Sabres European prospects review

By Stuart McDonald

The Buffalo Sabres had seven prospects playing in Europe in 2006-07.

Jhonas Enroth, G – Sodertalje, (Swedish first division)
Drafted: 2nd round, 46th overall, 2006

Not much more could have been asked of Enroth, the undersized, 5’10, 175-pound Swedish goalie this season. The sixth goalie selected in the 2006 NHL draft played a huge role in the promotion of Sodertalje to the Swedish first division for 2007-08.
Starting nine of 10 games in the critical six-team promotional tournament (Kvalserien), Enroth registered a 2.14 GAA and .921 save percentage in the tourney. Sodertalje finished with 19 points, second to Skelleftea and only two points ahead of third-place Malmo.

Enroth played solidly for Sodertalje throughout 2006-07 earning a .937 save percentage and a 1.61 GAA in 24 games for the Stockholm-based team who finished second in the Allsvenskan (second division). Second was good enough to advance to the  promotional tournament which helped lead to the eventual promotion.     

Enroth, the youngest player on the fourth-place Swedes at the 2007 WJCs, also shared goaltending duties with Joel Gistedt throughout the junior tournament in January. If Enroth continues to play like he did in 2006-07, he will cement his position as Buffalo’s goalie of the future.

Vyateslav Buravchikov, D – AK Bars Kazan (RSL – Russia)

Drafted: 6th round, 191st overall, 2005

Buravchikov signed with perennial Russian Super League favorites Ak Bars Kazan for 2006-07. Ak Bars won the RSL’s regular season handily and Buravchikov was a big part of it despite being the team’s second youngest member at 19 (turning 20 this month). An excellent skater, Buravchikov played 35 of his team’s 54 games finishing with a +5.

The captain of Russia’s 2007 WJC squad, he needs to be signed by June 1, but there’s no certainty that he’ll accept an offer.

Dennis Persson, D – Djurgardens IF (SEL)
Drafted: 1st round, 24th overall, 2006

Persson is lucky Buffalo is treating him as a long-term prospect. Playing on four different teams in 2006-07 Persson moved around a lot and had a rough year.

Persson signed this year with Swedish Elite League team Djurgardens IF.  He played nine games with Djurgardens, 11 with Djurgardens’ junior team, three with Almtuna in the Allsvenskan and finished the season playing for Nykopings HK in the Allsvenskan. Of those stops he played most with Nykopings, scoring eight points and earning a -7 in 29 games.

Branislav Fabry, LW – Havlickuv Brod (Czech 1.liga – 2nd division)

Drafted: 2nd round, 65th overall, 2003

This year was critical for the 6’0, 200-pound, two-way Slovak forward. Fabry started the season with Czech Extraliga (top Czech league) HC Znojemsti Orli but managed to play only two games before moving down a league to woeful Havlickuv Brod in the Czech 1.liga. Fabry, an aspiring two-way forward, didn’t help much as Havlickuv Brod finished 11th and allowed the most goals against in the 14-team league.

A -19 with five goals and seven points in 39 second division games will do little to induce the Sabres sign Fabry this summer.

Denis Ezhov, D – Traktor Chelyabinsk, (RSL – Russia)
Drafted: 4th round, 114th overall, 2003

After a poor showing for Khimik in the Russian Super League last season, Ezhov moved to Traktor Chelyabinsk for 2006-07 and improved his numbers and his career chances significantly. Playing every game for the 17th place (out of 20) Polar Bears, 
Ezhov, 22, managed a -6 on a team that scored 38 goals fewer than they allowed.

Chelyabinsk used 36 players this year but the consistent Ezhov was one of only four to play in all 54 games. Ezhov also threw his weight around and finished fifth on the team with 73 PIMs. Amazingly, the 6’0, 200-pounder’s eight points was second among Chelyabinsk defensemen. 

Ezhov’s strong stay-at-home game helped Chelyabinsk improve defensively despite their abysmal record. They had a defense that was 12th among 20 teams but had they allowed five goals fewer, they would have finished eighth overall defensively.  An anemic 19th-ranked offense was the major problem, something for which you can’t blame the defensive Ezhov. Consider this a comeback season for the young Russian.

Maxim Sheviev, C, Crystall Elektrostal (Russian 2nd)

Drafted: 6th round, 178th overall, 2002

After Yuzhny Ural Orsk was demoted, Sheviev stayed at home and played with Elektrostal as he’s done for five of his seven years in the Russian pro leagues. The smallish 6’0, 180-pound defensive forward had a relatively productive year scoring four goals and 11 points in 46 games for the defensively-challenged Elektrostal. More importantly, Sheviev’s +1 was a major positive on a team that scored 48 fewer goals than they allowed. His 50 PIMs were sixth on his team while his point total was seventh. Sheviev’s all-around contribution to the 11th place (out of 14) Elektrostal team, make him a valuable commodity to his Russian team.

Phillipp Gogulla, LW
Cologne Sharks (German Elite League)
Drafted: 2nd round, 48th overall, 2005

Gogulla has gained 22 pounds in the last two years – and that’s a good thing. The lanky 6’2, 198-pound winger was drafted as a 6’2, 176-pound string bean in the second round of the 2005 NHL Amateur Draft. Considering the strength of his game is along the boards, the added weight is of huge importance for the young German.

Unfortunately for Gogulla his 2006-07 season was almost a mirror image statistically of his previous season. Gogulla finished with eight goals and 21 points in 44 games good enough for ninth in goals and 11th in points on Cologne. His PIMs were the only thing that changed significantly for the 19-year-old, declining to 26 from 49. 

Gogulla’s play at the international level was a highlight of his 2006-07 season.  Despite eventual relegation, the German Under-20 team defeated both the US and Slovak teams to start the tourney. Gogulla ended the junior championships with six assists in six games, good enough to lead the Germans in assists and come second to Sabre prospect Felix Schutz in points.

Gogulla’s highlight of the year had to be his five assists in six games in the 2007 World Championships. Playing against NHL professionals from Canada, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the USA, Gogulla led the Germans in assists and finished third in points.

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