"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»
With their first pick of the 2nd round in the 2001 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres chose center Derek Roy of the Kitchener Rangers. It’s fairly certain that Buffalo was most interested in Derek’s offensive skills, a part of his game that has not disappointed during the 2001-02 season.
Roy is currently Kitchener’s leading scorer, having notched 46 points (22G, 24A) in 35 games. After having missed the playoffs the past couple of seasons, Derek and his Kitchener teammates are in the hunt for a playoff spot. A recent 11 game unbeaten streak pushed the Rangers towards the top of the OHL, where they are currently in a dogfight with the Erie Otters and the Guelph Storm in that league’s Midwest Division.
I had a chance to speak with Derek prior to Kitchener’s 1/5/02 game vs. division rival Erie. The following is a transcript of that conversation, with “HF” representing the interviewer and “DR” signifying Derek’s answers.
: Let’s start with the present. You guys are one of the hottest teams in the league, if not all of the CHL. What has kicked in for the team in the last 10 games that has made things go so much better for you?
: Pretty much everything has been clicking really well. We’ve got good goaltending from Scott Dickie and Matt Harpwood. We’re playing good defensively, and waiting for our opportunities. We’ve been bearing down on our opportunities, in which case we win games by one goal. So, those have been the big differences.
: I noticed you had a big game Read more»
The 2002 World Junior Championships have come and gone, with the Russian team taking home the gold medal as a result of their 5-4 victory over Canada in the WJC finale. While the Russians can bask in the fleeting feeling of glory days gone by, another former Eastern Bloc nation, the WJC host and defending champ Czech Republic, were left to ponder a disappointing 7th place finish.
As luck would have it, the Buffalo Sabres sported just 2 prospects participating in the WJC, with both of those players playing for the Czech squad. C Jiri Novotny and LW Michal Vondrka were both 2001 draft choices for Buffalo, with Novotny being the more high profile of the two due to his status as a 1st round pick. Both players also play for the same organization, Budejovice, with Novotny playing in the top Czech league and Vondrka splitting his time between the elite and junior squads.
If one were to judge strictly by statistics, it could be said that neither player had a particularly good showing at the WJC. Both players notched just 2 points in 7 games, with Novotny logging 2 assists, and Vondrka netting 1 while adding a helper. Both players were a minus for the tournament (Novotny –3, Vondrka –2), while also sporting nearly identical shots-on-goal numbers (Novotny 12, Vondrka 11).
In the case of Vondrka, at least, the statistics didn’t lie. As reported to me by Robert Neuhauser, the Czech Editor for Hockey’s Future, Michal’s performance was largely disappointing, mainly due to the fact that he didn’t see a Read more»
This past summer, the Buffalo Sabres signed defensive prospect Doug Janik to his first pro contract. Janik, a 2nd round pick of the Sabres in ’99, played in the U.S. national program before attending the University of Maine for 3 years. He is currently playing for the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
I had a chance to speak with Doug following Rochester’s 12/14 game vs. Cleveland. The following is a transcript of that conversation, with “HF” representing yours truly, and “DJ” being Mr. Janik.
: Tonight’s game- frustrating. For 2 periods, you guys played pretty well, but you’re down 4-1.
: Yeah, coming off last week, we hoped to have a little better effort and outcome than we had tonight, definitely. So, it’s a disappointing game for us.
: The whole season’s been like that, basically- getting some chances, but not burying the puck.
: We had a lot of chances tonight; we also had some defensive breakdowns, and it’s just been kind of up and down like that all year.
: Personally, how do you feel you’ve progressed so far this season?
: Not too bad. Just kind of learning as I go. The older guys and the coaches have been really good so far. I’m very appreciative of that, and I hope to just get better every day.
: You played at Maine the last 3 years, right?
: You left school early- do you think that was a good move? Was that something Buffalo wanted you to d Read more»
I had the chance to speak with Rochester Americans’ defenseman Luc Theoret following the Amerks 12/14 game vs. Cleveland. Luc signed a contract with Buffalo in ’99, but he is only now getting his first AHL action due to injury or illness the past 2 seasons. Prior to turning pro, Luc spent most of his junior career with Lethbridge of the WHL, while seeing only limited action the past 2 seasons with South Carolina of the ECHL.
The following is a transcript of our conversation, with “HF” referring to the interviewer, and “LT” being Luc.
: Luc, you’ve finally gotten the chance to play in the AHL this year. Any thoughts on the games you’ve played in so far?
: Well, I haven’t played in too many, so far. It’s definitely an adjustment from the ECHL, as the ECHL was from junior. I’m sure it would be a little bit more fun if the team was doing better, but we’ve had kind of a rough start here. I think it is a good experience, and I’m trying to work as hard as I can to get better this season, and hopefully stick around for a few more years.
: What are the differences between the ECHL and AHL? Is it mostly speed?
: I think it’s the speed and the skill. I think there is a lot more skill and better goaltending (in the AHL). Everything is just a notch better. The size of the players is not much different, but definitely the work ethic is better. There are a lot of younger guys that are trying to work their way up to the NHL, so it’s definitely a tougher league.
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