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What To Expect Out Of Jonathan Drouin

October 21, 2014

By Matt Scully

Tampa Bay certainly did not wait long in the 2014-2015 regular season to call up top prospect Jonathan Drouin. Just a couple of weeks into the regular season, the 19-year old is set to make an impact at the NHL level right away. While the hype is real surrounding the forward, just how good can he be from a fantasy hockey perspective in year one?

During the preseason, some thought that Drouin would be ready to play on opening night of the regular season. However, a fractured right thumb held him out of some important training opportunities, so Tampa Bay sent him to Syracuse to begin the season.

At the beginning of his NHL career, Tampa Bay expects to play him regularly. After all, it would be silly for them to call up a promising youngster and place him on the bench instead of allowing him to get reps. He will most likely be on the third line at first, and his playmaking at center or left wing should allow him to contribute in fantasy hockey right away. He is worth taking a risk on, especially if a person is in a keeper league.

Tampa Bay is off to a decent start so far this season, as they stand at 3-1-1 on the year. They feel like they have a chance to be pretty competitive in the Eastern Conference if they are able to stay healthy. Drouin is going to have a chance to make this team a serious threat for the Stanley Cup if he is as good as advertised. The Lightning will not be putting huge expectations on him just yet, but they do think he has a chance to be a franchise type of guy down the road once he gets familiar with this level of play.

 

Calling for commemorative banners for Hasek’s jersey retirement

October 20, 2014

Despite lacking a Stanley Cup Championship, the Sabres have a handful of banners adorning the roof of First Niagara Center. This includes 10 division and conference championship banners (and one President’s Trophy) along with six retired numbers. Dominik Hasek’s number 39 will join the French Connection, Tim Horton, Danny Gare and Pat LaFontaine on January 13.

The Sabres commissioned some very cool one-off merchandise for the LaFontaine retirement and I’d love to see them take the same approach this time. In fact, I think it’s a shame that the Sabres don’t offer a full collection of team banners in the Sabres store.

In addition to pictures and t-shirts, I’d assume the Hasek ceremony will also be accompanied by some sort of replica banner available for purchase. Why not make that final item a permanent addition to the Sabres Store? Why not offer the other six retired numbers as well?

I made a few purchases after Florida State won their third National Championship in January. One purchase was this three-pack of National Championship banners. They’re perfect. A uniform, understated design on a 12×18 felt banner which looks good from a distance and up close. I have them hanging from the ceiling in my basement and hopefully I’ll be able to add another in the near future. I’d love to add a few Sabres versions as well.

While the font isn’t uniform on all six retired number banners, the Sabres could make a killing selling replica 12×18 banners of their retired numbers. They could charge at least $50 for the French Connection pack and upwards of $100 for the entire group. I know I’d pay for them and I’m certain other fans would pay for them as well. Other teams do this and I think it’s a major missed opportunity that the Sabres don’t.

It almost seems foolish that the Sabres don’t do this. They sold tacky “Big John” t-shirts last year and have carried a number of very cool commemorative items in the past. Aud Bricks and the French Connection Statue immediately come to mind. This is a terrific money making opportunity that I’m certain fans would eat up. The Sabres need to be on this. Yesterday.

Zadorov is Buffalo’s second prospect impacted by NHL/CHL agreement

October 20, 2014

The Buffalo Sabres have managed to fall victim to the NHL’s agreement with the CHL yet again as they’re stuck in limbo regarding defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

Zadorov’s predicament is quite unique as Bill Hoppe reported this weekend. If you haven’t read Hoppe’s report, do it now. He did a great job digging up the information on Zadorov lacking the release from the Russian club that owns his rights which is preventing him from being sent back to London. Hoppe’s report is an all-encompassing recap of the various issues at play regarding Zadorov’s fate.

Hoppe’s report illustrates the precarious situation the Sabres are in as the CHL agreement comes into play along with the added confusion from St. Petersburg holding some control over where Zadorov can go. It leaves the Sabres with very few options.

The situation is even cloudier when you consider that the Dallas Stars were able to find a loophole that allowed them to send Julius Honka to the AHL despite selecting him from Swift Current in the AHL. This report from Defending Big D notes that Honka was loaned to Swift Current from JYP after he had signed a contract with the SM-Liga club. Because Honka was on loan with Swift Current he was considered a European skater as opposed to a North American skater. It appears this is not true for Zadorov.

What I’m unclear on – and what seems to be one of the overarching questions – is Zadorov’s status with SKA and why he wouldn’t qualify for the same loophole as Honka.

Zadorov played for CSKA Moscow prior to heading to London to play in the OHL and it would appear his rights were later traded or otherwise acquired by SKA. Based on my read of the situation I would assume that is why he wouldn’t qualify for the same exemption as Honka. I’m somewhat surprised that the Sabres haven’t tried to take the league to task on this as the situation between Zadorov and the Sabres and Honka and the Stars does share a few very similar traits. Of course, there are some stark differences as well.

Ultimately, the Sabres have been done in by the NHL/CHL agreement again and are struggling to find an out; and that’s truly the root of the issue here. Read more…

Double Minors: Sabres grab first points with shootout win

October 15, 2014

The Sabres are in the left hand column, registering a shootout victory over one of the primary competitors for the top picks in June’s draft.

For those keeping track of each and every game for tanking purposes, the fact that Carolina managed to tie and send the game to overtime was helpful as the Canes still wound up with a point. Meanwhile, the Sabres still managed to trail in a number of major statistical categories despite pulling out the victory.

It’s woefully early in the year to start comparing the Sabres to the rest of the league but their four games are beginning to paint a telling picture. The Sabres have allowed over 70 attempts at goal in each of their four contests, being out-shot 156-83 along the way. While that may not sustain itself through the entire season, the Sabres are clearly struggling to possess the puck with any sort of authority and have paid for it on the scoreboard.

Buffalo’s biggest issues appear to come with their defensive zone breakouts. There is barely any sort of semblance of a system in place with many zone exits and when combined with poor passing, puts the Sabres back on their heels. It could simply be a situation of bringing the forwards a bit deeper into the zone in order to shorten passes and find lanes to complete the breakout. It may also just be execution of the system in place as there have been countless sloppy plays made by every person on the ice.

It’s odd because often there’s only one glaring weak point in a team’s breakout – passing, board play, execution – but the Sabres have been able to hit on every facet. Further, the disjointed breakout that is acting as little more than a punt back to the other team’s defensemen has also led to breakdowns in Buffalo’s forecheck. Their lack of possession has served as a trickle down to unsuccessful dump-ins or mishandled zone entries that ultimately wind up back in the Buffalo end of the ice. All of these factors add up to show why the Sabres are seeing so many more pucks directed towards their net and why the ice feels tilted in the wrong direction. Read more…

716 Sports Podcast guest appearance

October 15, 2014

I was asked to come step in as a guest on the 716 Sports Podcast yesterday and had a great time talking about the Bills, Sabres, Pegula and Buffalo with the group. The guys get together on a weekly basis and produce a very strong product, I highly recommend checking them out regularly. Enjoy my Ed Jovanovski reference about halfway through.

Click here to listen direct.

Decision on Reinhart and Zadorov needs to come soon

October 14, 2014

It only took three games for a puzzling lineup decision to grace Sabres Nation. Andrej Meszaros will be a healthy scratch against the Carolina Hurricanes as Tyson Strachan steps in for his first game as a Buffalo Sabre. Meanwhile, Cody Hodgson appears to have been moved back to center and Sam Reinhart will be centering Cody McCormick and Nicolas Deslauriers. Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before.

Buffalo’s prized first round draft pick, with full junior eligibility, will be playing on the fourth line.

Reinhart hasn’t been a world beater in his first three NHL contests and his play hasn’t warranted much in the way of continued faith that he’ll suddenly begin to produce. However, count me among those who think playing major minutes in all situations in Kootenay is preferable to a fourth line role in the NHL.

It’s only been three games, so it isn’t fair to cast much judgment on Reinhart. Simply put, he isn’t ready for a full-time NHL role. He could use a few more pounds of muscle along with improved foot speed to go along with his world-class vision. That will all come with time, especially with his ability to not only step in as Kootenay’s best forward but also because he’ll almost be guaranteed a spot on Canada’s World Junior Championship roster.

Going back to Kootenay is hardly a step back in Reinhart’s development and will ultimately be the best thing for him. Giving him a chance to start the year in Buffalo wasn’t a bad choice. Both Reinhart and the organization got to see what he brought to the table at this level and will be able to adequately identify what areas need improvement moving forward. Whether he became a Calder candidate or finished the year in Kootenay, it wasn’t a scenario where either side could lose. Although, giving him fourth line minutes is about as close as you can get. Read more…

Surprises on Opening Night Rosters

October 11, 2014
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Every year there are relatively unknown players that work their way onto opening night rosters. Luke Adam for the Sabres in 2011 and Cory Conacher for Tampa Bay in 2012 are examples of players not only finding their way onto rosters, but contributing right away. While those immediate impacts were short lived, and instances of a relatively unknown player bursting onto the season as those two did are pretty rare, there are players on every roster that no one expected to be there. Here is one player from every NHL team (except the Sabres) who are surprises on opening rosters, unknown to the league (and the fans) or both.

William Karlsson, Anaheim Ducks- The 21 Swede spent the majority of last season playing in Sweden before making cameo with Norfolk of the AHL. He posted nine points in nine regular season games and three points in eight games for the Admirals. While he is on the opening night roster, he looks to be in a battle with Rickard Rackell, who got his first extended look in the NHL last season, for the Ducks’ last center spot.

Justin Hodgman, Arizona Coyotes- He’s bounced around from Fort Wayne to the KHL before signing a two-way deal with Arizona at the age of 26. He’s not a scorer, having neot registered a 20 goal season since he was in the OHL, but may find a home on the Coyote’s 4th line.

Bobby Robins, Boston Bruins- The 32 year old journeyman racked up over 300 career AHL games, along with making stops in Great Britain, Austria, and Slovenia, before cracking an NHL lineup with the Bruins on Wednesday night. He even got in his first NHL fight, with Luke Schenn.

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames- Gaudreau is not exactly an unknown to hockey fans after he torched the NCAA during his two years at Boston College. He got a one game audition towards the end of last season with the Flames and found the back of the net. He’ll get a chance to stick with the big club during his first full pro season.

Patrick Brown, Carolina Hurricanes- The 22 year old will start his first professional season in the NHL after four years at Boston College. He begins the years on the ‘Canes’ 4th line with Riley Nash and Chris Terry.

Trevor van Riemsdyk, Chicago Blackhawks- The kid brother of Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk made the Blackhawks roster after the team had to trade Nick Leddy because of cap issues. The 23 year old has been skating alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson in practice recently.

Dennis Everberg, Colorado Avalanche- Everberg is new to North America after playing the last five years in Sweden. At 6’ 4” Everberg definitely has the size, and will get a look on the Avalanche’s 4th line. Read more…

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