Continuing on with our Rochester Americans 2011-12 season preview, our installment today is covering Right Wingers.
DOB – January 24, 1991 (Age 20)
Framework – 6’3, 228 lbs
Amerks Jersey #: 54
Kassian was a first round draft pick, 13th overall, by the Sabres in 2009. His OHL career could be described as talented and tumultuous, as he put up 192 points in 213 games to go along with 358 penalty minutes. Kassian was suspended 20 games in the OHL for a hit to the head, 4 games in the OHL playoffs following an intent to injure penalty, and another pair of games at the IIHF World Juniors for another hit to the head. These suspensions also went along an assault charge Kassian faced following a bar fight in Windsor, Ontario – the charges were eventually dropped. He also gave John Tavares a shoulder injury in a Prospects game (which Kassian says is his most favorite hit he has delivered).
Kassian helped the Windsor Spitfires win the Memorial Cup, assisted Team Canada in winning the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, and played a major role in helping the Sabres prospects win in Traverse City last month. Many scouts (and Kassian himself) compare his power forward style to that of Milan Lucic, and he possesses the size, aggression, and scoring abilities to warrant that comparison. Hockeyfights.com indicates that he was involved in at least 33 fights during his OHL tenure, many of which are viewable on YouTube. Watching him favor throwing vicious left handed punches reminds me of Cam Neely.
A rare blend of skill and aggression, projections for Kassian are very high. His OHL peers described him as one of the best fighters in the league, and his hunger level displayed in competition has been phenomenal. From NHL Central Scouting: “Kassian is one of the toughest guys in the OHL and probably the entire draft. Last season as an under-ager there were overage guys in the league who would not take him on. He has not fought much this season because he has not had to. He is at his best when he is playing physical and tough along the boards. He protects the puck very well and fights through checks.” A description from Zack himself: “I am a power forward banger, who isn’t afraid to mix it up, but can still produce offense. My strengths would be my physicality on the ice, along with the way I use my body to protect the puck. My weakness would have to be my skating. The next level is so fast, I need to improve that.” With a no-fear attitude and strong willingness to battle along the boards, in corners, and in front of the net, Kassian will prove to be a very important player for the Amerks this year, and for the Sabres in years to come.
DOB: August 5, 1990 (Age 21)
Framework: 6’0, 206 lbs.
Amerks Jersey #: 23
The U.S.-born Szydlowski was undrafted, and has spent the last 4 seasons in the OHL with the Erie Otters, where he was a teammate with Phil Varone. At Erie, he put up very decent numbers, tallying 197 points in 258 games. He was also involved in over 20 fights throughout his OHL career, so he is definitely not afraid to drop the mitts. Szydlowski competed for the Ottawa Senators at last year’s prospects tournament.
At this year’s Traverse City Prospects tournament, Szydlowski exemplified a strong 2-way game, as he played soundly on both ends of the rink. He showed a lot of hustle, and his ability to control the puck was immediately evident. Scouting reports indicate that he likes to hit, and hit hard. He is also described as a player that drives to the net well, has quick hands and nice puck handling ability, and plays with intelligence on the ice. Szydlowski was an excellent depth signing for the Amerks this year, and I am looking forward to watching him this year.
DOB: July 25, 1989 (Age 22)
Framework: 6’0, 195 lbs.
Amerks Jersey #: 14
Tropp was a 3rd round draft pick by the Sabres in 2007. He spent the 2007-2010 seasons with Michigan State University (alma mater of Ryan Miller and Tim Kennedy), notching 70 points in 100 games, and earning Second All-Star Team honors in his final year. According to his wikipedia, Tropp’s MSU career was marred by controversy in 2009, when he and teammate Andrew Conboy brutally attacked Michigan Wolverines defenseman Steve Kampfer, in an on-ice incident where Conboy appeared to check Kampfer from behind and Tropp appeared to slash Kampfer in the neck. Both players were suspended by Spartans head coach Rick Comley for the remainder of the season. Tropp spent last season with the Portland Pirates, putting in a very solid year 40 points and 113 PIM in 76 games, and another 7 points in 12 playoff games.
This year, Tropp has looked extremely good in both the Traverse City Prospects Tournament and in the Sabres preseason games. He showed very good speed, eagerness to go to the net, and was throwing around his body at will. With his high energy and quickness, he was clearly one of the more noticeable players whenever he was on the ice at the prospects tourney. From hockeysfuture.com: “Tropp is a scrappy forward with the tools to become a contributor on offense. With good skating ability and an opportunistic streak around the net, he does have the tools to ultimately contribute on an NHL checking line. He needs to be a more confident and consistent player in order to take the next step forward.” The 2009-10 Michigan State Team MVP and Second-Team All-CCHA player will likely become an Amerks fan favorite in short order.
DOB: January 9, 1990 (Age 21)
Framework – 5’11, 199 lbs.
Amerks Jersey #: 83
Legace was originally a 5th round pick of the Sabres in 2008, a draft that has so far produced Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis, and Luke Adam for Buffalo. He spent 3 seasons in the QMJHL, racking up 204 points in 191 games, before joining the AHL ranks with Portland last year. Legace was also a 2009 QMJHL All-Star.
From hockeysfuture.com: “Lagacé displays a great work ethic, maturity, and good decision making ability on the ice. He is an offensive forward who drives to the net and makes things happen with his rough-and-tumble style. Lagace’s in-your-face style dovetails nicely with his puck control abilities. It remains to be seen whether his physical style will translate to the next level, given his relative lack of size.” Also, from Central Scouting: “He played on Canada’s Under-18 team and deservedly so. Jacob is a good skater and another player who came out of nowhere this season after I saw him quite a bit as an underage player last season. He has good hands – he’s not a big player, but he could surprise people if he continues to work hard and improve his game.” Legace likes to pattern his game after former Sabre Chris Drury, as well as Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg.
DOB: September 25th, 1991
Framework: 5’10, 195 lbs.
Amerks Jersey #: 24
The California-born Parker was 5th in the WHL with 45 goals last season. He is described as being an incredible playmaker, with a quick release and slick moves. A great Hockey News article on him can be found HERE.
From Dan Sallows: “The 5-foot-10, 195-pound right winger is a good skater, with a nice shot he can get off in full stride, has excellent offensive instincts and hockey sense, dishes the puck well, and reminds me a little of Michael Cammalleri with his overall make-up.” More encouraging words: “The kid is tough-as-nails and pound for pound he will take a beating to make the play,” says former NHLer Joe Norris. “There are not many guys who will take hits game-in and game-out and at some point I know someone is going to say, ‘Wow where did this kid come from?’ ”