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»
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»