I am desperate for good news involving the Buffalo Sabres these days. While all hope appears lost with the team this season, there are some promising prospects in the organization.
To find out more, I got in touch with Kris Baker who runs a great web site called Sabresprospects.com, for an update on some of those players.
Baker has Mikhail Grigorenko, who could be back in Buffalo before the season is out, atop his organizational rankings. Number two on the list is Joel Armia who could be here next season whether the Sabres overhaul the roster or not.
Buffalo's first round pick in the 2011 draft is playing in the Finnish Elite League. Armia recorded 19 goals and 33 points over 47 games in the just finished regular season. In his previous two seasons, the 6' 3", 187 pound Armia had 36 goals and 67 points.
Baker said Armia definitely improved this season and played "bigger", after adding some bulk last off season. Baker said Armia has explosive offensive potential, is a deadly transition threat and skates very well, which is the foundation of his game. He added that Armia does a lot of what Thomas Vanek does but Armia does it quicker. The 19 year old got off to a slow start to his season and was sidelined by some concussion issues but finished strong. Armia has completed his military commitment which means he can play with the Sabres or Amerks next season.
You should also remember the name of Jake McCabe, a defenseman who plays for the University of Wisconsin. Perhaps you watched McCabe during this year's World Junior Championships when he was captain of the gold medal winning Team USA. The 6'1", 205 pound McCabe was recently named third team All WCHA after a season in which he had three goals, 18 points and was plus 11 while anchoring the fifth ranked defense in the nation.
Baker says McCabe is an all situations defenseman with two way ability who provides strong leadership. McCabe is known to sacrifice his body to block shots and is solid when it comes to understanding angles as he rarely has guys go around him. The 19 year old McCabe is in his sophomore season.
A little lower down Baker's organizational list is 20 year old center Daniel Cantenacci who plays for Owen Sound in the Ontario Hockey League. A third round pick from the 2011 draft, Cantenacci had a career year across the board for the Attack with 38 goals, 79 points and a plus 31 in 67 games.
Baker says he is one of the fastest skaters in the Sabres organization in terms of straight line speed and acceleration. Baker believes Cantenacci has second line offensive potential and added that he rounded out his game this season, improving on face-offs and the penalty kill. In a poll of the OHL's western conference coaches, Cantenacci was voted one of the top three hardest working players. Baker says the 5'10", 190 pounder is pesky and frustrating to play against. Cantenacci could get some time in Rochester this season once Owen Sound is done with their playoffs.
The last player is Justin Kea, a center with Saginaw in the OHL. Kea, whose dad Ed played in the NHL, had a big year for the Spirit. After getting just four goals and six points two years ago and three goals, 14 points last season, Kea erupted for 22 goals and 48 points. The 19 year old has size at 6'4", 201 pounds and Baker says he is a better skating Paul Gaustad. A third round pick in the 2012 draft, Kea is one of the best face-off men in the OHL and is considered more of a blue collar player who will also block shots and take a punch for a teammate.
Again the site is Sabresprospects.com and Kris Baker will soon be updating his organizational rankings which includes players who are in Rochester.