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Posts Tagged ‘Zack Kassian’

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A Deadline Review

For Sabres fans, Deadline Day was quite the roller coaster. Three pm arrived and virtually nothing of interest had been reported. The Wild and Oilers had exchanged defensemen, the Leafs and Bolts had swapped prospects and the Kostistsyn brothers were reunited in Nashville, but no transactions had been called in from Western New York. Most of the Sabres coverage on TSN’s Trade Center was the show’s panel ripping on General Manager Darcy Regier for asking too high a price, a first round draft pick, for center Paul Gaustad.

Then, not a minute past the deadline bell, news broke that the veteran of seven NHL seasons was in-fact on the move, off to a Predators team building for a Cup run; in exchange for the club’s first round pick. Darcy had played the market, gotten his return and things were looking up. Several minutes later, however, Bob McKenzie announced that Derek Roy was staying put and hopes for another big move seemed dim. But the Sabres still had assets, and some contenders, namely Vancouver still had deals to announce. As Twitter sources checked off the teams that were done for the day, the Sabres remained live. With Roy off the board, perhaps a team looking to bolster its defense was moving on Leopold?

Twenty two minutes later, a rumor surfaced that permanently changed the tenor of the afternoon. A poster on the Sabresfans forums has submitted a thread on a potentially blockbuster move between the Sabres and Canucks, a deal that would send center Cody Hodgson to Buffalo and power-forward Zack Kassian out West. When the Trade Center confirmed that Kassian was indeed a Canuck, initial skepticism gave way to waves of surprise, excitement and outright shock. Fans were disappointed to lose a prospect that had long been billed as the answer to the division’s goons, but couldn’t resist getting excited over a former top-ten pick with a ridiculous pedigree, from a draft class that had already given the team three of its most promising young players.

The excitement is justified. The Hodgson deal communicates two fundamentally important things about the Sabres’ outlook going forward. First they aren’t afraid to sell high on a guy they aren’t sure of. Regier is famous for holding onto his prospects, until they bust and considering Kassian’s potential both on the ice and as a fan-favorite, this move is a welcome break from tradition. Secondly, Darcy understands that only centers can solve this team’s deficiencies down the middle. This trade is an incredibly risky move for both franchises, and Regier probably isn’t signing on if he thinks that he has the solution to the Sabres’ dearth of pivots somewhere on his roster or prospect pool. Darcy agreeing to this deal displays his comprehension of the importance of high potential centers; a trait unforeseen in previous transactions and a trend that hopefully continues through the draft.

One place where Regier could have done more, however, was in replacing some of the grit the team shipped out. While Gaustad wasn’t exactly an imposing presence, and Kassian hasn’t shown the mean streak that gets Milan Lucic booed at First Niagara Center, both guys still contributed some sandpaper to the lineup that was not replaced with their departures. Swinging a mid round pick for an enforcer like Matt Carkner would’ve rounded out the day nicely, especially considering Hodgson’s relatively small stature and injury history.

At the end of the day, Regier’s break from the ho-hum of flipping second round picks for mediocre forwards was a welcome sight. The Sabres got great value out of Gaustad, and turned Kassian’s enigmatic potential into the future top-six center the team has been searching for since 2007. While the Sabres failed to bulk up at the deadline, Regier had emphasized the need for the team to get bigger even when Kassian was on the roster, and it is expected that the GM will look to add grit in the offseason.

All in all, the Sabres were one of Monday’s biggest winners.

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Saturday’s Prospect Scrimmage

I arrived early enough to get a good seat around the red line.  It wasn’t overly full when I showed up probably a half hour before the start.   The crowd did fill in heavily though before the start of the scrimmage.  Former Sabre Mike Foligno was in attendance to watch son Marcus headlining the White team.  Dan Catenacci and Gregg Sutch were listed on the team rosters, but didn’t play in the game.  Drew Schiestel also did not play in the game.

 

Teams

Grey Squad

 

Ennis – Adam – Kassian

Henley – Shipley – Tropp

McCarron – Isackson – Jokinen

 

Crawford – Biega

McNabb – Gauther-Leduc

Bailen – Adams

 

Eno

Houser

 

White Squad

 

Foligno – Sundher – Parker

Boychuk – Sundher / Varone / Navin – Szydlowski

Lagace – Varone – Beyers

Wudrick – Navin – Zarbo

 

Brennan – M. MacKenzie

D. MacKenzie – Pysyk

Lepkowski – Fienhage

 

Knapp

Cullen

 

 

The Grey squad started off with Ennis – Adam and Kassian.  For much of the scrimmage, the trio were able to hold the puck well in the offensive zone, occasionally frustrating the D.  Brennan and M. MacKenzie were on D most of the time that the big trio were out there.  Ennis-Adam-Kassian were able to keep pressure going in the White zone, but Brennan and MacKenzie kept them out of the slot for the most part, making the trio keep a “perimeter” game going.

Brennan had a great poke check of the puck when the trio were coming in on a 3-on-1.  T.J. played the play perfectly.  Later on Ennis did score on a 3-on-1 setup from Kassian.  Kassian skated well, kept up with Ennis as well as possible, looked good out there, physical play, tough along the boards.  Kassian can hold the puck well in the offensive zone.  He slows it down but uses his size advantage to ward off defensemen from inside the half-boards to behind the net.

Luke Adam was winning most all of his faceoffs but otherwise was so-so.  His skating was decent.

 

Team White’s Marcus Foligno played a strong game, was in front of the opposing net often.  Scored a goal in the paint.  Kevin Sundher was showing off some wheels for Team White.  Good cycling in his own zone to lead up rushes on a few occasions.  Almost had a breakaway once but was stifled by Nick Crawford.  Sundher’s lack of defensive abilties looked pretty glaring.  He played against the big trio on the other team and couldn’t get the puck away, wasn’t aggressive.  I think Kassian was intimidating some of the Team White players.

Team Grey’s John McCarron was all effort all game.  He was jumping after loose pucks, taking pucks away, doing whatever he could to get a goal (which he did with one second left in the scrimmage).  All effort, quite impressive.  Stood out in a very good way amongst the “no names”.

Team White’s pairing of T.J. Brennan and Matt MacKenzie worked out alright.  They had plenty to contend with dealing with Ennis-Adam-Kassian.  Drew MacKenzie had his ups and downs… some plays good, some not so good, but puts forth a decent effort.

I didn’t notice Team White’s Mark Pysyk too much, which maybe is a good thing.  He took a possible scoring opportunity away from Kassian, wheeled in his own zone and made Kassian chase him up ice.  Quality play there by Pysyk.

Alex Lepkowski played very well, very physical for Team White.  Very rugged along the boards.  Played a simple game, rough on the forwards, get the puck, skate, get it out.  Put a good hit on Kassian on one play.  Better skater than I thought he would be.  Even almost had a near breakaway at one point.

Brayden McNabb seemed semi-invisible, but played alright.  He played a physical game down low.  A few good outlet passes.

Alex Biega played tough, hard checking along the boards, not giving an inch there.  I believe he had one or two not so great giveaways in his own zone, but he is a very good skater with a quick burst out of the defensive zone.

Mark Adams was hit and miss.  He shied away from a Foligno hit once.  In the neutral zone, on more than one occasion he was willing to let the opposition take control of the puck while he skated backwards.

Jerome Gauther-Leduc is all wheels.  Fast, smooth skater, he’ll jump into the offensive zone any chance he can get.  Didn’t see him get to unleash his slapshot.

Corey Fienhage was o.k. at times.  A time or two he couldn’t clear the puck and the Ennis-Adam-Kassian trio kept the puck in the White zone.

Justin Jokinen skated well, skated hard… kept trying to go wide on the defense to fire a shot to the corner of the net.  None of those shots were ever going to go in the net.  Decent effort from him though.  Was skating strong most all of the scrimmage.

Steve Beyers showed some spunk in the scrimmage.  The camp invite scored the first goal of the game off of a feed from Foligno.  Team Grey was either doing a line change or not in position, but he sniped one to get the first goal of the game.  Beyers has some wheels on himself.  Quick skater, nose for the puck / net.

Riley Boychuk is definitely a banger.  He threw some big glass-rattling hits for Team White.  Also came close a few times in the slot to getting a goal.  Big, rangy kid.  Skated well too.

Corey Tropp was alright.  I don’t recall him too much.  Didn’t see any glaring mistakes, but no big plays either.

John Parker can stickhandle like a demon, but he’s a small kid.  He had some offensive chances, but had a bit of difficulty maintaining possession of the puck at times.

Brad Navin played well, ended up getting a goal… pretty much an empty-netter.  He has a nose for the net certainly.   Not afraid to get into the high traffic areas.  His goal came about from a smart play by T.J Brennan in his own end.  Seeing the opposition ready to line change, Brennan fired a pass up to Matt Zarbo??? and that was fed to Navin in the slot for the easy goal.

Phil Varone and the aforementioned Zarbo had some good energy out there, quick skaters.  Didn’t disappoint but didn’t stand out either.

Cedrick Henley struggled mightily.  He looked labored in his skating, wasn’t able to keep up with the play.  He had a few bad turnovers as well.  All in all, not a positive outing.

Geordie Wudrick looked labored in his skating as well… almost winded.  Just couldn’t keep up with the play.

 

As far as the goalies are concerned, both Nick Eno and Connor Knapp played very well, as they were in net for the first half of the game.  Knapp made several solid saves, especially in close as the Ennis-Adam-Kassian were getting the puck to the paint often.  Knapp held his ground well during his time in net.

Eno looked just as solid as Knapp.  He made several very good saves, some screen shots he was getting the pad on.  On one play, Eno had the highlight play of the day with a diving save in front of an open net.  Definite ESPN Top 10 stuff.  Great save and he played very well in the contest.

The other two goalies?  John Cullen was decent… and Michael Houser was getting housed.

 

O.k., that’s enough.  Any questions?  Send them to the Prospect Camp thread.

 

 

 

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More fireworks

It looks as though the days of the meek and mild Buffalo Sabres are over.  No longer a franchise that doesn’t rock the boat, and skims along as safely as possible, Buffalo made a big splash with the trade acquisition of Robyn Regehr this past weekend.

Regehr gives the Sabres just the kind of shut-down defenseman they have been sorely lacking.  His addition is huge for Buffalo and it will show once the season starts.  Regehr will quickly become a fan favorite.  Buffalo GM Darcy Regier found his bag of “Jedi Mind Tricks” and performed one on Calgary.

The Sabres are now talking about acquiring another veteran defenseman, either through free agency or a trade.  Buffalo would have at least three strong components on the blue line with Tyler Myers, Regehr and a possible near-future acquisition.  Ryan Miller should be sleeping easier.

 

Fireworks should be going off on Friday when free agency begins.  The Sabres are looking to sign a big name scoring center, which is a surprise to no one.  Do they believe that Brad Richards would be a good fit?  Will they go in a different direction?  Would they possibly make a trade to bring in a first-line center?  At the very least, it looks like the Sabres will not be on the sidelines come July 1st.

 

Buffalo’s draft this past weekend looks quite strong as of now.  Things can certainly change over the next 3-4 years but I like a lot of the players they picked.  Maybe Joel Armia pans out as a legit scoring threat as a first-line right wing down the road.  The Sabres took a couple of promising centers (Dan Catenacci and Colin Jacobs) that were projected to go earlier than where they were selected.  I like that they took some chances on players like goalie Nathan Lieuwen in the sixth round and Wisconsin high school center Brad Navin in the seventh round.  Both players are a bit on the “boom or bust” side of things, but why not take some chances like that in the later rounds?

The Sabres re-stocked their cabinet for centers with Catenacci, Jacobs and Navin joining Kevin Sundher, Steve Shipley and “sometimes center” Luke Adam.  Wouldn’t hurt to add a couple more centers in the 2012 draft.

The Sabres now look to be lacking mostly at left wing among the minor pros and juniors.  Marcus Foligno, Jacob Lagace, Riley Boychuk and Cedric Henley make up the LW group.  There needs to be an influx of youngsters at that position over the next couple of years.

Buffalo has a strong grouping of prospects.  Jhonas Enroth heads up the goaltending part of things… Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb, Drew Schiestel, T.J. Brennan and Jerome-Gauthier Leduc highlight the blue liners… Armia, Zack Kassian, Adam, Foligno, Catenacci, Sundher, Jacobs and Corey Tropp head up the forwards.  It may not be as talent-rich as some other clubs, but it’s a grouping that has to rank in the top half of the league.

 

 

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