Team toughness, or a lack thereof, seemingly has played a role in the Buffalo Sabres’ fall from playoff contention this season. A steady exodus of gritty players, including the likes of Mike Peca and Doug Gilmour, has left the Buffalo lineup a little short of the spirit and leadership necessary for success in the NHL.
While Buffalo may not have many prospects that have the combination of skill and grit found in players like Peca and Gilmour, they do have youngsters in the organization that could provide enough toughness to keep Buffalo’s opponents on edge in the years to come. One of those prospects, LW Andrew Peters, is currently filling the role of enforcer for the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
Peters was the first of three 2nd round picks the Sabres made in the ’98 NHL Draft, where he was drafted with the pick acquired in the deal that sent Pat Lafontaine to the New York Rangers. Andrew spent most of his junior career with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, but was moved to the Kitchener Rangers during his final junior season following a dispute with then-Oshawa coach George Burnett.
Peters’ main claim to fame in juniors was his fighting ability, as he amassed 452 penalty minutes in his 3-year OHL career. Andrew also showed flashes of skill during his draft year, but that part of his game has gone largely unfulfilled since that time. The St. Catherines native saw limited ice time during his first season with Rochester, but has steadily played a larger role this season, flashing the pugilistic skills that Read more»
The Buffalo Sabres in recent years have built up solid depth at the right wing position via trades and good drafting. Some of this talent is already on the Buffalo roster, but there are still a couple of good prospects in the pipeline. One of those prospects, Norm Milley, is currently playing for the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
Norm was selected by Buffalo in the 2nd round of the 1998 NHL Draft, one of three 2nd round picks the Sabres made in that draft. The Toronto native starred for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, where he spent four seasons prior to turning pro in the summer of 2000. Milley set or tied several team records in Sudbury, and finished his junior career as the second-leading scorer in Wolves history. While the gentleman one point ahead of Norm on Sudbury’s scoring list (Jamie Matthews) may not be familiar to a lot of hockey fans, the two names directly after Milley’s, Ron Duguay and Mike Foligno, should be a little more recognizable to long-time NHL followers.
Milley turned in a solid first season in the AHL last year, earning Rochester’s Rookie of the Year award. His second season with the Amerks got off to a bit of a slow start, but Norm has come on in the season’s 2nd half to remind the organization why he was a high draft pick. Milley’s strong play recently earned him his first call-up to the NHL, where he picked up his first NHL point.
I had a chance to interview Norm following a recent Amerks practice. Below is a transcript of that conversation, with my questions bein Read more»
Back in 1988, in the 5th round of the NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres drafted a player out of the OHL by the name of Rob Ray. Rob had totaled 590 penalty minutes during his junior career, so it was clear that the Sabres were looking to add some muscle to a team that had developed a reputation for being soft.
Fourteen years and 3000+ penalty minutes later, Rob has shown that a little bit of talent can go a long way in the NHL, if you work hard enough. The man known as “Razor” has won the hearts of a generation of Sabres fans while simultaneously pummeling a legion of NHL tough guys. There is little doubt, then, that Rob will be crowned Buffalo’s all-time enforcer once he decides to hang up his skates, a possibility that grows greater with each passing day.
Ray will turn 34 in June, an age that often signals the end of a professional hockey player’s career. While Rob may not yet be contemplating retirement, the day is surely not far off, which means the Sabres will have to find a worthy replacement for their all-time penalty minute leader. Luckily for Buffalo, there are a few candidates waiting in the wings, with no one player having a definite advantage over the others.
The obvious choice to replace Ray would be current Sabre LW Eric Boulton. Eric has earned his place in the NHL the hard way, coming up through the ECHL and AHL to surprisingly land a spot on Buffalo’s roster last seaso Read more»
Coming into the 2001-02 season, defenseman Henrik Tallinder was touted as being one of the Buffalo Sabres’ better prospects. He had just finished a championship season with TPS Turku in Finland’s top league, an accomplishment that only added to his reputation, and which served to add to the anticipation of his arrival in North America.
Henrik’s debut was somewhat delayed due to a knee injury suffered early in Buffalo’s training camp, but he has not disappointed since joining the Rochester Americans’ roster. The smiling Swede seems to have adapted quickly to the style of play favored on these shores, to the point where he has logged as much as 25+ minutes a game. Tallinder does, indeed, look like a very promising prospect.
I caught up with Henrik following a recent practice, where we briefly discussed his career and his approach to the game. The following is a transcript of that conversation, with "HF" designating my questions and "HT" being Henrik’s answers.
: Last year, you played in Turku, Finland. What differences have you noticed between playing in Turku, and playing in the AHL?
: It’s a pretty big difference. Over here, it’s more hitting, and the play goes more, like- the transition game is much more forwards-and-backwards, and offense and defense is much faster than it is back home. Back home, it’s more sideways-to-sideways instead of up-and-down, if you know what I mean.
: You guys won the championship last year. That must have been exciting f Read more»
"The more things change, the more they stay the same."
That timeworn phrase is appropriate in describing the mid-season rankings of Buffalo’s prospects. Sure, there have been a few minor changes to the top 15, but there has been very little real movement up or down by any one player since the list was last updated.
Holding down the top spot, albeit somewhat shakily, is ’97 top pick Mika Noronen. The only change to the top 5, in fact, was Norm Milley taking back the #5 slot from Ales Kotalik (now #6). Gerard Dicaire showed the only significant movement, dropping 4 slots to #14. Perhaps the change of scenery, from Seattle to Kootenay, will help Gerard’s game.
Of the remaining prospects outside the top 15, the only one who received serious consideration for inclusion with the "Fab 15" was Boston University LW Mike Pandolfo. Mike, a co-captain for the Terriers, is currently that team’s leading scorer.
The "non-15" will be dealt with in articles to come, so the main focus for this article will be the top prospects. Overall, Buffalo seems to have a solid group of prospects, with their top 10 comparing favorably to most any team in the league. Even the players in slots 11-15 have some merit as solid NHL prospects.
Two players no longer on the prospect list are LW Darren Van Oene and C Francois Methot. The two ’96 draft picks have played enough professional games to no longer meet the requirements for prospect status that have been set by Hockey’s Future. While both player Read more»