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.
Dynasty, a word not mentioned to often in today’s sports. Once the word was mentioned when Colorado won the Stanley Cup back in the summer of 96. The team was deep and full of great talent that few teams could match or overcome. That was then and this is now. The Avalanche organization of present day is slightly different than it was then. Gone are some of the highly touted “role” or “depth” players, such as Ricci and Young, who could play on any other teams top two lines. Many people believe the loss of certain players and sufficient replacements to be the problem with the Avs of today. In their place skate to new youngsters by the name of Drury and Hejduk, who both put up slightly similar numbers to what their counterparts do for San Jose and St. Louis. These type of numbers from two youngsters who never played a game of North American minor or major hockey until this year. How would this ever be a problem seeing they both have bright years ahead of them as dangerously skilled scorers for the Avs?
“The future’s so bright I got to wear shades”, will be one tune the Avalanche organization will be singing when they look down into their farm club in Hershey. One of the hottest teams in the past few weeks, the Bears have started to show why Colorado’s future is so good. Truth be told, Hershey only contains around half of the organizations younger promising talent, with most of it being located in other areas such as colleges and junior clubs. Even with such a minor showing of the organization’s prospects, Hershey still contains player depth most teams could only dream of ever having as far as prospects go. At present time, most of the Bears are Avalanche prospects (or under minor league contract with the team). Few are actual “Hershey only” players. They consist of some of the youngest players in the league (Lazarev), not to mention one of the oldest (Lamoureux). With such a unique mix of young and old, Hershey has needed time to learn and adjust to life in the AHL.
The adjustment period is coming to a close, and the team must start to show what they can do. The time is NOW. The prospects Colorado so dearly covet are starting to bust out and show why this organization’s pool of talent is one of the best if not the best. With the recent acquisitions of Parker, Belak, and Denis from the “Big Club”, They now have leaders to take charge not only in the AHL but also in their quest to show what they can do.
Huselius and Holmkvist odd men out in Färjestad
Two of the more talked about NHL-prospects from Sweden in recent years -Panthers draftee Kristian Huselius and 1997 Mighty Ducks first rounder Mikael Holmkvist have been squeezed out of the Färjestad line-up due to the return of two veterans who played significant parts in their back-to-back Swedish championship wins in 1997 and 1998. The two who returned are small winger Patrik Wallenberg, who had played in Finland, and Peter Nordström who returned to his old club after failing miserably when trying to make it in the NHL with the Boston Bruins.