It is now mid-July, and if you are anything like me, you are staring at the calendar on a daily basis wishing the August and September pages could be traded for it to become October already. Here is a look at 6 former Amerks who were AHL standouts in the 90’s, whom probably wish they could trade all the minor league pages of their lives, for just one full NHL season.
Simon was a 10th round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 1992 after having 2 outstanding seasons with Niagara Falls of the OHL, where he was a line mate of Brad May. Simon won the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy in 91-92 as top scorer in the OHL that year. For contrast, Eric Lindros was the winner the prior year.
In his first 2 seasons with the Rochester Americans, Simon amassed a whopping 178 points in only 123 games. This earned him what turned out to be his one and only shot in the NHL, where he only had one assist in 15 regular season games, and one goal in 5 playoff games. The Sabres gave him very limited ice time, and it was rumored that John Muckler was not a fan of Todd’s size and lack of defensive responsibility.
At 5’10, 188 lbs, his offensive play at the time reminded me of a young Adam Oates. Oates measured at a similar 5’11, 190 lbs. Simon was swift, and made incredibly adept crisp passes with his excellent on-ice vision. His playmaking senses and ability to create offense could have possibly translated to a decent NHL career, but it will never be known. Todd finished off his career spending 8 years in European leagues.
Ciavaglia had attended high school in Buffalo prior to spending his college career at Harvard. Peter was similar in size to Simon, at 5’10 and 180 lbs, but did not possess the same skating ability. Ciavaglia’s strongest suit was his intelligence, which he used effectively at reading plays quickly as they were developing.
When paired with Jody Gage, the duo terrorized AHL goalies and defenseman. In 141 games over the 91-92 and 92-93 seasons, Ciavaglia racked up 200 points, as well as another 32 points in 23 playoff games. Unfortunately, with names such as Lafontaine, Hawerchuk, and Ruutuu ahead of him manning center on the big squad, his chances were limited to only 5 games, where he had no points. The Sabres instead opted for the grittiness of Bob Corkum for the fourth line, rather than the finesse of Ciavaglia.
Cierny was a winger from Slovakia, selected in the 2nd round by the Sabres in the 1992 NHL Draft. He spent one season with the Amerks in 92-93, where he netted 27 goals and 54 points in 54 games. This was his only season as Sabres property, as he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Craig Simpson. Despite being a good skater with solid overall skill sets, he was never given much of a chance to crack the Oilers lineup.
He only played in one NHL game in his career, seeing no points. Cierny brought a lot of flash and excitement to the Amerks and the fans in his lone season with the club. I would have projected him to be a solid 3rd or 4th liner in the NHL – instead, he spent the last 14 years playing in leagues overseas, ending in 2010.
Biggs was an 8th round pick of the Minnesota North Stars in 1983. At 20 years old, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 1985, where he was trapped in the depth chart at center behind some guys named Gretzky and Messier. Two years later, he was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers organization, where he developed into a points machine for 3 seasons with the Hershey Bears, accumulating 274 points in 219 games.
Biggs played a big game with an aggressive style despite his frame of 5’8, 180 lbs. Before players like Ennis, Gerbe and St. Louis were able to show the NHL that there is indeed room for smaller players, Biggs was relegated to being a scoring legend in the AHL and IHL. He spent one season skating for the Amerks, with 88 points in only 65 games in 90-91. Don played only one NHL game in 84-85, and five years later the Flyers gave him a look for 11 games, where he netted two goals and no assists. He was the AHL scoring champ and MVP in 92-93 for the Binghamton Rangers, with an astounding 138 points in 78 games. This team also featured youngsters Sergei Zubov and Alexei Kovalev in their playoff run that year, as Biggs performed like a man possessed.
Don’s son, Tyler Biggs, was the 22nd pick in the draft this year by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Don finished his career with 1,159 points in 1,083 AHL/IHL games.
Metcalfe was a first round pick, 20th overall, by the Oilers in the 1985 draft. He played in 2 NHL games in 87-88, but, just like Biggs, there wasn’t much room for him on the powerhouse Edmonton squad. Ultimately, he was part of a trade which included a draft pick that the Sabres ended up using to select Donald Audette. Metcalfe played in one game for the Sabres in 87-88, picking up his first point. At 20 years old, he likely didn’t envision that he would go on to play in only 16 more NHL games in his career.
“Metter” spent 9 seasons on and off with the Amerks, where he was always a fan favorite. You can still spot Rochester fans sporting his jersey at games to this day. Scott played a very rugged and physical game, and he could trade fists with the best of them. Any time he skated onto the ice, the fans knew chances were high that he would either be pasting an opponent into the boards, setting up an Amerks goal, selecting and punishing a dance partner, or scoring a clutch goal. More importantly, his level of play always elevated during playoff time. Metcalfe displayed above average talents in all facets of the game, both offensively and defensively, and could have been an excellent 3rd or 4th liner in the NHL. Without the opportunity of a full NHL season, who knows how well his talents could have translated?
With 14 points in 19 playoff games in the 95-96 season, he was a critical element on a team that beat Portland in the finals to win the Calder Cup. That team was coached by John Tortorella, and featured the likes of Rumun Ndur, Wayne Primeau, Brian Holzinger, Scotty Nichol, and Dixon Ward.
Littman was a 2-time All Star while at Boston College, and became a low round pick of the Sabres in the 1987 draft. In his first 2 full seasons with the Amerks, he was the winner of the Hap Holmes Award for lowest GAA in the AHL (he had to share the award in 90-91 with my favorite all-time hockey player name – Darcy Wakaluk). In those 2 years, he went 61-33-14, meaning he only lost in 30% of the games he played.
He played in 2 winless NHL games with the Sabres. At the time, the Sabres were already juggling Wakaluk, Daren Puppa, Tom Draper, and Clint Malarchuk between the pipes. In hopes of improving his big league chances, Littman was traded to the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning, where he gave up 7 goals in his 3rd and final NHL game.
David played intelligently, and his execution of covering the shooting the angles extremely well gave him an obvious edge. He was also one of the best stick handling goalies I have ever saw. This shows in the 14 assists he picked up in his short Rochester tenure. Such a brilliantly sound goalie, I had always held hope that an NHL team would have given him at least a backup role for a season, which never occurred. Currently, Littman is a producer for the EA Sports NHL series, and contributes blogs for The Hockey News from time to time.