Mitch Courtney- in-Depth Buffalo Sabres Prospect Report

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Mitch Courtney- In-Depth Buffalo Sabres Prospect Report

  1. Mikhail Grigorenko- Grigorenko has taken longer than expected to develop. However, we must remember that he is only 20 years old and that he has shown that he is capable of playing at a high level. Consistency is the only thing that really hinders him. We should see him producing in the NHL within a year. NHL ETA: ½-1 year

  2. Joel Armia- Many people question whether or not Armia has the ability to play at a consistently high level but he has consistently proved those people wrong. He put up 27 points in an injury shortened first full year in Rochester in which he only played 54 games. Although his point totals aren’t that impressive, he has been playing through injuries and with different line mates almost every night. He has since settled into a line with William Carrier and Mikhail Grigorenko. His playmaking and passing abilities are off the charts and if he continues to get stronger, he will be a good option as a first to second line forward. NHL ETA: 1-2 years

  3. Sam Reinhart- The 18 year old Reinhart has one of the most impressive hockey IQ’s I’ve ever seen in a player of his age. He’s able to make plays on instinct and his natural talent has carried him this far. However, it has become blatantly obvious that he needs to get physically stronger and he needs to adjust to the speed of the NHL. He will succeed at the NHL level but it’s best not to rush him. Remember, HE’S 18. NHL ETA: 1-2 years

  4. Nick Baptiste- Baptiste seems to improve each and every year and he has become the leader of a young Sudbury Wolves team. He totaled 45 goals and 44 assists last year in Sudbury and it looks as though he’ll put up similar numbers this year. He has looked very impressive in his limited time with the Sabres in development camps over the last two years and his scoring touch will almost certainly translate to the NHL over time. NHL ETA: 1.5-2.5 years

  5. Hudson Fasching- Fasching is very intriguing, acquired along with Nic Deslauriers in the Brayden McNabb trade, the young Minnesota Gophers star has impressed many so far. He’s physical presence on the ice but he also has the ability to score and set up goals. He reminds me of a more physical and defensive minded Thomas Vanek with less scoring ability. There is always a need for two-way forwards in the NHL so Fasching will fit in nicely in the future. NHL ETA: 2-3 years

  6. Justin Bailey- The Buffalo native has opened eyes in his very young career. Many times it is viewed as a novelty to have a Buffalo native in the Sabres’ system, but there is no denying that Bailey has talent. Now in his third season with the Kitchener Rangers, he has tallied up 92 points in 119 games. I believe Bailey could eventually contribute to an NHL team. NHL ETA: 1-2 years

  7. J.T. Compher- Compher is currently playing at the University of Michigan and he is progressing quite nicely. His speed is absolutely his best asset on the ice. He reminds e of a less shifty Tyler Ennis. He has experience playing for team USA in the WJC and many say that he has first line NHL potential. In his first season at Michigan, Compher put up 11 goals and 20 assists in just 35 games. He is definitely the kind of player that is coveted at the NHL level. Although he has shown he can play at the collegiate level, Compher must get stronger to avoid being pushed around on the ice in the NHL. NHL ETA: 2-3 years

  8. Connor Hurley- Currently playing on a line with Minnesota Wild draft pick Mario Lucia at Notre Dame, Hurley has shown that he has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. Last year Hurley played in the USHL for both the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the Green Bay Gamblers where he put up 50 points in 56 games. He will definitely need more time to develop than some prospects, but Hurley has shown that his work ethic will take him a long way. NHL ETA: 3-4 years

  9. Brendan Lemieux- The son of former NHL player, Claude Lemieux. Brendan’s style of play is very similar to his father. He’s a pest nut he also has the ability to put the puck in the net. In 116 regular season games with his junior team, the Barrie Colts, Lemieux has totaled 39 goals, 39 assists, and 220 penalty minutes. He compares nicely to a player that Buffalo fans are very familiar with, Brad Marchand. He is more physical than Marchand but he has less scoring touch. He should be a productive NHL player. NHL ETA: 2-3 years

  10. Johan Larsson- Larsson is a fairly intriguing prospect. Acquired in the Jason Pominville trade with Minnesota, the 22 year old center already has 29 games of NHL experience. However, he has spent most of his time in the American Hockey League with the Sabres’ affiliate, the Rochester Americans. Before coming over to Buffalo, he had played just one NHL game with Minnesota and he had played in 62 games with the Houston Aeros. In those 62 games, Larsson scored 15 goals and 22 assists. In his 61 games with Rochester, Larsson has scored 17 goals and 32 assists. Obviously he has offensive potential but he hasn’t been able to stick in the NHL quite yet. NHL ETA: .5 years

  11. William Carrier- Acquired as part of the Ryan Miller trade with St Louis, Carrier just recently played in his first professional action with the Rochester Americans. At 6’2’’ and almost 200lbs, Carrier never looks outmatched on the ice. In 100 career games for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL, he put up 107 total points. I don’t see him having a tough time adjusting to the pro game. His ability to play both left wing and center will also boost his stock in the Sabres organization. He has settled in nicely whilst playing alongside first round picks Mikhail Grigorenko and Joel Armia. NHL ETA: 1-3 years

  12. Eric Cornel- Cornel is a balanced skater with an above average passing game. In 136 games with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, Cornel scored 83 points on a line that featured fellow NHL prospect Nick Ritchie. He definitely needs more seasoning in the OHL and then eventually in the AHL but Cornel has a chance to become a solid third or fourth line player in the NHL. NHL ETA: 4-5 years

  13. Daniel Catenacci- A fixture in the Sabres organization for quite some time now, Catenacci is starting his third year with Rochester. He does show some leadership qualities on the ice but he’s listed at what seems to be a generous 5’10’’ and he floats around 180lbs. He won’t ne the type of player battling for pucks in the corners but he’s not afraid to stand up for teammates. He’s probably looking at a career as a fourth line fixture in the NHL but he does still have room to improve. NHL ETA: 1-2 years

  14. Sean Malone- This West Seneca native likely has a long road to the NHL, but he is definitely the type of player that could do it. Drafted in the sixth round in 2013, he is now in his second season at Harvard. In 31 games for the Crimson, he’s tallied 6 goals and 14 assists. As we all know, the college game is a long way from NHL action. However, many solid players have an easier time transitioning from college to the NHL, rather than transitioning from junior hockey. NHL ETA: 5-6 years

  15. Gustav Possler- Taken in the fifth round in 2013 by the Sabres, The 19 year old Swede is already beginning his third professional season with MODO. Much like fellow Sabres prospect Rasmus Ristolainen, he has already adapted to the speed of the professional game. However, Possler still needs to refine his overall game. He has the potential to be a very good NHL player, but the Sabres must be patient with him. The transition from the SHL to the NHL isn’t always a smooth one. NHL ETA: 2-3 years

  16. Tim Schaller- After four good seasons at Providence College, two of which he was the team captain, Schaller made an impact for Rochester last year. Not a consistent point-getter but he has the physical tools to get the job done. He recently opened eyes at Sabres training camp but he was subsequently sent back to Rochester. He’s only 23 years old, but in a loaded Sabres pipeline, time may be running out for Schaller. He will probably bounce from the NHL to the AHL for the entirety of his career but he could still make an impact as a third or fourth liner. NHL ETA: 1-1.5 years

  17. Luke Adam- Drafted in the second round, pick number 44 in 2008, Adam has struggled to stick in the NHL. However, he has consistently performed at the AHL level and has been denied necessary opportunities to succeed. In 216 AHL games, he has totaled 164 points but in 87 NHL games he has scored just 26 points. Last year he was a big reason for Rochester’s success and he should see some NHL time this year. If he is put on lines with the right talent he could still make an impact as an NHL’er. NHL ETA: N/A

  18. Victor Olofsson- Currently playing along with fellow sabres prospects Gustav Possler and Linus Ullamrk, Olofsson has shown major potential. He is extremely quick on his feet and his shot is already impressive. At 5’10’’ and just 176lbs, he may need to get a little stronger on the ice. His development will definitely be aided by playing in the SHL. Just like Tim Schaller, Olofsson impressed at development camp. He should find his way into the NHL if he continues to develop. NHL ETA: 2.5-4 years

  19. Kevin Sundher- Currently bouncing between the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals and the AHL’s Rochester Americans, you could say that Sundher’s stock is falling. He’s looked okay at training camps over the years but he really hasn’t found a way to stand out. Sundher could still work his way onto an NHL roster but it is increasingly unlikely that it will be with the Sabres. There is simply too much talent already coming through and the Sabres aren’t done drafting high in the first round. NHL ETA: 5-6 years

  20. Jordan Samuels-Thomas- Recently acquired by the Sabres in a trade with Winnipeg, Samuels-Thomas is a gritty 6’4’’ forward that likes to go into the dirty areas on the ice. His willingness to battle for position combined with a decent skill set has pushed his stock up considerably as of late. He was drafted in the seventh round by the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers in 2009 and he has continued to improve. After three very successful seasons at Quinnipiac University, Samuels-Thomas will be playing in Rochester this year. In three seasons at Quinnipiac he totaled 50 goals and 54 assists in 148 games. I would compare his game to Chris Stewart’s. NHL ETA: 1-3 years

  21. Phil Varone- Sabres fans are already fairly familiar with Varone as he played in 9 games with the Sabres during the 2013-2014 season. Although his time in the NHL was relatively unsuccessful, Varone has taken on a leadership role in Rochester. In 224 career AHL games, Varone has recorded 160 points. Conversely, Varone has been both a vocal and “lead by example” leader in Rochester. NHL ETA: 1-2 years

  22. Vaclav Karabacek- Taken with the Sabres second, second round pick in the 2014 draft, Karabacek definitely has NHL potential. In 80 career games for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL Karabacek scored 25 goals and 34 assists. He also suited up for the Czech Republic at the World Junior Classic where he tallied 6 points in 7 games. While he will likely need time to fully develop his game, he has all the makings of a solid NHL player.

  23. Christian Isackson- A longshot prospect, Isackson was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 draft by Buffalo. Now in his fourth season at Minnesota, he has scored just 24 points in 74 collegiate games. He’s a hard-working right winger that will have to scratch and claw his way into the NHL but he could make it as a role player. His game compares considerably to that of Matt Ellis. Guys who have to work for every opportunity often turn into the best leaders on the ice so Isackson definitely has a shot. NHL ETA: 7-8 years

  24. Max Willman- A very bright kid, Willman is about to start his first collegiate season at Brown University. In high school, Willman put up a staggering 111 points in 25 games. He also showed his knack for getting into scoring areas at development camp. He will likely play his entire college career and then spend some time in the AHL but he has the talent to eventually play in the NHL. It won’t be a quick process, but Willman looks to be the type of kid who can get the job done. NHL ETA: 5-6 years

  25. Justin Kea- Taken in the third round, 73rd overall by the Sabres in 2012, Kea hasn’t yet impressed the eyes of professional talent evaluators. He’s a big guy at 6’4’’, but he needs to find ways to use his size to his advantage. In 253 games with the Saginaw Spirit, Kea totaled 117 points and 324 penalty minutes. He’s fairly physical and he’s definitely not afraid to drop the gloves to defend a teammate. Guys like him often make their way into the NHL but he’s going to need to piece his game together. He was recently demoted to the ECHL but he must view it as another chance to prove his worth to the Sabres organization. NHL ETA: 4-5 years

  26. Christopher Brown- Currently in his first season at Boston College, Brown has shown in various camps that he is willing to work for ice time. He’s never the most skilled person on the ice but he thrives when given the opportunity. However, it may be a very long road to professional hockey for the 18 year old center. NHL ETA: 7-8 years

  27. Colin Jacobs- Jacobs is a former 4th round pick but he has struggled to adjust his playing style to the professional game. In the 2013-2014 season, Jacobs played in 24 games with Rochester and he tallied just 2 assists during that time. He also spent 20 games playing for Elmira in the ECHL. However, he didn’t fare much better. He scored just 2 goals and 3 assists in 20 games. Currently battling injuries, Jacobs will need to get back on track soon to have any shot at reaching the NHL. NHL ETA: 5-6 years

  28. Brad Navin- Taken in the 7th round of the 2011 draft by the Sabres, Navin is a physical forward who has struggled to produce at the collegiate level. His struggles have been fairly well documented as he has scored just 20 points in 110 games at the University of Wisconsin. Navin’s game doesn’t translate well to the NHL and I don’t expect him to succeed at the AHL level either. Expect his hockey career to be short lived. NHL ETA: None

  29. Judd Peterson- The Sabres selected Peterson in the 7th round of the 2012 draft. A smaller center that likes to use his agility and shot to create opportunities for his teammates, Peterson enjoyed relative success at the high school level. He just recently started his first season at St. Cloud State and he has a chance to develop his game. He is far from NHL or even AHL ready, but he has performed well at development camps. NHL ETA: 7-8 years

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