Note: This article is part of a top-ten countdown of the Buffalo Sabres‘ top prospects. In order to be considered a prospect, the player has to be eligible for the Calder Trophy this season, which means they cannot have played more than 25 games in the NHL in any season prior. This removes Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Jhonas Enroth and Cody Hodgson from contention.

When the Buffalo Sabres’ pick came at number 23 in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, there were a few routes general manager Darcy Regier could have gone. 

The Sabres’ biggest need was at center, with Derek Roy as the only above-average point producer among the group. Right wing was another weaker spot on the roster.

Instead, Regier went with a familiar adage: Take the best player available.

That player was Mark Pysyk, a defenseman for the WHL‘s Edmonton Oil Kings. Pysyk is the definition of a two-way defenseman, with excellent hockey sense in both zones. He skates extremely well with the puck and has a quick first pass which helps open the ice for his teammates. 

Pysyk is a bigger body, but needs to work on his strength, especially in relation to his shot, to become an elite NHL defenseman. 

With the Oil Kings the last four years, Pysyk led the team on a drastic improvement from his second year to his fourth year (last season). With only 16 wins in the 2009-2010 season, the Oil Kings promoted Pysyk to captain and improved to 31 wins in 2010-2011 and 50 wins last season—including the WHL Championship. 

With Pysyk‘s eligibility in the WHL exhausted, he will begin the first year of his pro-level deal in Rochester of the AHL this October. He will join an exciting group of young Sabres defenseman including Brayden McNabb and TJ Brennan. 

Look for Pysyk to have a strong showing in Rochester this year. The more success he has, the more likely it will be that he will see time in Buffalo with the Sabres next season. 

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The Buffalo Sabres are a young team on the verge of recreating their image.  The NHL lockout has put a hold on their plans (for now), and has resulted in a couple of their players signing to play overseas.  Who else could join Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Ennis?

It’s no surprise that Ehrhoff signed with Krefeld of the German Elite League.  He played with them for three seasons before he started his NHL career, winning a German championship in 2003. 

Ennis’ decision was a little more unexpected.  Since he re-signed with the Sabres on September 15, the one-way contract would normally require him to clear waivers before he’s “sent down” to play in the AHL during the lockout.

However, according to Bill Meltzer of, since there is no CBA in place, the normal waiver rules wouldn’t apply until a new agreement was reached. Ennis will also make much more money playing for SC Langnau in the Swiss Elite League than he would if he played for the Rochester Americans in the AHL.

We’re going to look at three other players on the Sabres who could follow Ehrhoff’s & Ennis’ lead by signing overseas while the lockout drags on.

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(Note: This article is part of a top-ten countdown of the Buffalo Sabres‘ top prospects. In order to be considered a prospect, the player has to be eligible for the Calder Trophy this season, which means they cannot have played more than 25 games in the NHL in any season prior. This removes Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Jhonas Enroth and Cody Hodgson from contention.)

When the Buffalo Sabres entered the 2012 NHL Draft with the 12th and 21st picks, many believed they would trade one or both of them to either move up in the draft or to secure their long coveted No. 1 center. 

Instead, the Sabres ended up with two of the top centers in the draft, including Zemgus Girgensons, after trading with the Calgary Flames to move up to No. 14. 

Girgensons is a beast on the ice, there’s really no other way of putting it. He doesn’t want to go around you, he wants to go through you. In other words, he’s the type of center the Sabres have needed for a long time. He may not be the skill player Mikhail Grigorenko is, but he certainly projects as a second line center at the least. 

Playing for Latvia in the World Junior Championships this December and January, Girgensons showed why he was one of the best forwards in this year’s draft. Playing on a woefully outmatched team, Girgensons showcased his own talent and drive, opening the eyes of many scouts. 

Girgensons is an excellent skater and does possess some crafty hands, and has the potential to score 20 goals a year. He led the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL in both scoring, with 55 points last season, and as their captain. 

The Sabres signed Girgensons to an entry-level deal after their prospect camp in July. While the lockout continues, Girgensons is able to play in the AHL with Rochester because he has never played in the CHL. It is a sure thing Girgensons will start the season in Rochester, likely as the second line center behind Cody Hodgson

If the NHL season begins sooner rather than later, look for Girgensons to get a look up with the big club at some point.

Prediction: Plays the year in the AHL, scoring 20-plus goals and showcasing his gritty style of play. 

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Hearing the phrase “NHL lockout” again is maddening. For a team like the Buffalo Sabres, it means the promise of a new season is on hold. To think that this would actually be a positive for any team is nonsense.

The Sabres badly need this situation to sort itself out. They’re hungry to erase the disappointment that’s still lingering from last year. 

They’re in a unique situation that doesn’t come around often. That’s because they’ve made the necessary moves to basically be able to reinvent this squad. 

Yet none of this matters if there are no games to be played. The Sabres won’t have the chance to get out from under the cloud they brought on themselves after they let Milan Lucic steamroll their goalie.

Again, looking at any positive in this is impossible. Ahead we’re going to discuss three ways the 2012-13 version of the Buffalo Sabres will be negatively affected by this work stoppage.

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(Note: This article is part of a top-ten countdown of the Buffalo Sabres‘ top prospects. In order to be considered a prospect, the player has be eligible for the Calder Trophy this season, which means they cannot have played more than 25 games in the NHL in any season prior. This removes Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Jhonas Enroth and Cody Hodgson from contention.)

Buffalo Sabres fans should be familiar with TJ Brennan, as he was the beneficiary of over half of the team’s defensive starters going down to injury at some point during the season.

It is also safe to say that Brennan did not disappoint in his stint with the big club.

Drafted in 2007 with the first pick of the second round, Brennan played two more seasons in the QMJHL before joining the Sabres organization in the AHL with Portland. Over that time Brennan has shown a proclivity to the offensive aspect of the game, recording 30 points in only 52 games in Rochester last season.  

While he only tallied one goal in his time with the Sabres, he showed an understanding of the defensive zone as well, garnering some trust from Lindy Ruff in the process. He is a great skater and that has helped him adjust to the speed of the NHL better than other prospects. 

He also has a rocket of a shot, which will make him a great option on the power play moving forward.

This season, the line in front of Brennan to get to the NHL has certainly shrunk. Both him and Brayden McNabb have moved to the top of the call-up list from Rochester this season.

If the Sabres were to catch the injury bug again, he could see significant playing time, especially with the departure of Marc-Andre Gragnani

Prediction: 45 NHL games, three goals, eight assists and 11 points. (35 AHL games with 25 points)

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Let’s start by saying no fan wants a lockout. Hockey is my passion and the thought of another one when the memory of 2004-05 was starting to fade is stinging. 

But instead of a players versus owners rant that you’ve read a million times the past month, let’s talk about the silver linings of a lockout for the Buffalo Sabres.


1. Pressure Off of Lindy and Darcy

The Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier debates will always rage on in Buffalo no matter what the situation is. However, a lockout may be exactly what they need coming off of a disappointing season, and what some would say was a disappointing offseason. 

This is not an argument for or against Lindy and Darcy (I’ve given my opinion on that debate a few weeks ago.) This is just to say that it’s not a bad thing for the Sabres to have the fans’ eyes turn away from the coach and general manager and instead, look toward the actual hockey being played. 

With fans’ hearts clamoring for hockey, very few will be concerned with Lindy’s “lost voice” and Darcy’s apparent unwillingness to make the “big splash.” Instead, fans will be elated to see players like Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers suit up again to play some hockey. The simplicity of there being hockey again should pacify most fans for at least a few months. 

In that time, Lindy and Darcy will have the latitude to make this team what it was the two years after the last lockout, and not have the scathing eye of the Buffalo hockey fan focused on them. It may lead to a few surprises, including that “big move” everyone has been begging for since Danny Briere and Chris Drury left in 2007.

They did a pretty good job out of the last lockout, and although those were different circumstances with the rule changes, the time off could be beneficial for both. 


2. More Time for the New Additions to Acclimate to Buffalo

This may seem like a novel to consider a positive, but it should make sense when you consider the whirlwind process that is switching teams in the NHL

Consider Cody Hodgson last season. He was taken completely by surprise at the trade deadline, coming over from Vancouver and joining the Sabres during the middle of a West coast road trip. He didn’t even see Buffalo for over a week, playing four games on the road to begin his Buffalo career. Nevermind the fact that he did not even practice with the team until they returned to Buffalo to play Carolina in early March. Only seven of his 20 games with the Sabres were played at the First Niagara Center. 

If anyone thinks that shouldn’t or doesn’t make a difference they are not considering the fact that changing teams, expected or unexpected, is a tumultuous process and the level of familiarity not only with the hockey aspects of the move, but the living aspects as well, can have a decided impact on the on-ice performance of a player.

As with the last lockout, the players will likely skate together in the Buffalo area. This will allow players like Hodgson, Steve Ott, John Scott, Alex Sulzer and Kevin Porter time to get accustomed to the Buffalo way of life.

Allowing those guys that time could make them even more comfortable on the ice and lead to an excellent result in the standings.


3. Allows the Younger Players to Gain More Experience Before Making the Jump

Despite the additions of a few veterans, the Sabres are a younger team. Players like Myers, Brayden McNabb, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and TJ Brennan are the future of this team. All of those players, aside from Myers, have the ability to play in the AHL as the owners and players figure things out. 

First round draft picks Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons have other options beyond the Sabres as well. Grigorenko will play either in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts where he spent last year, or head to the KHL. For those worried about Grigorenko headed to the KHL, you should not be. He will (possibly) be joining the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, all of whom will be back stateside as soon as the dotted line is signed on the new CBA. That means he can go play at a higher level than the QMJHL can offer, which is a huge plus for the Sabres, given he cannot play in the AHL under the current rules. 

Girgensons may play in the AHL, and will likely get plenty of ice while down there. 

Foligno, Corey Tropp, Porter, McNabb, Brennan, Mark Pysyk and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc are other big names in the Sabres system that will likely suit up for Rochester in the AHL. They’ll be lining up against the top young talent in the NHL who are also getting their ice time in while the league is on hiatus. 

Other players may also have the option of playing in other leagues, but the veterans are pretty well suited for this kind of break. The youngsters are the ones that can suffer, but with all the options for them, it will allow them to get more experience and hopefully allow them to come into training camp (whenever that may be) and be more suited to claim a roster spot with the Sabres. 

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(Note: This article is part of a top-ten countdown of the Buffalo Sabres‘ top prospects. In order to be considered a prospect, the player has be eligible for the Calder Trophy this season, which means they cannot have played more than 25 games in the NHL in any season prior. This removes Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Jhonas Enroth and Cody Hodgson from contention.)

Before this year’s NHL Draft, center was a position of weakness for the Buffalo Sabres. That did not necessarily mean that the cupboard was bare though.

Daniel Catennaci was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft by the Sabres out of Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. Now playing with Owen Sound, Catenacci scored 72 points in 67 games last season for the Attack. 

After the selection of Catenacci, the Sabres’ talent at the center position certainly increased, but he has been somewhat overlooked by many pundits due to his short stature. At 5’10”, Catenacci does not have the size of 2012 draftees Mikhail Grigorenko or Zemgus Girgensons, but it’s not as if he’s Nathan Gerbe-sized either.

Catenacci also plays with a motor and isn’t afraid to venture into the rough areas of the ice. He certainly doesn’t mind mucking it up a bit, notching over 110 penalty minutes his last two seasons in the OHL. 

And despite his size, the talent is certainly there. In 2009, Sault Ste. Marie picked him first overall in the OHL Priority Selection, bringing him to a club that includes the likes of Steven Stamkos and John Tavares.

Watching Catenacci skate, it’s obvious why he’s succeeded in major junior. He has an NHL stride already, capped off by blazing speed. He is also excellent laterally, which will serve him greatly once his puck handling abilities catch up to his skating. 

But sometimes it seems he uses his speed as a crutch. In the Traverse City prospects tournament the Sabres’ young guns won prior to last season, Catenacci seemed to rely too heavily on his speed and tenaciousness and not enough on hockey IQ and positioning. If he is able to improve on those aspects of his game, he could fight for a top-six spot on the Sabres. 

Catenacci has one more year of eligibility in the OHL, and will likely stay with Owen Sound to play out his last year. He has signed his entry-level deal though, so it is possible he could end up in Rochester this season. But in all likelihood, Catenacci will suit up against the OHL for one more season and compete for a top-six AHL job next year, with the Sabres not far behind.

Prediction: Plays in the OHL, likely scoring north of 85 points if he remains healthy.

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The Buffalo Sabres have been one of the NHL‘s enigmas for the past few seasons. They missed the playoffs for two seasons, made the playoffs for two seasons and missed them again last year.

If the Sabres are to make it back to the playoffs this year, several things are going to have to go right for them. Last year, they were too easily pushed around by the opposition, and the team went out and made moves to make sure it won’t happen again.

With that taken care of, the Sabres are in a position to possibly contend for a playoff spot; however, these five things need to occur for that to happen.

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