Buffalo Sabres Left Wing Prospects: Mid Season Report Card

By pbadmin

Today we look at Buffalo’s prospects at Left Wing.

Star rating read as follows:

5 stars = Superstar potential

4 stars = A First Rate NHL player. Above average player

3 stars = Good NHL future. An average NHL player.

2 stars = Good minor league player. A below average NHL player.

1 star = Career minor leaguer. Emergency NHL help.

Left Wings:

Daniel Bienvenue  6-0    196    20     South Carolina (ECHL)  1 stars

Acquried: 1995 5th Round pick, (Overall ??)

Stats Look: as of 1/12/98

Rochester (AHL) 9 0-0 0pts -5 15pim
South Carolina (ECHL) 21 3-3 6pts -4 2 pim

Daniel is a highly skilled player who simply needs to work hard and slowly
allow the Sabres organization to regain confidence in him. Since he was
demoted to the East Coast league, he has played ok but, but he hasn’t played
as well as he capable.

From my perspective, the best thing Daniel can do following this season is to
return to Buffalo, work with the training in the off season, and then work his
butt of in training camp next year. This would allow him to get back into the
minds of the Sabres brass. It would also represent a completely fresh start.
Use this season as a learning experience, figuring out what it takes to be a
professional hockey player.

Daniel biggest strength is his skill package. He is a strong skating, head up
player, who should be able to contribute to any team offensive. The key
weakness is poor work ethic. He has to work much harder on his all around
game. Especially his defensive game. Today, more than ever before, players
must have good solid fundamental defensive game. Daniel has been working on
that this year, so hopefully next year he’ll be able to stick in Rochester.

NHL Future: One step at a time, he first needs to make the AHL first!

Curtis Brown       6-0     187     21      Buffalo (AHL)  3 stars

Acquired: 1994 2nd Round Draft pick, 43rd overall.

Stats look: as of 1/12/98

28 gm 4-5 9 -2 20 pim

Curtis Brown is slowly coming along as a NHL player. Last season he spent
roughly half the year up in Buffalo, but he was struggling to make an
impression, after a pretty good start. He was re-assigned to Rochester and
after an short adjustment period, he played well and proved to be a well
rounded, hard working kid. Someone who clearly was close to the NHL.

This year Curtis had a strong training camp, but a slow start to the season.
On many nights he watched from the press box. Finally he was given a chance
to play and he was clearly doing the little thing, trying to make something
happen. As of the mid-way point, Curtis is proving to be one of Buffalo’s
most flexible players.

Curtis is currently playing a center, though he also played both left and
right wing. Though his offensive number have not been great, Curtis has
proven to a be a player who can help out the team offensively, especially when
given the chance. He is also proven to he can be used as an effective
checking line player. Over the last month, on many nights, he has been
Buffalo’s best forward. Though he still takes a dump penalty or two, his
strong play as of late, has currently pushed Wayne Primeau out of the lineup.

Strengths include powerful skating, a tough and positive attitude and great
work ethic. The major weakness is consistency, but that should come with more
playing time. Curtis does need to shot the puck more often and he could use
more physical play in his game, but those are small areas that tend to take
care of themselves.

Time will tell which position Curtis ends up playing on a nightly basis. He
appears to be a better center than winger, at least in terms of comfort level
and offensive production. However, Buffalo needs quality winger who have
offensive ability and Curtis does fit the bill. Anyhow, Curtis is proving
that he belongs in the NHL.

NHL Future: It’s here, and he appears to have grabbed it by the horns!

Mark Dutiame 6-1 180 20 Rochester (AHL) 1 stars

Acquired: 1995 2nd Round Draft pick, 42nd overall.

Stats Look: as of 1/11/98

South Carolina (ECHL) 8 1-1 2 -5 8pim
Rochester (AHL) 5 0-0 0 0 2pim

There can be no questioning the talent and skill of Mark Dutiame. He truly is
a highly skilled hockey player. The one thing he has not been, is healthy.
Since Buffalo drafted him in June of 1995, Mark play in a total fifty five
more junior games (55 out of 144 possible). He barely played at all in the
95-96 season, and he was only healthy for just over half of the 96-97 season.

This season the same situation arose. Mark was injured (shoulder) long before
training camp arrived, and he didn’t play a game until late November.
However, Buffalo showed a lot of faith in Mark last week when they called him
up to Rochester from the east Coast league, despite below average play. That
may have happened merely because he was a second round draft pick. Rochester
is desperate for some size, but more importantly they need skill and speed.
Mark does possess all of those qualities.

What Dutiame has to do the rest of this year, is first stay healthy. He then
must use this time to adjust himself to the American League, gain an
understanding of just what it takes to play professional hockey in the AHL.
Then next year he can truly try to make an impact.

As far as strengths and weakness, I have never had the chance to see Mark
play, so I really don’t know. Every time I had the chance to see him play, he
was injured. From what I’ve been told , Mark has a lot of speed (though he
may hav lost some of that following his serious knee injury in summer of 1995)
and he used to be a tremendous offensive player. A brilliant passer and a
solid finisher. However, he must show that in the coming years, if he has any
chance to advance to the NHL. Beyond that I don’t know a lot and I do not
want to miss-lead anyone.

NHL Future: It’s a long way away, but he has been handed the first step, now
take the next two.

Michal Grosek      6-2     207     22      Buffalo (NHL)  3 stars

Acquired: Trade with Winnipeg, February 1996

Stats Look: as of 1/12/98

36 gm 6-10 16 -1 31 pim

Michal Grosek is very much an enigma. On some nights he is a fully developed
dominate power forward. I don’t want to say that he plays like Keith Tkachuk,
but on some nights he does thing that Tkachuk does. Michal drives the net,
dominates physically in the corners, wins battles along the boards and all the
other little things a power forward is supposed to do. However, like most
young power forwards (most young players for that matter) consistency has been
a problem. For much of the first half of this season, Michal Grosek has been
a bust. Though he has played very well on a handful of nights, but in
reality, all this has done is frustrate fans and coaches even more so. From
my perspective, why can’t he play solid hockey on a more consistent basis. I
understand he a player has his ups and downs, but Michal has been way down for
much of the season. He actually was benched for a couple of week stretch.

Michal clearly is not in the same category as the dominate power forwards.
Beyond consistency, he simply isn’t as highly skilled as others. I doubt very
much he will ever be a forty goal scorer like Brendan Shanahan, or as
physically dominate a player as Chris Simon, or having the potential as Jerome
Iginla. However, Michal could prove to be a much better player than he
currently is. To do this Michal has to work harder.

Michal’s biggest strength is his combination of size, speed, skill and
toughness. Unlike any other player currently on Buffalo’s roster, Michal has
enough size and toughness to compete in the trenches with anyone in the
league. The problem is his weakness. Does he have the commitment and heart
necessary to truly be a dominate NHL player. So far he doesn’t appear willing
to pay the price to be as good a player as he can be. In time, it’s up to
Michal to work harder. If he does that he may be able to write his own ticket
here in Buffalo.

NHL Future:: If he fails, he has only himself to blame.

Denis Hamel        6-2     205     20      Rochester (AHL) 2 stars

Acquired: trade with St. Louis March 1996

Stats Look: as of 1/11

38 gm 6-11 17 +6 64

Here you have a fascinating player. If the only thing you knew about Denis
Hamel was his statistics, especially from juniors, you’d think Buffalo had a
potential superstar. Fifty goals, fifty assists and three hundred plus
penalty minutes in one season is awful impressive, but you have to understand
how he was able to do that. First, last season, Denis truly was a man playing
amongst boys. A fully developed man physically, Denis was simply bigger, and
more importantly, stronger than most of the players he played against. Many
of his goals were garbage goals, rebounds and tip ins. He also greatly
benefited from tons of ice time, and he played in all situations because he
was a team leader.

This season Denis’s big weakness has been exposed and he is struggling as a
result. Though Denis is a big, strong player with soft hands, his big
weakness is he is a PATHETIC skater. I can not state that any more intactly.
This guy has a ton of skill, combined with size and toughness. If he has an
average skater he currently would be in the NHL, or at least very close.

What is wrong with Denis skating? From what I’ve seen, and I am not an
expert, his approach is all wrong He never seems to put a lot of effort into
his skating. His strides are very long and slow. He does ever short stride,
as a normal player would so when they sprint. This may result because he is
simply a slow footed player. I’m not really sure, but whatever the reason he
absolutely must find a way to improve if he is to have any shot at the NHL.

I know many players from Quebec spend the off season working with Canadian
speed skating champion Geutan Boucher. And I know many have benefited. I
don’t know if Denis has ever done this it is something he needs to think hard
about. His entire hockey career depends on improving his skating.

Denis biggest strength is his soft hands. In many ways, Denis Hamel reminds
me of Tim Kerr, the ex- Philadelphia Flyer power play goal scoring expert.
Much like Kerr, Hamel hardly ever scores pretty goals, he just scores tons of
garbage goals. Tip ins and rebounds. Plus, just like Kerr used to, he is
very difficult to move from in front of the net. His size and more
importantly his strength give him that ability, but he won’t ever be given a
chance to prove that because his skating makes him a huge defensively

NHL Future: Someone may give him a shot regardless, but if he doesn’t improves
his skating, below average.

Martin Menard 5-8 165 20 Rochester (AHL) 2 stars

Acquired: 1995 ????

Stats look: as of 1/11/98

37 gm 14-10 24 +1 24 pim

Little Martin Menard, though he may stand only five foot eight and weight less
than one hundred and seventy pounds, he plays the game with the heart of a
lion. Martin is a quick, nasty little player who has tons of skill, a
brilliant shot and an all around dynamic game. In reality, if he was six feet
tall, he would more than likely be playing with Buffalo simply because he has
as much overall skill as any player on the current Sabres roster.

However, Martin simply does not possess the size, to make any type of impact
at the NHL. Sure he may get called up from time to time, especially if a
skilled player goes down, but I have to be realistic. Martin Menard is hardly
a long term answer. In the modern game, with the current size of the ice
surface, the small guy has no place.

If the NHL were to widen the ice surface, a change I’m in favor of (anywhere
from five to seven and half feet), then smaller players like Martin Menard and
Scott Nichol would have a much better chance. However, this is unlikely to
happen, and as the players keep getting bigger, the amount of open ice will
get smaller and these dynamic small guys will have to settle for a career in
the AHL or IHL.

Martin biggest strength is his brilliant shot. He has a great and deadly
accurate wrist shot. Combine that with his speed and you have a player
capable of scoring plenty of goals. His biggest weakness is that in a tight
checking game, he can’t use his speed and therefore, he has a hard time
getting scoring chances. In games like this, Martin’s main role ends up
being that of an agitator. A guy who can get under the skin of his opponents.

NHL Future: Slim, he simply isn’t big enough.

Miroslav Satan     6-1     195     23      Buffalo (NHL)  3 ½ stars

Acquired: Trade with Edmonton, March 1997

Stats look: as of 1/12/98

42 gm 15-12 27 -4 18 pim

When Buffalo acquired Miroslav Satan I hated the deal. I still feel Buffalo
gave away a very good young defensemen in Craig Millar and in time they may
still come to regret that. However, Miroslav is by far Buffalo most skilled
forward. Though he is currently in a slump, he has been Buffalo’s most
consistent offensive player throughout the year and he is currently their top
scoring player. Though he is not a physical player by any stretch of the
imagination, Miroslav has surprised many, myself included, with his
willingness to play tough along the boards. He will grind and battle along
the wall, and he has proven difficult to knock off the puck. Miroslav also
possess and brilliant shot. He scores plenty of goal scorers goals.

All is not a rosy as it seems. To be perfectly honest, Miroslav is a lazy
defensive player. He has been benched from time to time, both this year and
last year in the playoffs, for his lack of commitment in his own end. On many
nights, Miroslav needs assistance finding his own zone, and when he finally
arrives, he often doesn’t help out much.

If Miroslav Satan wants to become an all star, it is purely up to him. He has
all the tools of a forty goal scorer. He posses enough skill, combined with
size and strength to be a dominate top line player. However, he must learn to
work hard every single night. He must learn to commit himself completely to
team and to the game. That means helping out defensively. That means making
the smart play instead of the dynamic play. And most importantly, that means
never allowing himself to get too comfortable with his position. Though he
the best offensive player on the roster, he can’t play with that attitude. If
he does, he will fail, and that’s the honest truth!

NHL Future: Right now, he’s a honest top line player, who needs to play a
complete game.

Darren Van Oene    6-3     207     19      Brandon (WHL)  3 ½ stars

Acquired: 1996 2nd Round Draft pick, 33rd overall.

Stats look: as of 1/12/98

42 gm 21-23 44 +24 138 pim

Darren is a player who has developed nicely in junior hockey. On draft day
1996, most scouts felt that Darren was a very well rounded and mature player,
who needed to show more offensive ability. Since then Darren has showed more
scoring punch though I doubt very much whether that will transfer to the next
level. Darren has the appearance of a player who could become a legitimate
dominate third of forth line NHL player.

Last year I talk with then GM John Muckler and he felt much the same way I do.
He felt that in many ways, Darren Van Oene is a bigger, stronger version of
Brad May. A guy who skates well, plays tough but isn’t going to score a lot.
Though Darren, with his toughness, could very well earn power play time.
Standing in front of the net, looking for garbage goals. His strength should
make him a difficult player to move from that position.

Size is the key. Darren is a big kid, and he knows it. He also know how to
use his size, combining it with his better than average skating. Add in a ton
of toughness, plus a nasty streak and the will to fight anyone and you have a
perfect modern day NHL player. If he had more natural scoring ability, you’d
have the perfect modern day NHL power forward.

Darren’s biggest strength is his attitude. Today you see many big guys with
little heart and guts. Darren is not that type of player. He is not another
Todd Bertuzzi or Jason Bonsignore. Those players may have more natural
ability than Darren, but they can never match his work ethic, will and
determination. Darren is willing to pay the price, and he is willing to do
whatever it takes to help his team win. His biggest weakness is that he
doesn’t possess and over abundance of natural offensive ability. Though he
has tried to make for that with good old fashion hard work.

Darren will play in the NHL. It is only a matter of time. Next season he
will more than likely play in the AHL, however, he could play in Buffalo for
two main reason. First he has similar skills to Brad May but a much lower
price tag, meaning May will get shipped out of town. The second reason is
that Buffalo needs nasty and tough players. Darren does fit that bill

NHL Future: Only a matter of time.