Thank goodness the exhibition season is over! At least, I’m sure that is what most Buffalo Sabre fans are thinking as they watched their favorite NHL team go 1-6 in pre-season play (2-6 if you count the win over the Austrian team).
While I’m sure many are heaving a sigh of relief at not having to endure another sloppy exhibition game, the bad news is the 98-99 season begins for the Sabres Saturday in Dallas. To say that this team does not even remotely resemble the team that made the final four last season would be an understatement. True, there are four players holding out, but this does not explain the sometimes-indifferent play by many of the players that were regulars last season. If the Sabres believe that they can flick a switch that will improve their play, then they could be in for a rude awakening in their first two contests in Dallas and Denver.
With regard to the Sabre prospects attempting to make the team, the main battle has been for the 7th defensive slot, i.e. the guy who will spend most of the season watching games from the press box. The top two contestants for this position are Jason Holland and Rumun Ndur, with Mike Hurlbut also receiving some consideration. To my eyes, Holland appears to be the more accomplished player, but he is not the physical presence that Ndur can be. The player that ultimately will win this position could be decided by what type of player the Sabres would like to have in reserve. Still, my feeling is that Ndur’s skills are not quite NHL caliber, and that Holland will prevail.
September 1998 will go down in Blues annals as one of change with an optimistic eye toward the future. This camp was the first one in more than 10 years in which Brett Hull was not present. Also missing from last year’s roster were defenceman Steve Duchesne and forwards Blair Atcheynum and Darren Turcotte.
The Blues made no major trades over the summer and the training camp would provide an opportunity for some of the Blues’ new young talent to step to the forefront.
The major holes the Blues were looking to fill were a #2 center, which would enable Pavol Demitra to move to wing, a checking line RW to replace Blair Atcheynum, provided Scott Young was playing on one of the top two lines, and a scoring line LW, where the Blues have little depth. The Blues have good depth on defence and appear to be set in goal with Grant Fuhr and Jamie McLennan.
After the 98/99 season, the Troja/Ljungby right winger Mattias Weinhandl became a wanted player in Swedish hockey. Even though Troja/Ljungby failed once again to qualify to the Elite League, the hockey world opened it’s eyes for Mattias and no less than 11 out of 12 teams in the Elite League (all but Luleå) wanted his signature on a contract.
MoDo finally became the team lucky enough to sign this, then 18-year-old, player who is the latest talent from Troja, in southern Sweden. However, the likely thing happened and he got drafted by the New York Islanders, and Mattias became “one of eight MoDo talents drafted this year” to the whole world although he probably hasn´t even tried on his MoDo jersey just yet. Though this is an extreme case, it tells something about how MoDo sometimes buys their prospect success. Still, this is not MoDo’s fault – it’s just a media trend to try to connect as many players as possible to MoDo nowadays, because MoDo has a good name that sells.
Mattias got a good start in the 98/99 season with 18 goals, 15 assists and 18 PIM in 28 Div. 1 games. Troja/Ljugby then qualified to Allsvenskan among with seven other leading Div. 1 teams and the harder competition here made Mattias’s stats decrease a little, but they are still very impressive for an 18-year-old:
LEAGUE TEAM GP G A TP PIM +/-
Allsvenskan Troja/L 14 2 4 6 10 -3
Play-off (to qualify round) Troja/L 5 4 3 7 4 +6 Read more»
The overwhelming story at the Leafs camp this fall has of course been the trade rumours surrounding Felix Potvin. It hasn’t had too much of an effect on the team however, as they improved to 5-0-1 in preseason action with an overtime victory over Montreal. New coach Pat Quinn has brought a much-needed fresh perspective to camp, and has given many prospects extended looks in preseason games. Standing out on occasion has been a crop of good young defensemen, including Marek Posmyk, Tomas Kaberle, Yannick Tremblay, Daniil Markov, and Jeff Ware. Forwards making an impression have been Lonny Bohonos, Mark Deyell, Adam Mair, and Frantisek Mrazek. Their goaltending is of course deep at the NHL level, and their group of four young minor league goaltenders – Jamie Hodson, Marc Robitaille, Francis Larivee, and Doug Bonner – bode well for the future. Here is a look at the Leafs camp and their suddenly promising prospects. (ages as of opening day)
Several marginal veterans were invited to the Leafs camp, including Steven Rice, Nikolai Borshevsky, and Garry Valk. Veteran Steve Thomas was signed as an unrestricted free agent, and will start the season on the top line. The diminutive Borshevsky, for one, has shown that he can still provide some much-needed goals and has a chance to stick, and at least one or two of these additions will take a roster spot away from an otherwise deserving youngster.
SIMON GAGNE- If there is one position that the Philadelphia Flyers are a little short on as far as organizational depth is concerned, it would be the center position. And that is almost humorous because at the NHL level, it is difficult not to trip over a center as one walks to the First Union Center since the Flyers have about eight players that could play the pivot on most any NHL team.
The one sure fire future gem at the center spot for the Flyers would be the Quebec Ramparts Simon Gagne. Gagne is a very good skater but it is his hockey sense that has the faithful of the Delaware Valley excited about his pending debut as a pro. He should be invited to go to camp with the Canadian National Junior Team later in the fall which should only help Gagne hone his skills as the Flyers keep an eye on their top offensive prospect.
Tickets could go on sale for Gagne’s first pro game as soon as September of next year, but a cup of coffee with the big club after the 99-00 QMJHL season is finished is a more realistic timetable.
Mike Maneluk- I know. I know. Maneluk is skating the preseason as Eric Lindros’ right wing on the Philadelphia Flyers top line. But the Flyers are reportedly looking for an established NHL top flight RWer and that should drop Maneluk back a couple of lines and into his normal left side position. And that is not too bad for a player that cost Philadelphia one dollar to pry him out of the Ottawa organization