#8 – Ales Kotalik
Ales Kotalik, like Max Afinogenov, came to the Sabres with lofty expectations. After being drafted in 1998, Kotalik first joined the Sabres in the 2001-2002 season. With him, he brought speed, crafty moves, and an incredible slap shot. Kotalik, over time, also developed a negative label of not always putting forth his best efforts and being lazy. At one point, Ales registered a bewildering 105-mph slap shot.
Kotalik, besides his superb slapper, had a knack for shootouts, becoming one of the most accurate players for burying goals in shootout attempts. Despite those talents, he frustrated fans with lackluster play, particularly defensively. In his best NHL season, he posted 62 points in 82 games. Eventually, he was traded for what ultimately became Dominic Moore, and went on to play 4 more NHL seasons with the Oilers, Rangers, and Flames, with 284 points in 542 games. Kotalik has been playing in the Czech league ever since.
#7 – Andrej Sekera
Andrej Sekera is still only 26, so there is still some time to salvage any frustrations he has caused fans thus far. Sometimes Sekera hits; sometimes Sekera scores; sometimes Sekera makes adept passes; sometimes he glides through all 3 zones with relative ease. The problem? Consistency.
When I watch Sekera play, his skills come in flashes, and those flashes remind me of another former solid Sabres defensemen: Alexei Zhitnik. If Sekera can package up all of his talents, and display them on a more consistent basis, he could become a fan-favorite for quite a few years to come. With an overload of defensive prospects in the Sabres system knocking on the door (hello, TJ Brennan), Sekera could just as easily lose his NHL job soon.
Andrej made major strides and improvements in the second half of the 2011 season, finishing with 29 points, only to regress last season with 13 points. He is now at an age where most defensemen blossom and put everything on full display, so here’s to hoping Sekera will blaze out of the gate next time there is NHL games.