In a tourney that answered the question "What would happen if a hockey tournament was held in Skelleftea, Sweden and no one showed up?", the Buffalo Sabres had ample representation amongst several teams taking part in the 2000 World Junior Championships. In total, five Buffalo Sabre prospects- LW Barrett Heisten and D Doug Janik (USA), RW Jaroslav Kristek (Czech Republic), D Matt Kinch (Canada) and LW Milan Bartovic (Slovakia)- took part in this year’s WJC. Unlike last year’s stellar showing by Sabre rookie Maxim Afinogenov, there were no spectacular performances put forth by these prospects, although a couple of the players played solidly enough to merit some mention.
Solid – …Of a satisfactory or substantial character. …Upstanding and reliable. Sound : valid. … Without gaps, crevices, or breaks : compact. – Webster’s Dictionary
With their second pick in the second round of the 1999 NHL entry draft, the Sabres drafted a 6′ 1″ 195 pound defenseman named Doug Janik. Doug had just completed his Freshman season with the Black Bears of Maine. It was a season that saw the University of Maine Hockey program win its second NCAA Division I championship this decade and Doug played an important role in winning this championship. Doug didn’t really do anything too spectacular, but he did do everything that was expected of him. I guess you could have called his performance SOLID.
Solid is probably the best way to describe Doug as a hockey player. He has excellent hands and is a gifted, but unspectacular skater. The combination of these abilities allows him to be able to carry the puck through the neutral zone when the situation requires that. The real strength of Doug’s game however is how he plays on either side of the neutral zone. This is where the word Solid comes into play as the dominant adjective to describe Doug’s game.
In the offensive zone, Doug possesses a NHL caliber slap shot. This makes him a threat to score from the blue line. So far, in 15 games this season, Doug has scored 4 goals to go along with 5 assists for 9 points. His ability to place his shot on net is evidenced by his 44 shots on goal, which ties him for third on his team.
The Buffalo Sabres entered the 1999-2000 season with one of the most impressive prospect lists in the NHL. Little has occurred during the 1st quarter of this season that would change Buffalo’s standing as one of the more talent-rich clubs, so it is time to reflect on the more notable performances given by the top Sabre prospects thus far.
The order at the top of the prospect list has changed a good bit since my last offering (there is no truth to the rumor that this writer is suffering from a Stanley Cup hangover), with Cory Sarich losing the top perch he had held throughout most of last year, and a couple of new names entering the top 10. Several players near the top of the list started the season in Rochester, where they helped get the Americans off to a blazing start. The Amerks have since come back to earth, as 3 of their best players were called up to Buffalo, but there are still some strong prospects to watch in Rochester.
As for the prospects in juniors, some of the more prominent prospects (Kristek, Milley, Zigomanis) started slowly, but have recently improved their play. And, in the college ranks, ’99 draft picks Barrett Heisten, Doug Janik and Ryan Miller have been very impressive so far this season.
Players such as Martin Biron, Maxim Afinogenov and Cory Sarich are still on the list, in spite of the fact that they are with the Sabres. None of these three players have played 25 NHL games to this point, so I have decided to keep their prospect status intact.
And now, on with the show!