Photo: Defenseman Drew MacKenzie (center) was one of the few bright spots on a weak Vermont Catamounts team. (Photo courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)
The Sabres NCAA and European stable of prospects is relatively small and consisting mostly of mid-round prospects. Joel Armia is the first player since 2008 that the Sabres have drafted in the first three rounds of the entry draft who did not come from one of the three Canadian major junior leagues. He is also the first player since 2006 that Buffalo has drafted from outside of North America.
The highest player drafted from the NCAA ranks in the last five years was Corey Tropp in the third round of the 2007 draft so it is safe to say that Buffalo relies more on junior hockey than the NCAA. The Sabres had seven players in the NCAA last season including, one fourth rounder, two fifth rounders, a sixth rounder, and three seventh rounders.
Photo: London Knights forward Andreas Athanasiou is one of the speedier forwards available for the 2012 NHL Draft (courtesy of CHL Images)
They say that speed kills. And for whichever team selects London Knights' forward Andreas Athanasiou in June's NHL entry draft, they're going to find themselves with a veritable assassin in their organization.
For a league that puts a premium on speed, the Woodbridge, ON native will be a valuable asset. But while the young forward does put in the time to improve his stride, speed is just a natural component of this — and many other — games.
"It's just natural. It's always been a key part of my game playing hockey. Even when I'm playing basketball, soccer, track — I was on a track-and-field club team outside of school — I've always been pretty fast," Athanasiou explained. "It's always been my go-to — it's always been there, even when I was a little kid. I remember going on the ice with my dad when I was really young, maybe a couple of years old, and having him swing me around so that I could just pick up tons and tons of speed and just fly around. I just loved it." Read more»
Canada defenseman Mark Pysyk played in all six games for Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Although he didn’t collect any points at this tournament, he was a +7, a sign of the steady play that he is known for in his regular stint with the WHL‘s Edmonton Oil Kings. Like the rest of his Canada teammates, Pysyk was disappointed by the team’s failure to win gold at this event.
Pysyk talked about winning the bronze medal in his home province following Canada’s win over Finland.
While it is possible to find many former CHL players on the pro rosters in the Buffalo Sabres organization, the club currently has just four prospects skating in those junior leagues. This may well be the fewest number of prospects the club has developed in the CHL in many years.
In addition to those four prospects, the Sabres also sport one quasi-prospect playing in the NAHL. Goaltender Thomas Tragust took part in the Sabres prospect camp this past summer, so they at least have some interest in seeing how this player develops.
Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani is hoping to build on a strong month of November in which he totaled 12 points on 2 goals and 10 assists. Through 25 games, the Ile-Bizard, Quebec native has tallied 9 goals and 23 assists for the Rocket, which places him third in scoring on his club and sixth in points among QMJHL defensemen. Four of Gragnani’s goals have come on the power play, while two markers have been scored in shorthanded situations.
The book on the 6’2, 192-pound Gragnani has changed little since his draft year. He is an excellent skater with a good shot who is not afraid to start or join a rush up the ice. Indeed, the tag “offensive defenseman” seems to fit Gragnani perfectly. Gragnani’s defensive game has improved some, in part because the club around him has improved. In addition, the fleet-footed rearguard has added some weight to his frame, which will come in handy when he turns pro next season. Overall, Read more»
With goaltender Ryan Miller’s long run at or near the top of the Buffalo Sabres prospect rankings now at an end, the upper portion of the Sabres prospect ranks is now dominated by a good mix of young forwards. In fact, of the top 20 prospects in the current rankings, 14 of the players are forwards, with the list being rounded out by five defensemen and one goaltender.
Sitting at No. 1 is rising star Thomas Vanek. Vanek has shown in his brief pro career that his offensive exploits in college weren’t a fluke. The Sabres 2003 first round selection is joined in the top five by three more No. 1’s, including 2002 first Daniel Paille, 2004 selection Drew Stafford and 2005 pick Marek Zagrapan. Center Derek Roy rounds out the top five.