While there has recently been more attention paid to some of the new blood in the Buffalo organization, such as newly-acquired forwards Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt, this is also a good time to recognize the work of the Sabres’ prospects who were with the organization throughout the 2000-01 season.
The purpose of this article is to present a final ranking of the top 15 prospects in the organization as of June 2nd, 2001. This would exclude players such as Barrett Heisten, Mike Zigomanis and some of the other prospects who weren’t signed at the June 1st signing deadline. Also excluded from this list are the 2001 draft choices, as the focus of this article will be strictly those players who were Buffalo property through the 00-01 campaign.
G Mika Noronen
began the year as Buffalo’s top-rated prospect, and, despite a somewhat shaky start to his 2000-01 season, he remains atop the final rankings for this season. G Ryan Miller made a strong push to grab the top spot, but Mika gets the nod due to the fact that he plays against tougher competition. D Brian Campbell, RW Norm Milley and D Henrik Tallinder round out the top 5.
The Top 15 for 2000-01
Mika Noronen, Goaltender
Mika had a brief taste of the NHL at the beginning of the season, but was returned to Rochester to continue his development. Mika struggled upon his return to the AHL, but, by season’s end, he regained the MVP form that he displayed d Read more»
The first day of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft could have been sub-titled “Darcy’s Lost Weekend”, but by the close of the NHL’s annual Prospectpalooza, there was more evidence provided that Buffalo GM Darcy Regier is one of the top GMs in all of hockey, if not the best.
Heading into the draft, there were high hopes amongst Buffalo fans that the weekend’s activities might yield a plethora of good, young prospects, with those players being acquired either through the draft, or through the departure of stars Dominik Hasek and Michael Peca via trades. As the first day of the draft wound down, however, the Sabres had little to show for all the rumors that had been associated with their prized trade bait, and they instead went about the business of making their first 4 choices.
Sunday was a new day, with Buffalo quickly consummating a trade with the San Jose Sharks, which sent Buffalo’s 5th round choice (formerly Montreal’s) to the Sharks in exchange for San Jose’s 5th (155th), 8th (234th), and 9th (279th) round selections. This trade allowed Buffalo to draft 4 more players over the final 6 rounds, leaving Buffalo with a total of 8 new prospects.
Darcy Regier’s day wasn’t finished, though, as he finally dealt Michael Peca to the New York Islanders for two promising young players, C Tim Connolly and LW Taylor Pyatt. Of the two players acquired, Connolly would seem to have the greater upside potential, as he is being touted by many to be a future offensive sta Read more»
The 2001 NHL Entry Draft approaches amidst a swirl of trade rumors, with the potential for a change of address for many of the league’s biggest stars. Names such as Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Yashin, Doug Weight and Eric Lindros are being bandied about as trade fodder in the days leading up to this weekend’s draft, as are the names of a couple of the Buffalo Sabres’ stars, Dominik Hasek and Michael Peca.
Trades of this magnitude could have a direct effect on the draft, as there is talk of possibly one, or both, of the top 2 picks being dealt in return for immediate help. Once again, Buffalo’s name has been mentioned prominently in trades involving the top draft choices held by Atlanta (#1) and the N.Y. Islanders (#2), but so far, at least, Sabres’ GM Darcy Regier has publicly denied any pursuit of these prime draft picks.
The trade rumors have so far caused a diversion from what looks to be a very solid 2001 draft class. At the top of the draft is 4-5 highly touted forwards, led by the mercurial Russian RW Ilya Kovalchuk. There is plenty of solid, if not spectacular, talent to be found beyond the top 5, however, with talent to be had well into the second round. The depth of this draft should be good news for the Sabres, as 4 of their 6 draft choices will be made in the first 2 rounds (barring trades, of course).
Buffalo enters this draft with a diminished prospect pool, as they recently said goodbye to 8 of their 12 1999 draft choices. One of those farewells was particularly painful, as they lost promising C Mike Zigomanis due to a Read more»
The 2000-01 hockey season has come to a close, with the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche putting the finishing touches on the season that was. All other hockey leagues of note have completed their seasons, as well, with Saint John’s (AHL), Red Deer (CHL), Orlando (IHL), and Buffalo farm club South Carolina (ECHL) all winning their respective league championships. European leagues also completed their playoffs back in April, so this season cycle is complete.
The Buffalo Sabres can claim one bona fide prospect (Henrik Tallinder) as a champion, while also supporting a league champ in South Carolina. In addition to these honors, there were several other prospects that had notable playoff performances, with most of the best showings taking place in the WHL. Reputations, good or bad, can often be made during a playoff run, so it is a good bet that Buffalo’s scouts have taken a close look at how their prospects have handled the pressure of playoff hockey.
The Sabres had just 1 prospect taking part in the OHL playoffs, that being D Sean McMorrow of the London Knights. One other prospect, C Mike Zigomanis (Kingston), missed the playoffs due to an injury (Zigomanis has since gone back into the draft, as has fellow OHLer and Sabre draft pick C Brad Self).
Sean McMorrow’s playoff run ended quickly, as the London Knights were easily defeated 4 games to 1, by the Erie Otters. McMorrow had little to show on the s Read more»
For as long as the Buffalo Sabres franchise has existed, there has been one position on this team that is rarely wanting for talent, specifically the goaltending. From the early years of the franchise with the acrobatic Roger Crozier, to the present day team featuring future Hall-of-Famer Dominik Hasek and star-in-waiting Martin Biron, the goaltender’s position has been the one area where Buffalo has seemingly always had quality talent to draw upon.
The good news for Sabres fans is that this run of good fortune at the goaltending position should continue into the foreseeable future. Indeed, Buffalo may have more good young puckstoppers in the organization than at any time in team history. Buffalo’s current backup goalie, Martin Biron, has already shown that he has the ability to be the go-to guy once Hasek decides to hang up his pads, yet Martin won’t turn 24 until August. And the depth does not end with Biron, as the Sabres have a couple of quality prospects waiting in the wings should Martin falter or become trade bait.
Buffalo’s top goaltending prospect, not to mention the top prospect in the organization, is Mika Noronen of the AHL’s Rochester Americans. Mika last season turned in a performance that earned him The Hockey News’ Minor Pro Prospect of the Year award, as well as several other honors. Not content to rest on his laurels, Noronen has turned in another strong showing during the 2000-01 season, as he was the major reason that the low scoring Americans Read more»