A look at the Buffalo Sabres youngsters, from a fantasy standpoint
The title may be a bit of a misnomer as I would not label any of the four players I am going to talk about as "blue chip" prospects. That term should be reserved for the truly elite prospects; the Yakupov's, Granlund's and Huberdeau's. Nor do they deserve the moniker "buffalo chip"!
Cody Hodgson was a first round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, tenth overall at the 2008 NHL entry draft. The 2008-09 hockey season was a magical time for Hodgson. At the World Junior Hockey Championship, he recorded 16 points in only six games and was voted one of Canada's top three players at the tournament. He finished that OHL season with 43 goals and 92 points in only 53 games and was named the Canadian Hockey League player of the year. He went on to close the campaign with his first taste of professional hockey, scoring six points in 11 AHL playoff games.
In 2009-10, Hodgson was only able to play in 13 games, recording 20 points while dealing with a bulging disc in his back.
The following season is best described as a developmental year. Hodgson got a little look see at NHL competition (8-1-1-2), while cutting his teeth in the AHL, recording 17 goals and 30 points in 52 games.
Last season with the Canucks, Hodgson recorded 33 points in 63 games. He went on a timely scoring spree from December 19 until the final day of January, registering 15 points during the 18 game span. No doubt that stretch was instrumental in the Sabres acquiring Hodgson at the NHL trading deadline. Good on the Canucks for showcasing the young talent and good on Hodgson for taking advantage of the ice time. Although he was tried with many different players on his new team, Hodgson never really found any true chemistry, finishing the season with eight points in 20 games for Buffalo. Even though he put up goose eggs in his first ten games with the Sabres, seven of his eight points garnered with Buffalo came over a five game stretch.
Hodgson is currently in a three-way tie for the team lead in points for the Rochester Americans with 10 points in eight games. The 22-year-old is going to get a real shot at centering one of the top two lines in Buffalo this season and could line-up between sniper Thomas Vanek and steady veteran Jason Pominville. Hodgson is a true boom or bust pick in one year leagues this year.
While Hodgson could get a shot with two proven NHL veterans, Marcus Foligno will be given a chance to pick up where he left off last season, on a line with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. They caught fire as a unit last year when Foligno was recalled for a March 10 game. Over the next 13 games, they were dynamite together, notching 13 (Foligno), 17 (Stafford) and 19 (Ennis) points respectively. They just clicked.
Foligno wasn't a very prolific scorer in junior until his final year, where he recorded 59 points in 47 games. Last season, in his first AHL action, he had a modest 39 points in 60 games. He also spent some time with the big club, where he scored a tantalizing 13 points in only 14 games.
Foligno is happy to be playing hockey this season, even if it isn't in the NHL. He's got a great attitude and it's showing in his play as he leads his AHL team with five goals and is part of that three-way tie for the team lead in scoring with 10 points.
His NHL production this season could hinge on rekindling the chemistry that the line had last year. Regardless, Foligno projects to be a multi-category contributor if your league includes penalty minutes and hits.
By now nearly everyone knows how well a guy named Justin Schultz is playing right now, leading the entire AHL in points. Does anyone know the name of the next best defenseman points-wise? Last season at 22 years of age, he was made team captain in Rochester and scored 16 goals (tied for league lead by defenseman) in only 52 AHL games. It was his second consecutive AHL season recording at least 15 goals.
The third member of the Rochester Americans with 10 points in eight games is T.J. Brennan. The Sabres selected Brennan with the 31st overall pick in the 2007 entry draft. He put up decent, but not gaudy offensive numbers in junior. In his best season, he hit for 16 goals and 41 points in 65 games.
Unfortunately, the Sabres are deep in veteran NHL defensemen and they have a larger prospect with a better offensive pedigree in Brayden McNabb, who appears ready to strut his stuff with the big club. McNabb recorded eight points while averaging 17:50 minutes in 25 games with the Sabres last season.
In his final year of junior hockey, McNabb recorded 21 goals and 72 points in 59 games and then followed that up with 30 points in 45 games as an AHL rookie last season. His path to the NHL is on the fast track, which is not great news for Brennan as Buffalo is unlikely to give prominent ice time to two rookie defensemen in the same season.
So while Brennan has doubled McNabb's point production so far this season in the AHL, it appears that McNabb will have the upper hand when and if the NHL ever breaks camp. Just keep Brennan's name in mind because with his proclivity to shoot the puck, he will definitely play a role on the power play whenever or wherever he plays in the NHL.
Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Jason Pominville and Brad Boyes (now with the Isles) all won the Most Gentlemanly Player award in their respective major junior circuits during their draft years. Steve Ott most assuredly did not.
Please be polite and give people a chance to guess before looking up and posting the answers. You know who you are!
Which goaltender led the NHL in save percentage AND losses in 1995-96?
This former Sabre first round draft pick went on to play in 1639 NHL games for six teams, ending his career in Tampa, where he won a Cup and finished as the NHL all-time leader in power-play goals.