Sabres 2008-09 NCAA prospects update

By James Schwegler

Buffalo has nine prospects currently playing college hockey.  While none of the players are among Buffalo’s top ten prospects, there are a number of intriguing talents.  Promising 2008 draft picks Justin Jokinen and Corey Fienhage have faced struggles as freshmen, while upperclassmen Alex Biega and Matt Generous have stepped up to be team leaders.

Justin Jokinen, RW (Minnesota State – Mankato)

Acquired:  2008 Draft, 4th round (101 overall)

After leading his high school team to the Minnesota state championship last year, there were high expectations on Jokinen to step in and contribute as an offensive force his freshman year.  To this early point, he has disappointed.  He has struggled to adjust to the college game, and has not been able to earn consistent ice time.  In 14 games, he has just two goals and one assist, with six penalty minutes.  He did show a spark in last Saturday’s game, playing well and netting a power-play goal in a 7-1 rout of Alaska-Anchorage.

Corey Tropp, RW (Michigan State)

Acquired:  2007 Draft, 3rd round (89 overall)

The Sabres have had good luck with Michigan State prospects in the past (Ryan Miller, Tim Kennedy), and in Tropp they have another Spartan standout. In 19 games he has three goals, seven assists, and 18 penalty minutes. Although he and the team started off slowly, he has stepped it up in the past few games, notably scoring two goals in Friday’s match-up at Miami University.  He has been using his body effectively and making plays in the offensive zone. 

Andrew Orpik, RW (Boston College)

Acquired:  2005 Draft, 7th round (227 overall)

The East Amherst, NY native is a converted defenseman with limited offensive ability.  When he plays within himself, he is a physical, lockdown forward who can occasionally chip in a goal.  His problems this season have arisen from trying to do too much on offense, which have led to turnovers and miscommunication with linemates.  After helping BC win a national championship last season as a junior, he has spent some time in Coach Jerry York’s doghouse recently. In 19 games played, Orpik has 3 goals, 8 assists, and 14 penalty minutes. 

Corey Fienhage, D (North Dakota)

Acquired:  2008 Draft, 3rd round (81 overall)

Considering that the Sabres have not had an intimidating, physical defenseman in years, Fienhage is one of Buffalo’s most intriguing prospects.  He has had difficulty finding ice time on a loaded UND blueline, appearing in only nine of their 27 games. In that limited period, he has one assist and 28 penalty minutes. It appears that he has bulked up since draft day, as he is now listed at 6’3, 214 lbs (up from 6’2, 190).  While a lack of immediate playing time is an understandable pitfall of joining an elite program, Fienhage’s style will fit well with North Dakota’s aggressive philosophy. 

Alex Biega, D (Harvard)

Acquired:  2006 Draft, 5th round (147 overall)

The defenseman has served as a core player for the Crimson this season.  He leads the team with 10 points in 18 games, on three goals and seven assists.  Along with his contributions on offense, his defensive play has improved, and he has shown an improved awareness of when to jump up into the play. 

Matt Generous, D (St. Lawrence)

Acquired:  2005 Draft, 7th round (208 overall)

Generous has stepped up in his senior year, serving as a team leader and providing stability for an injury-plagued St. Lawrence club. He has shown versatility, spending time on the power play while also playing a tough, physical game. In 22 games, he has five goals, five assists, and 28 penalty minutes. The responsible defenseman has been enjoying a particular hot streak on offense lately, with a point in each of his last four games. 

Drew MacKenzie, D (University of Vermont)

Acquired:  2007 Draft, 7th round (209 overall)

After spending the 2007-08 season in the USHL, the 20-year-old MacKenzie joined the University of Vermont Catamounts this season. He has adjusted well to the college game, and has played it safe with a conservative style.  In 21 games, the defenseman has chipped in three assists and six penalty minutes. 

Nick Eno, G (Bowling Green State University)

Acquired:  2007 Draft, 7th round (187 overall)

Although Eno has missed most of the season with an ankle injury, he made his debut as a starter last week, making 21 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss to Ohio State.  Going forward, he will likely serve as backup to Calgary prospect Jimmy Spratt

Bradley Eidsness, G (North Dakota)

Acquired:  2007 Draft, 5th round (139 overall)

While serving as North Dakota’s everyday goalie, Eidsness has posted a 14-7-2 record, with 2.51 GAA, and a .908 save percentage. His sole shutout came on this past Saturday against Michigan Tech.  He has four wins this season in which he allowed only one goal. Although he got off to a slow start this season and suffered from some easy goals due to a lack of concentration, Eidsness has settled in as of late, winning five of his last six games in the new year. 

DJ Powers contributed to this article.