Sabres Top 20 prospects

By Kristofer Baker

Over the course of the 2005-06 season, three of the Buffalo Sabres top 10 prospects graduated to the professional ranks. Because of this, there is a lot of change in the Spring 2006 edition of the Sabres Top 20 Prospect Rankings. A total of six players who weren’t part of the fall 2005 rankings are now slotted after impressive efforts in 2005-06 regular season action.

Previously regarded as an organization top-heavy in forwards, there are currently three defensive prospects placed in the top 10 for the first time since 2001. All in all, there are seven rearguards holding spots in the top 20 with forwards filling out the remaining 13 spots. What for years was a position with a quality prospect in the top five, not one goaltender made the cut this time around.

It appears as if the Sabres hit a home run at the drafting table in 2004, with six of their seven picks making noise in the Sabres pipeline. There are also six picks from a talented 2005 class present.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Marek Zagrapan
2. Drew Stafford
3. Jason Pominville
4. Daniel Paille
5. Andrej Sekera
6. Clarke MacArthur
7. Michael Funk
8. Marc-Andre Gragnani
9. Mark Mancari
10. Jiri Novotny
11. Chris Thorburn
12. Chris Butler
13. Nathan Paetsch
14. Philippe Gogulla
15. Artem Kriukov
16. Patrick Kaleta
17. Dylan Hunter
18. Viacheslav Buravchikov
19. Mike Card
20. Nathan Gerbe

Key: Rank (Previous Rank), Name, Position, Age

1. (2) Marek Zagrapan</b>, C, Age: 19
Acquired: 1st Round, 13th overall, 2005

With winger Thomas Vanek graduating from prospect status in mid-March, playmaking Slovakian pivot Marek Zagrapan assumes the top spot in the Buffalo Sabres prospect stable. By notching 35 goals and 52 assists in 59 games, the 6’0, 200-pound Zagrapan has been in the top 25 on the QMJHL scoring list all season while skating for a talented Chicoutimi Sagueneens club. He collected points in 15 consecutive contests in November and December, including a three-game stretch where he scored nine points earning him the QMJHL Offensive Player of the Week Award for Nov. 14-20. He also has two five-point efforts under his belt this season.

Zagrapan has excellent on-ice vision, often using his deft passing ability to make scoring goals an easy feat for recipients of his feeds. As it goes for most offensively gifted players in major junior, he is great with the man advantage, having potted 17 power-play goals this season.

The productive forward was called upon to center the top unit for Team Slovakia at the IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championships this past winter. Playing alongside Chicoutimi teammate Stanislav Lascek (TB), Zagrapan tied for sixth among all scorers with two goals and seven points in the tournament’s six games. He was named the team’s best player when he scored a goal in a losing effort versus the Czech Republic.

The poised and nifty Zagrapan projects to be a top-line center down the road in Buffalo. He’ll likely return to Chicoutimi as a 20-year-old in 2006-07, then hone his game as a professional with the Sabres AHL affiliate before entering the NHL.

2. (4) Drew Stafford, RW, Age: 20
Acquired: 1st Round, 13th overall, 2003

Likely the most complete package of all the Sabres forward prospects, Drew Stafford continued to fine-tune all aspects of his game as a junior this season for the WCHA Champion North Dakota Fighting Sioux. The two-way right wing put together his best regular season totals as a collegian, posting team highs in goals (23) and points (44), while checking in with an impressive +23.

While plugging away as an offensive leader, the Faribault, Minnesota native emerged as one of the NCAA’s most dangerous penalty killers as well. He found the net six times while shorthanded, leading the nation in that category. For his efforts, Stafford was recently named to the All-WCHA Third Team.

The 6-2, 204-pounder suffered an unspecified MCL injury in the final weekend of the regular season against Minnesota State – Mankato. Primary accounts out of Grand Forks have the versatile Sioux winger practicing with the team just two weeks after going down, so it’s looking like a very good possibility that their leading scorer won’t be missing much, if any, action in the NCAA postseason.

Stafford adds a mix of grit, leadership, and scoring potential to the Sabres prospect ranks. It’s a recipe that should develop into a regular contribution at the NHL level once his game has fully adapted to the rigors of a pro schedule and speed of the NHL.

3. (5) Jason Pominville, RW, Age: 23
Acquired: 2nd Round, 55th overall, 2001

The skilled and determined Pominville has shown his value as an NHL commodity this season, and hasn’t looked back since his most recent recall from Rochester in early November. The native of Repentigny, Quebec has put his scorer’s mentality and quick release on display with 16 goals in 46 games this season, and has rightly earned the nearly 14:30 of ice time he’s averaged as a rookie.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has shown confidence in the 6’0 winger by having him man the right point on the top power play unit, as well as placing him in the regular rotation of penalty killers. The reward has paid dividends for the Sabres, as the right-handed sniper has racked up nine power play goals, as well as a share of the team lead with two shorthanded tallies. Both of the Sabres special team units are ranked No. 2 in the NHL, and Pominville is party responsible for the successes of both.

After a sizzling start to 2005-06 in Rochester (AHL) where he notched an astonishing 19 goals in 18 games, Pominville looks to have found a spot among the jumbled forward ranks in Buffalo. With continued hard work, Pominville should settle in as top-six forward in years to come.

4. (3) Daniel Paille, LW, Age: 21
Acquired: 1st Round, 20th overall, 2002

Developing as a consummate checking forward, Daniel Paille’s progress was hampered by injury in the early stages of the 2005-06 season. After a fine display of his two-way ability at Sabres training camp, the forward from nearby Welland, Ontario suffered a broken jaw during his first practice with the AHL’s Rochester Americans and didn’t crack the lineup until early November. After a brief four-game stint, Paille landed back in the Amerk infirmary for 10 more games with banged up ribs.

Christmas came early for the tireless forechecker, as he earned his first NHL call-up on Dec. 21. The strong skating 6’0, 200-pound wing appeared in 14 games in a Buffalo sweater, showing good speed and consistency in finishing checks as he matched the opposition stride for stride. He registered a goal, two assists, and a +5 rating during that span, highlighted by a one goal, one assist effort in a 10-1 rout of the Los Angeles Kings in January.

Paille returned to Rochester, and has continued to hit, hustle, create opportunities, and play a responsible game at both ends of the rink. He’s scored 10 goals and 19 points in 33 games for the Amerks, including a team-high three shorthanded tallies. On Mar. 12 he scored three straight goals, turning a tight 2-1 contest into a comfortable Amerks victory.

A natural leader, Paille is destined to see NHL action again in the not too distant future, and has a great chance at making the Sabres out of camp next season.

5. (15) Andrej Sekera, D, Age: 19
Acquired: 3rd Round, 71st overall, 2004

As the top-ranked defenseman in the Sabres Top 20, the smooth-skating Sekera has been a treat to watch since joining the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack two seasons ago. The Slovakian rearguard owns a dazzling set of puck carrying skills, earning him league-wide respect in the 2005-06 OHL coaches poll where he ranked first in both the Best Offensive Defenseman and Best Skater categories.

Nicknamed “Reggie” by teammates, Sekera has doubled his point production over last season with 21 goals and 34 assists in 51 games in 2005-06. He is at his best with extra ice to work with, illustrated by his 36 points with the man advantage. He notched back-to-back hat tricks on Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, including a season-high five-point game to cap off the feat. His +15 is tops on the fourth-place Attack, with the next closest teammate at +4.

Sekera also uses his 6’0, 200-pound frame well in his own end. He has good upper body strength and a low center of gravity, preventing him from getting pushed around as he steadily performs his primary duties as a defender. While the numbers suggest he is weighted towards the offensive zone, he is very much a responsible two-way player.

The stocky Slovakian defenseman continued his coming out party at the World Junior Championships, where he was named his team’s best player in three of his six games. He lit the lamp for a pair of goals, and assisted on three others in the tournament. Along with fellow Sabres prospect Zagrapan, Sekera added great flow to a robust Slovakian power play that connected seven times in the tourney.

Sekera has the overall game to develop into a nice top-four defenseman. While he doesn’t solve the organization’s need to get bigger and meaner on the blue stripe, he more than makes up for it in puck moving potential. It is a lock that Buffalo moves to sign him this offseason, officially adding depth to the system.

6. (6) Clarke MacArthur, LW, Age: 20
Acquired: 3rd Round, 74th overall, 2003

After a quick start to his first full professional season which saw him score eight points in as many October games, Alberta native Clarke MacArthur saw his production cool a bit as Rochester entered the thick of things in their AHL schedule. With the turn of the calendar year though, the 6’1 left-hander has taken excellent strides in progressing his play in all zones and has worked well to achieve a level of confidence that wasn’t present in the early going.

Playing on a recently formed line with veteran Chris Taylor and fellow prospect Chris Thorburn, the former Medicine Hat Tiger has used his speed and finishing ability to become a point-per-game player through the months of February and March. In 57 games to date, he currently ranks fourth on the Amerks in scoring with 17 goals and 42 points. His .74 points per game are second best on the team, and he’s rounding into the player the Buffalo organization envisioned after watching him rack up 224 points and 297 penalty minutes in three WHL seasons.

MacArthur can score, hit, and is willing to take punishment to get the desired results on the ice. The 20-year old winger will be well on his way towards becoming a middle line winger in the NHL with additional seasoning aimed at developing a consistent effort both with and away from the puck.

7. (8) Michael Funk, D, Age: 19
Acquired: 2nd Round, 43rd overall, 2004

The lanky 6’4, 208-pound blueliner has enjoyed his best statistical season in 2005-06 with the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, netting 11 goals and 47 points. Hailing from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Funk is a fine skater with a pro-ready shot who has become a well-rounded, mature defenseman over the course of his four junior seasons. He’s physical in his own end, yet has good enough puck skills to begin the rush up ice.

Despite above average vision and the ability to wheel and deal with the puck, Funk is most effective when he keeps it simple and employs a smart, more selective style of joining the offense. He’s been known to gamble a bit in the past, but has really dialed himself into a more controlled, disciplined game as the season played out.

In a competitive group of hopefuls, Funk was among the final cuts for Team Canada for the 2006 World junior Championships. It is expected that Buffalo will sign Funk at the completion of his playoff year, and begin his development in Rochester of the AHL.

8. (13) Marc-Andre Gragnani, D, Age: 19
Acquired: 3rd Round, 87th overall, 2005

On the surface, the Sabres have themselves a highly talented defenseman on their hands in the 6’2, 195-pound Gragnani. The gifted rearguard entered the season with the reputation as a smart, tireless player who has a great shot and a team-first attitude. He bulked up over the past two years, and is widely considered one of the elite defensemen in the Q. Statistically, no other Sabres prospect has grown his offensive numbers more than the PEI Rocket blueliner has this season. En route to becoming the fifth-leading scorer among Q defensemen, Gragnani has totaled 71 points in 62 games. This equates to an impressive leap from the 39 points he notched in seven more games the previous year.

But all has not been rosy in Charlottetown in 2005-06, as the PEI Rocket have been mired in the bottom third of the QMJHL for the entire season. By midyear, Gragnani became disenchanted with the coaching staff and his play suffered because of it. While the points were coming in boatloads for the Montreal native, his work ethic that previously earned him accolades was being questioned by the PEI media as Gragnani was stripped of his assistant captaincy, and waited for his trade demands to be met. He remained a Rocket after the deadline, and publicly declared that he was ready to play hard down the stretch. He’s been true to his word with 16 points and a +2 in 17 games since the deadline. Not too shabby considering he finished a measly –22 overall on the year.

Whether or not the highly-skilled Gragnani returns to PEI ice next season or receives his trade wish remains to be seen. Whether or not the Sabres brass perceives him as a selfish player with an attitude deficiency, or just a player who wants to do nothing but win will play itself out. Regardless, no one can argue the fact that he’s an extremely talented defenseman who has all the tools to make a solid dent as an NHL player when his junior days are complete.

9. (10) Mark Mancari, RW, Age: 20
Acquired: 7th Round, 207th overall, 2004

The 6’3, 225-pound right wing started out strong in his first pro season in Rochester, using his large frame, hard work, and good hands around the net to post 21 points in his first 27 games. Injury and call-ups were partly responsible for his opportunity, but he made the best of it nonetheless. Currently, the former Ottawa 67’s standout has 14 goals and 21 assists through his first 60 games.

The second half of the season has seen Mancari somewhat plateau. His confidence seems to be deflated a bit, as both his hitting and intensity have tailed off. Mancari excels at his job when he skates hard every shift, using his large body to get take-outs and dig up loose pucks. Achieving a level of consistency is usually key to rookies finding their way, and one would have to think that more a veteran presence on the farm would be the best thing to facilitate the London, Ontario native’s development in this area.

10. (NR) Jiri Novotny, C, Age: 22
Acquired: 1st Round, 22nd overall, 2001

One of the more pleasant surprises of the 2005-06 season has been the much improved play of center, Jiri Novotny. Just 22 years old but already in his fourth season with Rochester, the Czech left-hander has rewarded the Buffalo organization’s patience by leading the Amerks in scoring with 50 points for the season. It’s been an impressive showing considering he totaled just 51 points in his first three seasons combined. Novotny is in the final year of his rookie contract, and his recent emergence all but assures that Buffalo will look to re-sign him.

So what turned the light on for the former first round selection? The importance of speed with a crackdown on clutching on grabbing has helped his game some, but perhaps the greatest factor in Novotny’s growth has been his ability to lead by example. The Amerks found themselves void of leadership with an injury to veteran captain Chris Taylor, and Novotny felt it was time to step up to the plate by wanting to be the go-to guy in all situations. He’s brought an honest effort to the table on a regular basis for the first time in his career and the Sabres brass has taken notice. The 6’4, 195-pound forward has earned three separate recalls to Buffalo this season, scoring two goal and an assist in eight games while not looking out of place one bit.

11. (9) Chris Thorburn, RW, Age: 22
Acquired: 2nd Round, 50th overall, 2001

The scrappy and gritty Thorburn continues to be a work in progress for Rochester. In year one of a dual affiliation agreement with Buffalo and Florida, the 6’3, 220-pound banger has been forced into an unfamiliar role of scorer for the Amerks in what has been a mostly trying season. Pundits can look at the game sheets and see that he’s the third leading point getter with a career best 47 marks in 65 games, but he tops out as a checking forward at best based on his style of play. He isn’t projected to be an offensive weapon in the bigs, so the fact that the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native has met the season with moderate success offensively is a win for the Sabres organization.

The lack of veteran support on the Amerks roster has allowed players like Thorburn to make positive steps in their growth as professionals. The situation has called for Thorburn to see extensive time on the power play, where he’s cashed in a team-best 11 goals. His efforts earned him a brief cup of coffee with the Sabres in early December, getting an assist in two games played. The Buffalo system is currently well-stocked with forwards of a similar ilk, so his potential for securing a regular spot in a Sabres uniform will be realized only with continued hard work.

12. (NR) Chris Butler, D, Age: 19
Acquired: 4th Round, 96th overall, 2005

Defenseman Chris Butler recently completed a sensational freshman year for the WCHA’s Denver Pioneers. A natural left-side defender, the St. Louis native moved over to the right side to finish the season on the top pair with Hobey Baker finalist, Matt Carle (SJ). His season was capped off by being named to the All-WCHA Rookie team with the likes of Phil Kessel (2006 eligible), T.J. Oshie (STL), and Brian Lee (OTT).

The 6’1, 190-pound Butler quickly displayed that he is a complete player in Denver. He has great strength, excellent speed, and possesses superior passing ability. He was a creative stalwart while playing point on the Pioneer power play, with five of his seven goals for the year coming with the man advantage. He finished the season fifth on the team in scoring 22 points, and his .63 points per game were tops among all WCHA freshmen blueliners. His excellent play isn’t limited to just offensive prowess. He’s good with his angles, readily blocks shots, and makes quick smart decisions with the puck in his own end.

Butler was named to Team USA for the 2006 World Junior Championships, where he was a team-best +4 before injuring his shoulder in the team’s fourth game of the tournament.

Good things should happen in Denver over the course of the next few campaigns with Butler anchoring the defense. Buffalo appears to have found themselves a gem in the middle of the 2005 draft, for his skill set suggests that he has the tools and polish to become an excellent pro.

13. (NR) Nathan Paetsch, D, Age: 22
Acquired: 7th Round, 202nd overall, 2003

Like Novotny, defenseman Nathan Paetsch is another player who seems to have turned the corner this year while toiling for Buffalo’s farm club in Rochester. The Saskatchewan native got off to a hot start, leading all AHL defensemen with 28 points heading into the Christmas break. His play was recognized with his placement on the Canadian All-Star Team for the AHL All-Star Classic, where the third-year pro notched three assists to lead all point-getters.

The 6’0, 195-pound Paetsch is currently the second-leading scorer in Rochester with 10 goals and 48 points overall. An excellent passer who skates with ease, he’s been highly effective with 25 assists coming as the quarterback of the power play. Along with the graduated Doug Janik, the steady defender’s solid nightly effort and overall game have anchored the Amerks blue line all season long.

14. (NR) Philippe Gogulla, RW, Age: 18
Acquired: 2nd Round, 48th overall, 2005

A burgeoning two-way forward with a heavy left-handed shot, Philippe Gogulla recently completed his second regular season with the Cologne Sharks (Kolner Haie) of the DEL. With seven goals and 22 points in 48 games, the 18-year-old Dusseldorf native showed a 20-point improvement over last season’s output. The Sharks are currently in the semi-finals of the DEL playoffs, an experience that is sure to aid in the maturation of the only German player taken in the 2005 draft.

Gogulla put his game on display on the international stage as Germany dominated play by going undefeated in five games of the Division I Under-20 World Junior Championships. He tied teammate Moritz Mueller as the leading scorer for the tournament with seven points, while also finishing tops in assists (6) and penalty minutes (30). Prior to that in a tune-up for the World Juniors, he had two game-winning goals and a pair of assists in three games at the Four Nations Cup against Norway, Slovakia, and Switzerland.

Even though he’s not quite at the level of Jochen Hecht or Marco Sturm at a similar stage in his development, the German winger represents an interesting prospect for Buffalo. A player projected to play the style of a hard-working power forward in North America, it is vital that the 6’2, 175-pounder spend some time in the weight room to fill out his frame. With new rules in place for European draftees per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is assumed that the Sabres will attempt to get full value out of their second round pick from the 2005 draft by taking a good look at him at their next training camp.

15. (13) Artem Kriukov, C, Age: 24
Acquired: 1st Round, 15th Overall, 2000

The picture is becoming a little clearer about what Artem Kriukov is all about as a hockey player. A virtual enigma since his selection as Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2000, Kriukov has put together two straight seasons of relatively injury-free hockey for Yaroslavl of the Russian Super League (RSL). The big center scored one goal with two assists in 33 games in the 2005-06 regular season. He did miss a few games due to injury, but was a healthy scratch most of the time he wasn’t in the lineup. This was a result of the surplus of pivots on the Lokomotiv roster, but also somewhat due to Kriukov’s struggles adapting to new coach Vladimir Yurzinov’s system.

Once thought to be a scoring line centerpiece for an NHL club, it appears that the talented Russian should top out as more of a middle line depth player. His physical style should translate nicely to the North American brand, as it is likely he’ll make the trip over to Buffalo once his current RSL contract expires at the conclusion of the playoffs.

16. (14) Patrick Kaleta, RW, Age: 19
Acquired: 6th Round, 176th Overall, 2004

The chippy winger who was creating “Local Boy Makes Good” headlines this fall
by lighting up a few veterans with crunching checks during his first Sabres training camp rode his wave of physical play back to a deep and talented Peterborough club for his fourth season of OHL hockey. The 6’1, 200-pound sparkplug got out of the gate on the right foot, netting 11 goals and 35 points in as many contests through December.

When the calendar rolled over into 2006, his production decreased greatly. He was placed into a checking role on the third line by Coach Dick Todd for much of January and February, and hit for just five goals and 16 total points in his final 33 games of the regular season.

The Peterborough staff wanted Kaleta to play with more discipline and tone down his flying style of body checking coming into the season. It was important for Kaleta to stay out of the penalty box and set the tempo with his pestering style, and this message may have caused the native of nearby Angola, New York to react a bit more tentatively on the ice. Still, the crash and banger amassed 121 minutes in the box, topping the century barrier for the third straight season.

While his offensive production tapered off a bit this season, Kaleta still projects to be a valuable piece to the Sabres organizational depth with his modest skills and tenacious brand of energy-induced hockey. It is likely the Sabres will look to sign him to an entry-level deal sometime after the conclusion of the Petes’ postseason. Regardless of where he lands next season, it’s safe to say that the opposition should keep their heads up when he’s on the ice.

17. (20) Dylan Hunter, C/LW, Age: 20
Acquired: 9th Round, 273rd overall, 2004

The fifth-year London Knight forward capped off an impressive junior career by setting career highs in all statistical categories with 32 goals, 85 assists, and 117 points (4th in OHL). The Knights success in topping the OHL standings with 102 regular season points can be greatly attributed to Hunter’s playmaking skills, along with the finishing ability of Rob Schremp (EDM) and David Bolland (CHI) who shared the goal-scoring title with 57 apiece. The 6’0, 196-pound Hunter’s work was recognized in the OHL’s coach’s poll, where he placed third in the Best Playmaker, Smartest Player, and Best on Faceoffs categories.

So how does a player with such monstrous stats place so low on the Buffalo Sabres prospect rankings? The big knock on Hunter has been his inability to effectively grasp the nuances of the two-way game. You cannot discredit his offensive prowess, but his play in his own end needs to improve drastically to become a successful professional. While he was a masterful playmaker on the scorer’s sheet, it must also be noted that he was just a +9 for the season. Of his 117 points, an amazing 78 of them came on the power play while he netted just one shorthanded goal.

Hunter currently sits atop the London Knights all-time franchise list for most games played (315) and most assists (263). Perhaps the biggest question of the Sabres offseason is whether or not they will sign a proven point producer at the junior level with hopes that coaching can turn around the defensive aspect of his game.

18. (17) Viacheslav Buravchikov, D, Age: 18
Acquired: 6th Round, 191st overall, 2005

Buravchikov, a smooth-skating defenseman with a booming shot from the point, made his RSL debut as an 18-year-old this season with Khimik. Seeing a regular shift, the 6’0, 187-pound Moscovite scored one goal and three assists in 43 games.

The lanky defender represented silver medal winning Team Russia at the World Junior Championships in British Columbia, where he recorded two assists and a +5 rating in the tournament’s six games. At the Four Nations Cup held in Stupino, Russia this past November, he skated on the first defensive pairing and scored an assist in three games versus teams from Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic.

Buravchikov, a product of the Soviet Wings pipeline, is developing nicely playing against what is considered the most elite competition outside of North America. He certainly has the makings of a power play specialist with his creative passing skills and aforementioned cannon-like one-timer, but must continue focusing on elevating play in his own end before making a serious run at realizing his NHL potential.

19. (NR) Mike Card, D, Age: 20
Acquired: 8th Round, 241st overall, 2004

Defenseman Mike Card of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets recently enjoyed his finest season of major junior action, finishing third overall on the team and third among WHL defensemen in scoring with 55 points. His 34 assists on the power play were good enough to grab a share of the league lead in that category.

Like many Sabres prospects in 2005-06, the Penticton, B.C. product got off to hot start, as evidenced by his earning Player of the Week honors in the second week of the season. He was the league’s top scoring defenseman before being sidelined with a shoulder injury in early November. Upon returning, Card continued his scoring pace by posting 11 points in his first six games back. His production cooled considerably thereafter as he scored just 25 points in the final 40 games of the regular season.

Clocking in at 6’1, 200 pounds, Card has the size to compete as a pro. He’s a sound positional defender who sees the ice well and plays a rather conservative style. To successfully take his game to an elite level though, he’ll need to get stronger and quicker. As a veteran of three Memorial Cup tournaments as a Rocket, the inclination would be that Buffalo rolls the dice and signs Card to a contract to develop in the farm system for a few seasons to see how his game adapts in the professional arena.

20. (NR) Nathan Gerbe, RW, Age: 18
Acquired: 5th Round, 142nd overall, 2005

If heart and determination were the only criteria for the Top 20 rankings, the diminutive Gerbe would be near the top of the list. Standing just 5’6, yet playing with an attitude befitting one standing 6’5, the Boston College winger hustled his way to a 10-goal, 17-point campaign in his freshmen season in Hockey East.

The Oxford, MI native brings a tireless working style to both ends of the ice nightly. He’s not afraid of contact, often initiating it, and doesn’t back down from the always larger opponents in a battle for both the puck and respect. He racked up 61 penalty minutes in 2005-06, including a fighting major resulting in a game disqualification, and a game misconduct.

A product of the U.S. National Junior Development Program, the quick and feisty Gerbe went pointless while representing Team USA at the 2006 World Junior Championships. While his international experience played a part in his sliding into the Top 20, Gerbe is still considered a bit of a long shot to crack the NHL. Although his lack of size is perceived to be a hindrance, his effort and two-way play could actually bode well in the “new” NHL.

Missing the cut

Tim Kennedy
Michal Valent
Matt Generous

Graduated since last ranking

Thomas Vanek
Derek Roy
Paul Gaustad

Eugene Belashchenko contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.