I am going to do a four part preview of the Sabres offseason looking at the Draft, Current Prospects in the system, Free Agency, and the Trade Market. Today I am going to start with the Prospects portion, so let's get to the fun.
1. Joel Armia-Assat-SM Liga
Armia was the 1st round pick of the Sabres in last year's draft. He was the first European player selected by the Sabres in five years. The 6'3 200 lb Finish winger has been playing in the Finish Elite League for two years now. Armia has held his own against other professionals in the Finland. This season in 54 games Armia had 38 points (18g 20a). Also Armia started to get attention at this years World Junior Championship when he headlined a surprise Finland team 7 points in 7 games (5 and 2). Armia showed his ability to use his size, speed, and skill to put the puck in the net. The 18 year old should attend his first training camp this season. Buffalo hopes for Armia to be a top 6 forward that can provide size and skill they need badly. The Sabres are hopeful he will play in the AHL and craft his game in North America. If not Armia will head back to Finland for one more season and start to push for a roster spot in the 2013 season.
2. Mark Pysyk-Edmonton Oil Kings-WHL
Pysyk was Buffalo's first round pick in 2010 and he is part of a prospect loaded blue line. Pysyk started to break out in his second season with the Oil Kings in his first season as captain. He led all Edmonton defenseman with 6 goals and 34 assists and was a +29. He put up similar numbers again this season with 6 goals and 32 assits, also adding 11 more points in the playoffs. Pysyk also had a good showing for Canada in the World Juniors this season in a disappointing tournament for team Canada. Pysyk was one of the reasons the surprise Oil Kings are still playing in the Memorial Cup after winning the WHL Championship. The Oil King defense also features future first round draft pick Griffin Reinhart, who could be on the Sabres radar come Draft day. Pysyk signed his entry level deal with Buffalo this season will begin his pro career in Rochester next season.
3. Jermoe Gauthier-Leduc-Rimouski Oceanic-QMJHL
Leduc was a 3rd round pick in the 2010 draft. The 6'0 185 lb defenseman from Quebec is a scoring machine from the blue line. This season in 62 games JGL had 28 goals and 46 assists while anchoring the Rimouski blue line. He also added 19 more points in 21 playoff games for the Oceanic. Leduc signed his entry level contract this year and will also joing Pysyk in Rochester next season. Leduc will work on crafting his defensive aspect of the game to be successful at the next level. His offensive skill has Sabres fans salivating. A very exciting prospect once his game in own zone is perfected.
4. Kevin Sundher-Rochester Americans-AHL and Brandon Wheat Kings-WHL
Sundher was another 3rd round pick in a very promising 2010 draft class for Buffalo. Sundher started with a break out season while playing the Victoria Royals of the WHL with 64 points in 40 games. He was then traded to Brandon and never seemed comfortable, only scoring 11 points in 18 games. Sundher was only one more Sabres injury from making his Sabres debut in the beginning of last season. Sundher eventually joined the Amerks at the end of their playoff series with the Marlies, but never dressed in a game. The 20 year old center will begin next season in Rochester with a lot of eyes on his progression. Buffalo is in desperate need of depth at center and Sundher could have a bright future as possible second line center.
5. Daniel Catenacci-Owen Sound Attack-OHL
Catenacci was a 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft that slipped from a projected first round selection. Catenacci is on the small side at 5'10, but he features blazing speed and a never give up attitude a la Nathan Gerbe or Tyler Ennis. Last season for the Attack the 19 year old center had 72 points in 67 games with 5 more points in the playoffs. Catenacci caught some attention last season at the Sabres prospects camp. His skill and speed made a lot people think of Catenacci as a Tyler Ennis type center. He may have to be moved to the wing with Ennis and Hodgson already occupying the small center positions for the foreseeable future. Catenacci will play next year in Rochester after signing his entry level contract and look to prove he can use his speed and skill at the pro level
The Amerks have a new movement of promising young players joining the club next season in Pysyk, JGL, Sundher, Catenacci, and goalie Connor Knapp. As per usual the Sabres prospect class is loaded and these are only the top 5 players that will make an impact soon.
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