The Untouchables: Part 3- The Prospects

Today will mark the conclusion of ‘The Untouchables’ trilogy. Part 3 is going to cover a select group of prospects that I feel are on the cusp of breaking into the league and guys from this years draft that I feel are blue-chip prospects. Here are the links to parts 1 & 2 if you haven’t read them yet.

*Untouchable ratings go from 1-10, one being the most expendable and ten being untouchable.

*I won’t be discussing Sabres UFAs. Only signed players and RFAs

Luke Adam: Not only is this guy is the top center prospect in the organization, he’s the only one other than my dark-horse pick that will be revealed later that’s close to be NHL ready. Adam has size, skill, and a great nose for the net. The only knock on him is his skating, which was clear in his call-ups, but the pros of his game were on display as well.  This past season, Adam won the AHL rookie of the year and before that, Sabres fans might remember him being a good contributor for Canada’s gold medal-winning Junior team. Barring the Sabres upgrading the center depth on their immediate roster so that they can actually have time to draft and develop more center prospects, Adam is a guy that shouldn’t be moved and could make the Sabres with a good camp as the roster stands. Untouchable Rating: 9/10

Zack Kassian: The RW prospect is another guy who brings a certain skill-set that is uncommon in the Sabres roster & prospect pool. Kassian is a budding power-forward who will punish the hell out of you physically, drop the gloves, and offer a good amount of offensive skill. Like Adam, Kassian also has experience on a big stage, playing on the same gold medal-winning Junior team as Adam and he was also a key contributor to his OHL team, the Windsor Spitfires. Overall, this is another guy who shouldn’t be moved unless we’re talking about using him as a chip to get an immediate, serious upgrade for the current Sabres roster because of the grit and skill he can potentially bring to the Sabres. Barring a Myers-like performance in camp and a ten-game tryout, he’ll be Rochester-bound this year and will probably be the first injury call-up on wing. Untouchable Rating: 9/10

Drew Schiestel: Schiestel is a LHD who was known primarily for his skating ability and offense, but he has really honed his game down in the minors. During his recent years with Portland and his appearances with the team this past season, Schiestel showed that he could keep up with the speed of the NHL game and was a contributor in both ends of the ice. If he hadn’t busted up his leg, he probably would’ve been the guy that came up to Buffalo late in the season instead of Gragnani. If Gragnani should falter during camp, Schiestel has a chance to sneak into that 3rd pairing slot since the Sabres will probably be looking to spend very little money there because they have over $12 million locked up in four defensemen already. I don’t really know who to compare Schiestel to in the NHL of the top of my head. He is just Schiestel to me if that makes sense. With that being said, he’s definitely movable for the right deal since the Sabres have a glut of defensemen already, especially on the left-side. Untouchable Rating: 4/10

Brayden McNabb: If you are wondering who might replace Regehr in a few years, this is the guy to look at. McNabb is big, physical, plays the left-side, and has some offensive ability as well. One of my favorite things about this guy though is the first outlet pass he makes out of his zone. It’s a thing of beauty. What he needs to work on is his skating. He’s somewhat on the slow side and his skating style isn’t as efficient as it could be. Skating is something that can be fixed in the minors while he’s developing with Rochester though. I’m not too concerned. The positives of his game far outweigh the bad. I’d be reluctant to move a guy like McNabb, but I wouldn’t mind moving him if he helped the Sabres get an upgrade at center if they lose out on the “Brad Richards Sweepstakes.” Look for McNabb to make a push for a spot in 2-3 years.  Untouchable Rating: 7/10

Mark Pysyk: A controversial pick at the time last year because of the need for high-end forward talent, Pysyk has silenced his critics by playing  a lot of big minutes for his WHL team, the Edmonton Oil Kings and he was one of the last cuts of last years Canadian World Junior team. Pysyk does have is great skating-ability that he uses to leg pucks out of his own end and shut down the opposition, but don’t expect too much offense from him. I expect him being a Tallinder-eske player with more of a physical edge and leadership ability in the NHL if he makes that far. Seeing as he plays the right-side, Pysyk does have some pretty good value to the Sabres since their next closest NHL-ready prospect on the right-side is Jerome Gauthier-Leduc. I’d look for Pysyk to crack the NHL in 2012-13. Untouchable Rating: 8/10

TJ Brennan: Picked with the pick obtained by trading away Marty Biron back in 06-07, Brennan is another defenseman who has a shot at making the Sabres team on the 3rd pairing out of camp should Gragnani falter. Like Schiestel, Brennan’s a good two-way defenseman. There are three things that set him apart from Schiestel though: his shot (way better), his physicality (more physical than Schiestel), and his skating (Good, but not as fast & fluid as Schiestel’s). To give a clearer idea of what kind of player he might be in the NHL, I would liken Brennan to Jaro Spacek, which wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. Fun fact of the day: TJ’s been training with the Philadelphia Eagles in the off-season this year. Brennan also plays the left-side which makes him just as expendable as Schiestel for the right deal. Untouchable Rating: 4/10

Marcus Foligno:  Son of the famous and popular ex-Sabre, Mike Foligno, Marcus is known for being a grinder who loves wear teams down with his highly physical game. This past season at the junior-level, Marcus also added some goal-scoring ability to his game. Couple those two things with his high-character & leadership ability, you can see why Canada picked him to play on this past year’s World Junior team. At the next level though, I would bank on Foligno primarily being a 3rd line checker, not that there’s anything wrong with that. He’s got every one of Kassian abilities, except for the offense. I would expect that there would be an opening for him on the team in a couple of seasons and I would love to have him on the team in that role, but at the same time, it’s not going to kill me if another team wants him in a deal that could really help the Sabres immediately. Untouchable Rating: 5/10

Joel Armia: The 1st round pick of this past draft, Armia is 6’3 and he plays in the Finnish Men’s league and is a pretty productive player at 18, which speaks volumes about his game. What Armia brings to the table is speed, size, creativity, and a ton of goal-scoring ability. There aren’t many cons and they’re correctable. His defensive game needs polish, and he needs to bulk up. I was a big fan of this pick because the Sabres finally added some high-end offensive skill to their forward prospect pool and that’s something you don’t part with unless it’s a really good deal. Untouchable Rating: 8/10

Dan Catenacci: Remember my dark-horse pick to make the team out of camp that I mentioned earlier? This is the guy I was talking about. There is a ton to love about this guy. Catenacci is a natural center, was one of the fastest players in the draft, he has a NHL-ready frame at 5’10, 190, and he has great vision & hands. My favorite thing about this guy though is that he’s training with Gary Roberts, which means he definitely has a great work ethic and he’ll be in phenomenal shape. The one knock that I’ve read about him from some talent evaluators is that his hockey IQ is supposedly a weakness, but  from what I’ve heard from many fans that have watched him play in juniors is that he is fine there. All in all, this is a phenomenal 3rd round pick. Luke, you’d better stay on your toes. Untouchable Rating: 7/10 

That wraps up the trilogy. I hope it was enjoyable and informative!

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