I've always liked the Buffalo Sabres uniforms, until they switched to the red/black/white versions about a decade ago. To me that was big step back. Thankfully the classic sweater came back as a third and even if you didn't like the "Buffa-slug" logo, the colours were back too. This simple shoulder patch is a reminder of the classic crest with the criss-crossed swords under the buffalo and looks pretty cool.
1st pick last year: Zack Kassian (13th overall) – The power forward was acquired by Windsor from Peterborough before the OHL trade deadline in order to give the Spitfires even more depth. The move paid off as the team went on to win their second consecutive Memorial Cup. Kassian had 31 points in 38 games, time lost due to lengthy suspension for dangerous hit. He is now facing assault charges stemming from an off ice incident in Windsor.
The Good: Tyler Myers (12th overall, 2008) – The odds on favourite to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie this year was outstanding for the Sabres in 2009-10. 48 points in a full 82-game campaign, Myers led all Buffalo blueliners in scoring, plus/minus and in ice time. It won't surprise anyone to see Myers playing internationally for Canada in Olympics and World Cup events for the next 15 years.
The Bad: Corey Fienhage (81st overall, 2008) – He’s been at North Dakota for the past two years but has played sparingly with just 3 points in 39 games over that time to show for it. The defenceman from Minnesota has jumped ship to the WHL where he will land with the Kamloops Blazers next season to try and get his career back on track.
The Unknown: Jhonas Enroth (46th overall, 2006) – After two impressive years on the farm, the Swede might be ready for NHL duty behind Ryan Miller. He posted a 2.37 GAA, a .919 SV% and 28 wins this year in Portland which were all well inside the top 10 for the league.
Coming Down the Pipe: The Sabres draft well, there’s no getting around it. Enroth is close, diminutive Nate Gerbe continues to defy the odds, T.J Brennan’s rookie AHL year went well, Brayden McNabb (photo: WHL.ca) had a breakout season in Kootenay and Corey Tropp put last year’s turmoil behind him and scored 42 points for Michigan State. Oh and before we forget, the AHL Rookie of the Year is also a Sabres prospect; Tyler Ennis, who might have a shot at the NHL version of the award in 2010-11, has defied all his 2008 critics who pegged him as too small for pro hockey.
Draft Trends: Buffalo has avoided Europe like the plague for the last three years and haven’t taken a single player from outside of North America. Since 2005 the Sabres have only chosen three players from the WHL, and all in the last two Junes, but all 3 look terrific so far. It’s tough to say there is any favouritism involved but the NCAA and QMJHL are particularly well represented in the prospect pool for Buffalo.
2010 Prediction 23rd overall:
Dean Millard: Riley Sheahan (Notre Dame) - Sheahan had a fairly average freshman season at Notre Dame compiling 17 points in 37 games but it’s his raw tools that have scouts excited. He's over 6 feet tall, skates well and is great in his own end. Some scouts see him though with limited offensive abilities. Even if he does end up as a 3rd line forward, he’ll be great at it and the Sabres have some pretty good top-6 talent already.
Guy Flaming: Jon Merrill (US-NTDP) – Merrill isn’t a flashy player but he’s reliable and takes care of his own end. I’ve seen the term “efficient” used to describe the way he plays in regards to moving the puck and making smart plays. He’s big and strong and might be a guy with some untapped offensive potential. Merrill had 9 points in 22 USHL league games with the U18 squad. I'm imagining an eventual blueline pair featuring 6'7 Tyler Myers alongside 6'3 Jon Merrill...