With less than one week left until the Buffalo Sabres play their final game of the 2002 preseason schedule, the team’s hockey brain trust is still in the process of paring their roster down to the 23-player roster limit. A handful of young prospects are making, or have made, some noise, but the end result of this trial period may be an opening-night Buffalo roster that is not all that different from the one that closed the 01-02 season.
Upon the completion of the St. Catherines portion of training camp, the Sabres began to whittle away at the training camp roster, with six players being returned to their respective junior teams. LW/C Daniel Paille (Guelph- OHL), LW Michael Tessier (Acadie-Bathurst- QMJHL), C Chris Thorburn (Saginaw- OHL), D Martin Cizek (Plymouth- OHL), D Dennis Wideman (London- OHL) and G Marty Majers (Owen Sound- OHL) were the junior-eligible prospects to return to the CHL. While Paille, Tessier and Majers were perhaps the most notable performers of the players sent down, it is safe to say that all six players have a good bit of work to do to make themselves bona fide pro prospects.
With the majority of the junior players having been sent to their respective teams, the Sabres’ next cut-down would include the first installment of players intended for the roster of Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. Buffalo prospects included in these initial cuts were LW Milan Bartovic, C/LW Paul Gaustad, RW Jaroslav Kristek, RW Karel Mosovsky, C/W Read more»
With an old hockey barn as the setting, the Buffalo Sabres last Friday began the on-ice segment of their 2002 training camp. Sabres’ coach Lindy Ruff and his assistants began the process of weeding through 52 camp attendees in the hopes of putting together a hockey club that is both competitive and successful.
Of particular interest to the coaching staff was the series of scrimmages that took place during the first three days of camp. The players were split into three squads, with each team featuring a mix of polished veterans, maturing prospects, and fresh newcomers. Each squad wore practice jerseys featuring one of the Sabres’ primary uniform colors- black, white and red.
There was just one scrimmage scheduled per day, with the non-scrimmaging team practicing in a separate rink. The first scrimmage of training camp featured the Red team vs. the White squad, with Red posting a relatively easy 7-4 victory. The game featured very little hitting, some sloppy play early on, but a fair amount of end-to-end action throughout. Some of the scorers for Red included Miroslav Satan (3), Derek Roy and J.P. Dumont, while Dimitri Kalinin, Norm Milley, Adam Mair and Jochen Hecht tallied for White.
In spite of the number of goals scored, there were several good saves by goaltenders on both squads. Mika Noronen started for Red, giving up just one goal in his two periods of work. Noronen’s backup in Rochester last season, Kenmore native Tom Askey, played well in the third period, but gave up three goals to a White squad that was more coh Read more»
With all the doom and gloom that supposedly surrounds the Buffalo Sabres franchise, you would think that those in the team’s hockey department would be in fear of even setting foot outside the club’s offices at the foot of Washington Street. This line of reasoning would be wrong, at least with regard to the signing of draft choices, with Sabres GM Darcy Regier having been quite active in bringing some new talent into the fold.
The most prominent signing, as well as the most recent, is that of Ryan Miller, who could well be considered the best goaltender not playing in the NHL. Miller (6’2″, 160 lbs.) ended a stellar collegiate career with the Michigan State Spartans, finishing as the NCAA’s all-time leader in shutouts with 26. The most distinguished of the many awards he received during his time at MSU was the Hobey Baker Award he won in 2001, which signified Ryan’s performance as the top player in college hockey for that season. Miller’s “worst” save percentage in his 3 years at MSU was .932, which came in his freshman season, while his highest goals-against average was just 1.77.
Miller is slated to spend the 2002-03 season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, but it will be interesting to see how well he performs in his initial NHL training camp. Ryan’s presence should bring out the best in Martin Biron and Mika Noronen, the two young goaltenders ahead of Miller on the depth chart, so it could be a frustrating camp for some of the offensive players on Buffalo’s roster.
Three of the Sabres’ signings could give th Read more»
With only sporadic talk of new ownership for the Buffalo Sabres, not to mention the lack of advertising or marketing of the hockey club, it is easy to forget that there is a NHL team in Buffalo, NY. What seems like an even more distant memory is the NHL Draft that took place in June, where Buffalo GM Darcy Regier and his scouting staff added more depth to the Sabres organization.
This infusion of new, young talent means that it is time for this writer to awaken from his slumber, and to go about the task of updating the prospect rankings for the Sabres. The main focus of this revision is the top 15 prospects in the organization, many of whom will be the future core of this club. While there may not be major changes to the list, there will be a couple new names added to the roll, which means others currently on the list will be replaced.
The obvious additions to the list are Buffalo’s two 2002 1st Round choices, D Keith Ballard and LW/C Dan Paille. Neither player merits placement amongst Buffalo’s top 5 prospects, but both could someday hold down one of those lofty positions.
As for more familiar names on the list, players like G Mika Noronen and D Henrik Tallinder could make that jump from prospect to bona fide pro this season. Both players showed signs of being NHL-ready in the 2001-02 season’s second half, with the coming training camp offering the duo definite opportunities to earn spots on the Sabres’ roster. Other players that could be in line for a promotion this fall include RW Norm Milley and C/RW Ales Kotalik.
If the Buffalo Sabres had adopted a theme for their selections at the 2002 Entry Draft, it might have been “Coming to the Defense”.
The Sabres used half of their allotment of 10 choices to draft defenseman, which is an area of definite need in the organization. One of those rearguards, Keith Ballard, was Buffalo’s top draft pick in the first round, going 11th overall to the club. The choice of Ballard surprised many observers at the Draft, due to the lack of consensus amongst scouts as to where Keith would be chosen. This uncertainty did not deter Darcy Regier and the Buffalo draft table, however.
So just how good a player is Keith Ballard? How soon can Buffalo’s other 2002 first round choice, Dan Paille, land a spot on the Sabres’ roster? For that matter, how successful will this group of Sabres’ 2002 draftees ultimately be? The answers to these questions will become apparent over the next 2-3 seasons, of course, but it is possible to initially lay out the current strengths and weaknesses of each player.
Below is more detailed information on each of the draftees. Information has been somewhat difficult to come by for one or two of the prospects, but there should be enough intelligence available to create a basic profile of each player.
In each of the profiles, CSB= Central Scouting Bureau. The height and weight for each player, with two exceptions, is taken from the CSB Final Rankings.
2002 Draft Picks of the Buffalo Sabres
- Keith Ba Read more»