More depth added as Sabres ink Knapp and Catenacci

Two more Sabres prospects were signed to entry-level contracts today, further stocking the rich cupboards they already boast. Dan Catenacci and Connor Knapp were signed to three and two-year enrty-level deals, respectively. According to the Sabres, they will each report to Rochester under amateur tryout offers.

They join Brian Flynn, Kevin Sundher and Phil Varone as newly inked prospects this season. Sundher was signed earlier in the year while Flynn signed a one-year ELC last week and is also with the Amerks on an ATO. By having these players join Rochester on an amateur basis, they save a year of their contract from burning up, an especially important detail regarding Knapp and Flynn.

Knapp probably won’t do much more than practice with the team and possibly sit as a backup to David Leggio for the remainder of the season. Catenacci will see some playing time down the line – along with Flynn – for an Amerks squad who could use some additional depth down the middle.

Catenacci, however, will only provide temporary relief for the Amerks. His age only permits him to play in the NHL or junior for next season. With the assumed lineup the Sabres will be looking at in 2012-13, Catenacci’s ELC won’t start working for him until his first professional season in the fall of 2013. That being said, getting Catenacci under contract is a step in the right direction for the Sabres. Joining Flynn, Sundher and Varone; Catenacci is another skilled center capable of producing at a point-per-game clip. His size is somewhat prohibitive and I wonder where he fits in the big picture, especially with Tyler Ennis establishing himself as a formidable talent as a center. With Ennis already on the roster and Sundher in the pipeline, there won’t be much room for too many undersized forwards – especially at center.

Looking at this year’s roster, the trio of mini-mites (Ennis, Gerbe and Roy) may be a little bit of two’s company and three’s a crowd in terms of assembling a complete roster. If that is indeed the case, I wonder where Catenacci ultimately will fit in the grand scheme. Of course, if Lindy Ruff is still coaching he will probably just end up playing wing. Truthfully, that may not necessarily be the worst case scenario for his skillset, either. Continue reading

Sundher inked to enrty-level deal

Sundher has piled up points while filling a leadership role for Victoria/Chilliwack over the past two seasons.

The Buffalo Sabres signed Kevin Sundher to an entry-level contract this afternoon. The signing will bring another supremely talented prospect into the organization beginning next season.

Sundher is currently playing in his fifth full season with the Victoria (formerly Chilliwack) organization and will be making the jump to the AHL next season. His speed and playmaking ability have been key in Sundher’s offensive explosion over the past two seasons. In 2010-11 he picked up 24 goals, 52 assists and 93 penalty minutes in 70 games. Through 33 games this season he has 21 goals and 33 assists. He is just short of a point-per-game player for his career, a stat that will likely improve by season’s end.

While Sundher isn’t a top-end talent like Zack Kassian or Luke Adam, he is part of the recent run of drafts expected to change some of the culture in the Buffalo organization. Organizationally, the Sabres are terribly thin at center. From their first line through Rochester, the Sabres have little talent at the position. While Sundher doesn’t have much size (6’0”, 177), he has quite a bit of offensive talent at his disposal. Along with Dan Catenacci and Steven Shipley, the Sabres have some help coming through the pipeline. While none of the three are an elite talent, their skill lends plenty of depth to a position where the Sabres are lacking. The fact that Buffalo was proactive in getting him under contract early is indicative of that.

Although Sundher was passed over regarding Canada’s 2012 World Junior roster, his talent is not to be ignored. He is wearing a letter for Victoria (a duty carried over from Chilliwack), showing clear leadership potential. If Victoria makes an early playoff exit, or misses them altogether, Sundher will have the opportunity to make a late-season appearance in Rochester. The Amerks could bring him on under an ATO much like they did with Luke Adam and Zack Kassian in the past two seasons. The amateur tryout offer would keep Sundher’s ELC from activating while allowing him to play against men for a short time prior to the 2012-13 season.

The “playing against men” chorus is surely reminiscent from Adam and Kassian’s development, the same goes for Marcus Foligno and Bryaden McNabb.Previous development camp appearances have provided Sundher to display his impressive speed and offensive ability in WNY. However, a proper evaluation of his skills will be made after playing games in AHL. Obviously a late appearance this season (even into the playoffs) would be bonus time for the pivot.

Aside from the glaring need to find a true elite center, the Sabres may be in the market for players who can contribute with the rest of their lines as well. Sundher has the speed and skill to translate to a top-six role. He may even become a more attractive option than a player like Derek Roy in the near future.