Sunday, September 21, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--RW, Chris Stewart

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Before we get to add another piece to the 2014 roster, for posterity's sake, a look at who was skating for the Sabres on the first day of training camp:
Group A:
Marcus Foligno, Sam Reinhart, Chris Stewart
Luke Adam, Johan Larsson, Zac Dalpe
William Carrier, Phil Varone, Colin Jacobs
Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Joseph Blandisi

Andre Benoit, Rasmus Ristolainen
Nikita Zadorov, Mark Pysyk
Nick Petrecki, Ryan MacKinnon

Jonas Enroth
Francios Brassard

Group B:
Cody Hodgson, Zemgus Girgensons, Brian Gionta
Matt Ellis, Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell
Brendan Lemieux, Mikhail Grigorenko, Joel Armia
Kevin Sundher, Justin Kea, Jack Rodewald

Mike Weber, Andrej Meszaros
Jake McCabe, Chad Ruhwedel
Brycen Martin, Jared Walsh

Nathan Lieuwen

Group C:
Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford
Nick Deslauriers, Cody McCormick, Patrick Kaleta
Daniel Catenacci, Tim Schaller, Justin Bailey
Vaclav Karabacek, Eric Cornel, Michael Joly

Josh Gorges, Tyler Myers
Drew Bagnall, Jerome Leduc
Brady Austin, Tyson Strachan

Michal Neuvirth
Andrey Makarov


He stands 6' 2", weighs in at a thick 231 lbs. and has the size of an NFL linebacker. And when Buffalo Sabres right winger Chris Stewart wants to dictate on the ice, he usually does.

Stewart came to Buffalo as part of the Ryan Miller to St. Louis deal. Unfortunately he only played in two games before being sidelined by an ankle injury. He return for three more games in April before shutting it down for the final game of the season.

About the only thing Sabres fans have to go on when it comes to how Stewart fits into the grand scheme of things is his history with the team that drafted him, the Colorado Avalanche (2008, 18th overall,) and the team that acquired him, the St. Louis  Blues. The 'Lanche sent Stewart, D, Kevin Shattenkirk and a second rounder to St. Louis on February 18, 2011 for D, Erik Johnson, F, Jay McClement and a first round pick.

Colorado paid a hefty price to land the 22 yr. old Johnson who was the first overall pick in the 2006 draft and had huge upside.

As for Stewart, he was already showing big promise as a burgeoning power forward. In his second full season he had 28 goals and 25 assists in 77 games. In 2011 he had 28 goals and 23 assists in 62 games split between Colorado and St. Louis.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--LW, Brian Flynn

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Buffalo Sabres forward Brian Flynn is the type of player who goes about his business on the ice with little fanfare. Last season was his first full season with the Sabres and despite his ability to score, he spent a lot of time in a checking role and on the penalty kill.

It was a messed up season last year in Buffalo, and many things were out of whack, but Flynn just trudged through and did what was asked of him. The numbers weren't staggering, in fact they were rather pedestrian--six goals and seven assists in 79 games--but throughout the season you'd often hear his name mentioned as one of the better players on the ice. And many times you'd also hear how well he was progressing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--C, Marcus Foligno

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With training camp opening today, the start of the NHL season is not far away. Having the prospects play in Traverse City the last five days was kind of an amuse' for the upcoming season. Now it's time to whet our appetites with some preseason action before the Buffalo Sabres hit the ice for real on October 9th. The opener is versus the Columbus Blue Jackets whose youngins took home the Traverse City Championship this year.

There are seven players up-front who will be in the top-six mix. Six of them have already been profiled with the seventh, RW Chris Stewart, due up in a couple of days.

There are eight more forward spots open and although size is prevalent, there are some differing styles and various ceilings to choose from when filling out the bottom part of the roster.

Of those, forward Marcus Foligno and his progress, will be a focus of the coaching staff throughout the preseason.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Maybe it's not our tournament"

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That understated quote from Buffalo Sabres prospect Nikita Zadorov pretty much sums it up. It wasn't their tournament at all, in any aspect.

The Buffalo Sabres prospects went 0-3-1 at the Traverse City Tournament and finished in last place. They were outscored 17-6 overall and scored only one goal in three of the four games even though they collectively outshot their opponents by a 134-90 margin. A statistical anomaly had the Sabres scoring their only multi-goal game vs. the Dallas Stars in the only game they were outshot (29-24.)

Numbers are a funny thing as it began in the first game vs. the Carolina Hurricanes. The Sabres puck possession numbers were strong and they outshout the 'Canes 35-20 yet lost 6-1. Goaltender Andrey Makarov had a real rough outing allowing 6 goals on only 20 shots. Reports from the rink had him letting in a couple of softies, but he was also a victim of a very poor penalty kill.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Should Traverse City results matter that much to Sabres' fans?

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Not really. But it sure seems as if those results matter to Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray and Traverse City bench boss Chadd Cassidy. And they should.

Mike Morreale of just wrote of Murray at the tournament, "[He] is the one standing on his bench in the last row, scribbling notes on a clipboard and every so often shaking his head and yelling to his players with the hope of gaining their attention."

A big chunk of those players are his guys, the ones he's either drafted, traded for or gave a tryout to.

His draft picks include 2014 2nd overall pick, Sam Reinhart and four others from that class--2nd rounders Brendan Lemieux (31st overall,) Eric Cornel (44th,) and Vaclav Karabacek (49th) up front and Brycen Martin (74th) on defense.

William Carrier (2013, 57th, STL) and Jordan Samuels-Thomas (2009, 203rd, ATL) were traded for in separate deals. The team invited six players to Traverse City--goalie Francios Brassard; defensemen Ryan MacKinnon and Jared Walsh; forwards Joseph Blandisi, Michael Joly, and Jack Rodewald.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sibling tough-love and family help define Anthony Florentino

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One of the things about the Traverse City Tournament is that not all of a teams prospects participate. The eight-team event hosted by the Detroit Red wings is tailor-made for 18-19 yr. old draftees, with some late-bloomers, and free agents thrown in for good measure.

Missing from the tournament, though, are international prospects like goalie Linus Ullmark (who should make an appearance next season,) and wingers Gustav Possler and Victor Oloffson. All three happen to be on the same team, MODO Hockey of the Swedish Elite League. They're already two games into their season.

College players are also not involved in the tournament either as they're readying themselves for the upcoming season. Players like JT Compher (Michigan,) Hudson Fasching (Minnesota) and goalie Cal Peterson (Notre Dame) are in that group.

So too is Providence defenseman, Anthony Florentino. Instead of attending Traverse City, he's with his Friars teammates getting ready for their season opener October 10th at Ohio State.

Traverse City would have been a great way for him to ride into fall and the beginning of hockey season as Florentino had a real strong summer. He showed well in his second Sabres Development Camp in back July and was an invitee to the US National Junior Evaluation Camp in August. He made an impact at both camps and was on a good roll.

The 6'1" 210 lb. Florentino began the summer well, with the 5th round pick (2013) proceeding to do something at the development camp scrimmage he can't do in college--drop the gloves. He and fellow Sabres prospect Justin Kea (2012, 73rd) went at it during the scrimmage in a quick bout that got the crowd going.

"I'd asked him the shift before if he wanted to go," said Florentino, "but he said he was too tired and I didn't want just a half-assed fight." With his Team Blue going down a goal the next shift, Florentino thought they might need a bit of a lift. "Our team went down and I thought I could help by sparking some intensity," he said. So he asked Kea again. The 6'4" 220 lb. forward obliged.

It didn't matter that Kea was bigger. Florentino took a punch and gave a punch and simply shrugged off the disparity. "Size didn't matter," he chuckled, "I've been in worse situations."

Perhaps those "worse situations" he alluded to came about when he was growing up in West Roxbury, a southwest neighborhood in Boston.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Goalies are a little too "comfortable" versus the Sabres

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NY Rangers goalie prospect MacKenzie Skapski stopped 36 of 37 shots vs. the Buffalo Sabres prospects in yesterday's 2-1 overtime win. The 36 saves was a new Traverse City record for the Rangers, and when asked how he felt out there, Skapski replied, "I felt comfortable."

The Sabres youngins would, once again, throw plenty of rubber at the opposition net and would, once again, leave the ice having scored only one goal. “I thought one of our strengths coming into this tournament was going to be scoring goals. We have a lot of guys who are producers in that area,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “It’s obviously been an issue for us. We had a lot of good chances again tonight.”

The "issue" overall seems to be getting into positions in and around the net to score.