While the Czech Republic’s ’98 Olympic gold medal performance in ice hockey came as a shock to many casual hockey observers, the Buffalo Sabres hockey department likely took this development in stride.
Throughout the 90′s, the Sabres have mined the Czech hockey vein for talent, where they have come up with some 24-karat prospects. During this decade, the Sabres have drafted 10 players from the Czech Republic, while acquiring 4 others via trades. The most notable of these acquisitions is, of course, goaltender and two-time NHL MVP Dominik Hasek. Had the Sabres simply stopped with Hasek, they could have labeled their Czech experiment a success. But the names Richard Smehlik, Vaclav Varada and Michal Grosek also dot the Sabres roster, proving that the Sabres eye for Czech talent is not a fluke.
While the players mentioned above have made it to the NHL, there are other Czech prospects that could someday play for the big club. Some of them are teenagers in the early stages of their development, while others are slightly older players who might deserve a second look from the Sabres scouts.
Not all the players I’ll be profiling will come to North America to play, but it is fun to speculate. So, with that in mind, I present the Czech Republic prospects of the Buffalo Sabres.
Young and Promising
Jaroslav Kristek (RW) Read more»
For this month’s edition of the Sabres Top 20, I’ve decided to remove the name of Vaclav Varada, the man that occupied the top spot in my last Top 10 offering. Vaclav has been removed, not because of poor play or a trade, but because he has convinced me that he is a bona fide NHL forward. He may not put up great numbers this season, but I believe that he could develop into a player capable of 25-30 goals a season.
As for the rest of the list, I am including a few 1998 draftees that had not previously been listed. These players have begun their junior seasons, so I’ve been able to get a better feel for what players are displaying NHL potential. I’ve included statistics as of 10/12/98 for most of the players (Rochester stats will be added once they’ve played more games) so that prospect-watchers will have an idea of how these players are performing.
Cory Sarich D
Cory did not have as good a camp as the Sabres would have liked, so he will receive more development time in Rochester. He has all the tools to be a top-notch NHL defenseman, but he needs to play with a little more control. He has earned the reputation of being a big hitter, but he sometimes goes for the big hit at the expense of being caught out of position. There are several defensemen on the Buffalo roster, so there is no need to rush Cory into the NHL.
Dimitri Kalinin D
Thank goodness the exhibition season is over! At least, I’m sure that is what most Buffalo Sabre fans are thinking as they watched their favorite NHL team go 1-6 in pre-season play (2-6 if you count the win over the Austrian team).
While I’m sure many are heaving a sigh of relief at not having to endure another sloppy exhibition game, the bad news is the 98-99 season begins for the Sabres Saturday in Dallas. To say that this team does not even remotely resemble the team that made the final four last season would be an understatement. True, there are four players holding out, but this does not explain the sometimes-indifferent play by many of the players that were regulars last season. If the Sabres believe that they can flick a switch that will improve their play, then they could be in for a rude awakening in their first two contests in Dallas and Denver.
With regard to the Sabre prospects attempting to make the team, the main battle has been for the 7th defensive slot, i.e. the guy who will spend most of the season watching games from the press box. The top two contestants for this position are Jason Holland and Rumun Ndur, with Mike Hurlbut also receiving some consideration. To my eyes, Holland appears to be the more accomplished player, but he is not the physical presence that Ndur can be. The player that ultimately will win this position could be decided by what type of player the Sabres would like to have in reserve. Still, my feeling is that Ndur’s skills are not quite NHL caliber, and that Holland will prevail.
Each fall, in 27 cities scattered around North America, NHL veterans and hopefuls gather to compete for roster spots in NHL training camps. There is always a feeling of optimism surrounding training camp, which is seen as a new beginning by fans of the respective teams. Every team is a Stanley Cup contender, at least until real bullets are fired in early October, and reality sets in.
In the case of the Buffalo Sabres, a team coming off a final four appearance, there will be precious few roster spots available to young prospects looking to make a good impression. The majority of the prospects will have to ply their trade in the minors, juniors or Europe with an eye toward next year’s training camp.
Still, it is worth recapping the progress of the Sabres prospects, and pointing out some of the strong (and weak) performances displayed thus far in the ’98 training camp. Rookie Camp
Prior to training camp proper, the Sabres first and second-year players took part in a rookie tournament in Kitchener, ON with rookies from the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes. The Sabres compiled a 1-2 record in the tourney, defeating the Maple Leafs 2-1, but losing to the Habs 2-1 and the Hurricanes 4-2.
The Lindros family is whining about Eric’s contract, while Dominik Hasek wrapped his sports car around an elm tree, so that can mean only one thing: NHL training camps will soon be opening!
The Buffalo Sabres will begin their formal training camp in Austria on 9/13, with select rookies and prospects travelling to Kitchener, ON for a rookie camp prior to the trip to Austria. With the opening of camp only days away, I thought it would be a good time to offer up my thoughts on the players I consider to be the top 10 prospects in the Sabre organization.
Before listing these 10 players, these are the criteria I used to decide what qualifies a player for prospect status (as opposed to veteran or has-been): · the player must have played in less than 82 NHL games, i.e. a full seasons’ worth of games · the player must be 23 or younger With regard to the game requirement, I came to the conclusion that the vast majority of drafted players that make it to the NHL complete 82 NHL games somewhere between 2-4 years after being drafted. This would put most prospects in the 22-23-age range, which is where my age criteria come into play. Basically, if a player hasn’t had much NHL experience by the time he reaches the age of 23, his chances of making it in the NHL are not very good. There are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking the rule of 23 holds true in most cases.