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
Well, the San Jose Sharks have completed their 1998 training camp. As always, some guys were impressive, some not. The players who were sent down in the first set of cuts I did not get the chance to see… The others however, I have seen. Some of the guys sent down in the first set had write-ups in the paper about them, and I recorded those comments in the players review…
1: Sean Gauthier: G-Many have been impressed by him; unfortunately, I’m not one of them… He has given up tons of rebound opportunities… Bruce Racine should get the #3 job, only question is does Gauthier go to AHL or the ECHL?
2: Bill Houlder: D-Very typical Billy Houlder defensive hockey… Nothing flashy, but doing his job… Not allowing the forwards to get any great shots off…
3: Bob Rouse: D-He’s looking like a very good pickup… Largely overshadowed in Detroit…
4: Andrei Zyuzin: D-The fact that he has not shown much improvement since last year is a bit disheartening, but I wouldn’t get to worried quite yet… Darryl Sutter has voiced displeasure of his play, but also has implied that there has been progress as camp goes on…
5: Brad Stuart: D-You could tell he was a bit overwhelmed… He seemed surprised at times at the extra speed and intensity of the NHL players… Sent down to Regina at the last minute. (WHL) Read more»
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»