Following a season that featured enough plot twists and dark tidings for an Alfred Hitchcock film, the Buffalo Sabres seemingly approach the 2003-04 NHL season a much more stable franchise. With new ownership in place in the form of Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano, plus the infusion of offensively talented newcomers Chris Drury and Andy Delmore, there is certainly a more upbeat atmosphere surrounding the club than there was at this time last year.
Given the nightmare of a season that the team merely endured both on and off the ice, it might be logical to assume that the Sabres would have several roster spots up for grabs when training camp begins in St. Catherines, Ontario next Thursday.
That assumption may be a faulty one, however, since the Sabres are already one of the youngest teams in the NHL. At best, there may be two or three slots up for grabs in camp, with those openings being on the team’s third and fourth lines. The battle for those openings should provide most of the excitement during the preseason, and could provide the fans with a couple of fresh faces from the team’s prospect ranks.
Although the team’s prospect list swelled by several players at the NHL Entry Draft, General Manager Darcy Regier was not nearly as active in the prospect signing department this off-season. Last summer, the team signed seven prospects. This summer, only two youngsters, Derek Roy and Chris Thorburn, have thus far been signed.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the Sabres system, 2003 No. 1 selection and Univer Read more»
With the dust now cleared following the completion of the 2003 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres appear to have a slightly more balanced prospect chart than they had going into the draft. Positions that were wanting for prospects have now had some depth added, while the team continued to add some depth at positions where there isn’t that great a need.
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier and his scouts clearly saw that they needed to add some depth on defense, as evidenced by the five defensemen selected on the second day of the draft. Also addressed was a lack of compelling youngsters for the left wing, a need that was convincingly filled with the selection of University of Minnesota sniper Tomas Vanek. The Sabres also added some depth to the center, right wing and goaltending positions, which were areas that didn’t necessarily need attention.
The breakdown by country of the players chosen by the Sabres is the following: Canada (4), Russia (2), United States (1), Czech Republic (1), Slovakia (1), and Austria (1). The 10 selections the team made equaled the number of players chosen by the Sabres in the 2002 NHL Draft, and marked the fifth time during Darcy Regier’s tenure as GM that the Sabres have had 10 or more selections in an NHL Draft.
In each of the profiles below, CSS= Central Scouting Service, while PA= Prospect Adviser, Hockey’s Future’s own scouting service. The height and weight for each player is taken from the CSS Final Rankings.
2003 Draft Selections of the Buffalo Sabres
Vanek a #1 Hit in Music City for the Sabres
Was there ever any doubt?
For the Buffalo Sabres, the choice of how they would use their first round pick, fifth overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft held in Nashville this past weekend has been a foregone conclusion since April. The MVP performance of University of Minnesota left winger Tomas Vanek during the NCAA’s Frozen Four Tournament, in front of many Western New York hockey fans, left Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier little wiggle room when it came time to make this very important selection. For his part, Regier had no complaints about the choice that fate had thrust upon him.
“He’s a good player, and we’re very happy to get him,” said an obviously pleased Regier of Vanek. “We think he’ll have a professional career, and we think it will revolve around scoring goals, and hopefully they’ll be big goals.”
For his part, Vanek also expressed pleasure at being selected to play in the city where he first gained national, and international, attention.
“It’s great (to be selected by the Sabres),” stated a relieved Vanek. “I love the rink, I won a championship there already, and I hope there is more to come. I’m happy that I’m in Buffalo.”
For Regier, the selection of Vanek does provide some mixed emotions, considering what his team had to go through to be in the position to chose college hockey’s top young player. In the end, though, bringing Vanek into the fold certainly fills a need for the Sabres.
“It’s very tough to get Read more»
The season has long since wrapped up, for Sabres prospects, with some players experiencing breakthroughs over the past few months, and others falling further behind the curve. Statistically speaking, center Derek Roy of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers was the top point producer of all of Buffalo’s prospects, notching 78 points in just 49 OHL games. More importantly, Roy took a big step forward in his quest to become a NHL player, as he was the major guiding force in Kitchener’s Memorial Cup victory last month. On the heels of that triumph, Roy signed his first pro contract with the Sabres prior to the June 1st deadline.
Other forward prospects that turned in solid statistical performances included center Chris Thorburn of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers; left winger Daniel Paille of the OHL’s Guelph Storm; and center/winger Paul Gaustad of the Rochester Americans. On defense, the University of Minnesota’s Keith Ballard was amongst the top scoring defensemen in the WCHA, while Dennis Wideman of the OHL’s London Knights was amongst the top defensive point producers in that league.
All in all, it was a productive year for the Sabres prospects as a whole, which may bode well for the offensive future of the team.
All prospects listed on the Sabres team page are included in this table. All European players not designated with a number next to their country of origin (ex. CZE vs. CZE1) are playing in the top league in those countries, with the numbers next to the country abbreviation ind Read more»
While the NHL did not experience a bumper crop of rookies this season, there is some depth to the Class of 2003. A pair of Sabres draftees from this group, right wing Ales Kotalik and defenseman Henrik Tallinder, were two of the better prospects at their respective positions, with Kotalik turning in a performance worthy of Calder Trophy consideration.
The lengthy stay in the NHL for these two Buffalo prospects means, of course, that they are no longer eligible for inclusion in the prospect rankings at the Hockey’s Future Buffalo Sabres page. Kotalik and Tallinder have been shifted to the ‘Graduated’ section, leaving two open slots amongst the top 5 prospects.
The Buffalo prospects benefiting from the graduation of Kotalik and Tallinder are University of Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard, who moves into the fourth slot, and Rochester Americans center Paul Gaustad, who holds down the fifth slot. Moving from fifth to third is Guelph Storm left wing Dan Paille.
The upward shift into the top 5 of two prospects means that all prospects move up in the rankings, with two slots opening up towards the bottom of the top 15. Those openings have been filled by left wing Milan Bartovic, who made his NHL debut late in the 2002-03 season, and Russian defenseman Denis Denisov, who has completed his second season in Russia’s top league. Both players have been previously listed in the top 15.
One prospect whose stock has plummeted is right wing Jaroslav Kristek. Kristek essentially abandoned his Rochester teammates shortly before the e Read more»