Spring is in the air, so that means that the 98-99 regular season has ended for most of the Buffalo Sabres prospects. This has been a great season to be covering the Sabre prospects, as there have been several outstanding performances by a number of the Sabre hopefuls. Indeed, the Sabres may well have more quality prospects than those of the other 26 (soon to be 27) NHL teams.
One prospect has moved on since my last update, as Alexei Tezikov was traded to Washington at the NHL trading deadline. While the Capitals will be receiving a quality prospect, this was a move the Sabres could afford to make. Buffalo has great depth amongst their prospects at the defensive position, so it made sense for the Sabres hockey department to deal from strength to try to shore up the teams’ offensive weakness (albeit on a temporary basis). In addition to receiving Joe Juneau from the Capitals, the Sabres also received the Caps ’99 3rd Round pick, which adds to their growing collection of ’99 draft picks (currently at 11 picks, with a possible 12th pick on the way from San Jose).
Some people may dispute that the Buffalo Sabres have the best defensive prospects in the game, but I think that they would have to concede that the young defensive players Sarich and Grand-Pierre that Buffalo has in the minors are among the best out there.
When you look at a list of their defensive prospects, the premier names that come up are Cory Sarich, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre and Dimitri Kalinin. Some other names on the list are Henrik Tallinder, Brian Campbell and Luc Theoret. Even with the loss of Alexei Tezikov in a trade with the Capitals for Joe Juneau, the Sabres’ future defensive core looks strong. Sarich and Grand-Pierre have both seen limited time with the Sabres and have played well. They may have been kept in the lineup but Coach Lindy Ruff chose to opt for veteran smarts and leadership over the tough, solid play displayed by the young D-men. It’s hard to talk about Grand-Pierre and Sarich in the same context because, although they are both great talents and they are the Sabres top two defensive prospects, their styles of play are very different.
Buffalo, NY (GS) — If you are a fan of the Buffalo Sabres, then you have learned that bigger isn’t always better. Players like Mike Peca, Brian Holzinger, Curtis Brown, Dixon Ward and Derek Plante hardly have the desired NHL size, yet they still have been very successful here at times. Brown is one of the true underrated players in the entire NHL, while Peca, despite being only 5-foot-10, is one of the most feared checkers. For several years, NHL teams became obsessed with size when it came to drafting players, often selecting big raw projects, rather than selecting pure talent, and the Buffalo Sabres were no different (note the selections of Brad May, Joel Savage and David Cooper). Recently, the Sabres have stepped away from the draft “big” philosophy, looking more towards talent. In several cases they appear to have taken players with potential big time upsides, and in other cases they may have been gambles.
In the past two games the Buffalo Sabres have played rookie defenseman Corey Sarich. He has played very strong these two games, including some key times in overtime game against Ottawa. He currently holds a rating of +2. With recent trade talks it is expected that Corey might be playing with Chicago or Pittsburgh with in the next couple of weeks. He would be involved in a trade that would involve Mike Wilson, Derek Plante and Matthew Barnaby. But if he does stay with Buffalo, expect to see Buffalo draft his younger brother Rod Sarich in the upcoming 1999 draft.
Rod Sarich who also plays defense will most likely make the NHL by the year 2002, depending on the team that he goes to. Rod is an intelligent and strong skater, who has the intangibles of a great defenseman but has to get a little bit more into his checking game. His brother, Corey, is completely opposite and has to learn not to hit every thing he sees. Rod currently plays for the Calgary Hitmen who also brought players like Boris Protsenko, Peter Bergman, Kevin Marsh, Aaron MacDonald and Ray Schultz. Rod Sarich so far has played 17 games but had no points and a –2 rating which equals not a very productive year.
Welcome to the February edition of the Buffalo Sabres Top 20 prospects. This update features the removal of one name from the prospect list (Erik Rassmussen), the addition of another (Brad Moran) and some general upward or downward movement amongst the other prospects.
The removal of Erik Rassmussen was a tough call on my part. There are those that would insist that Erik, because he has spent a good portion of this season with the Sabres, should now be considered a bona fide big league hockey player. While this is a good point in general, anyone who has seen Erik play over the last month realizes that he is nowhere near being ready for prime time. I would argue, in fact, that the best place for him at this time would be Rochester, where he can better develop his offensive game. My point of view is probably not the popular one, though, so, in the interest of bipartisanship, I am removing Erik from the Top 20.