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»
Following a season that featured enough plot twists and dark tidings for an Alfred Hitchcock film, the Buffalo Sabres seemingly approach the 2003-04 NHL season a much more stable franchise. With new ownership in place in the form of Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano, plus the infusion of offensively talented newcomers Chris Drury and Andy Delmore, there is certainly a more upbeat atmosphere surrounding the club than there was at this time last year.
Given the nightmare of a season that the team merely endured both on and off the ice, it might be logical to assume that the Sabres would have several roster spots up for grabs when training camp begins in St. Catherines, Ontario next Thursday.
That assumption may be a faulty one, however, since the Sabres are already one of the youngest teams in the NHL. At best, there may be two or three slots up for grabs in camp, with those openings being on the team’s third and fourth lines. The battle for those openings should provide most of the excitement during the preseason, and could provide the fans with a couple of fresh faces from the team’s prospect ranks.
Although the team’s prospect list swelled by several players at the NHL Entry Draft, General Manager Darcy Regier was not nearly as active in the prospect signing department this off-season. Last summer, the team signed seven prospects. This summer, only two youngsters, Derek Roy and Chris Thorburn, have thus far been signed.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the Sabres system, 2003 No. 1 selection and Univer Read more»
With the dust now cleared following the completion of the 2003 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres appear to have a slightly more balanced prospect chart than they had going into the draft. Positions that were wanting for prospects have now had some depth added, while the team continued to add some depth at positions where there isn’t that great a need.
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier and his scouts clearly saw that they needed to add some depth on defense, as evidenced by the five defensemen selected on the second day of the draft. Also addressed was a lack of compelling youngsters for the left wing, a need that was convincingly filled with the selection of University of Minnesota sniper Tomas Vanek. The Sabres also added some depth to the center, right wing and goaltending positions, which were areas that didn’t necessarily need attention.
The breakdown by country of the players chosen by the Sabres is the following: Canada (4), Russia (2), United States (1), Czech Republic (1), Slovakia (1), and Austria (1). The 10 selections the team made equaled the number of players chosen by the Sabres in the 2002 NHL Draft, and marked the fifth time during Darcy Regier’s tenure as GM that the Sabres have had 10 or more selections in an NHL Draft.
In each of the profiles below, CSS= Central Scouting Service, while PA= Prospect Adviser, Hockey’s Future’s own scouting service. The height and weight for each player is taken from the CSS Final Rankings.
2003 Draft Selections of the Buffalo Sabres