in front of many Western New York hockey fans, left Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier little wiggle room when it came time to make this very important selection. For his part, Regier had no complaints about the choice that fate had thrust upon him.
“He’s a good player, and we’re very happy to get him,” said an obviously pleased Regier of Vanek. “We think he’ll have a professional career, and we think it will revolve around scoring goals, and hopefully they’ll be big goals.”
For his part, Vanek also expressed pleasure at being selected to play in the city where he first gained national, and international, attention.
“It’s great (to be selected by the Sabres),” stated a relieved Vanek. “I love the rink, I won a championship there already, and I hope there is more to come. I’m happy that I’m in Buffalo.”
For Regier, the selection of Vanek does provide some mixed emotions, considering what his team had to go through to be in the position to chose college hockey’s top young player. In the end, though, bringing Vanek into the fold certainly fills a need for the Sabres.
“It’s very tough to get Read more»