Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre claws his way towards the NHL
Way back on March 20, of 1996, then Buffalo Sabres General Manager John Muckler may have pulled off a deal that in time could rank as one of the Sabres’ ten best ever. Little used winger Yuri Khmylev was dealt to St. Louis Blues for a prospect and a 2nd round draft pick. The draft pick (the first pick in the second round, #27 overall), turned out to be Buffalo’s current top prospect, defensemen Cory Sarich. The prospect was a little known defensemen, from the Quebec Major Junior League, by the name of Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre. Don Luce (the Sabres director of player personnel) felt he was getting a player that had size and a lot of growth potential to go along with very good hockey skills.
To the fans, the deal was treated without much fan fair, as no player would be coming to Buffalo any time soon. The Sabres were looking towards the future, and that future would soon include a new arena and new uniforms, which would go along with the new coach (Ted Nolan) and his the hard working, team oriented attitude.
Welcome to this belated edition of the Sabres’ Top 20.
There has been only slight movement since my last
offering, but there have been noteworthy
accomplishments by some of the prospects since November. The most notable achievements took place in the recently completed World Junior Championships, but there were also some individual game heroics by other prospects that deserve a mention. Here is the latest edition of the Top 20 prospects of the Buffalo Sabres.
1) Cory Sarich D 6’3 182
Holding steady in the top spot is Cory Sarich, the fine
young defenseman playing in Rochester. Cory has shown
continued improvement as the season has progressed, to
the point where some are referring to him as the total
package. He makes few mistakes for a rookie, plays the
body very well, has a good shot and contributes
offensively. The coaches have shown a lot of faith
in Cory, using him to kill penalties, play the point
on the power play, and play in the final minutes of
tight games. Recent offensive highlights for Sarich
have been two-assist games on 12/2 and 12/27, as well
as a first star award in the 11/27 contest. In short,
Cory is becoming the player that the Sabre scouts thought
he would be.
Team GP G A Pts PIM +/- GWG
Rochester (AHL) 34 3 16 19 42 N/A 0
2) Erik Rassmussen C 6′ 2″ 207
There has been a fair amount of both upward and downward movement in the prospect rankings this month, with one player being added to the list (Brian Campbell) and one player removed (Andrew Peters).
In the case of Campbell, a player performing at the level that Brian is playing simply can’t be ignored. As for Peters, however, a player performing as poorly as Andrew is at this time can’t help but be ignored. While it is too early to write off Andrew Peters as a bust, the Sabres scouts no doubt get a lump in their throats when they get the latest reports on Peters’ play. Andrew has but 3 points in 12 games, with his main attribute being his ability to fight. There is talk that Andrew doesn’t get along with the Oshawa coach, and that a trade might be the best thing that could happen to him. Whatever the case, Peters needs to straighten out his game if he wants to live up to the expectations that come with being a high 2nd round pick.
Cory Sarich D
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