This Week On ThEnEiLsHoW, Neil Sits down with Sabres Prospects guru Kristofer Baker from sabresprospects.com to talk about the future of the Buffalo Sabres.
Theneilshow – Out of all the Buffalo Sabres prospects, who is the “can’t miss”
prospect in the system? And what are their qualities.
Kristofer Baker – Buffalo’s closest thing to a “can’t miss” prospect has to be Swedish goaltender, Jhonas Enroth. He’s very quick and agile in his butterfly, and he’s got an excellent glove hand.
We saw him backstop Sweden to a silver medal at the World Junior Championships against players his own age, but he’s been even better in Elitserien play with Sodertalje. He sees a ton of rubber on an average team, and has been a league leader in save percentage and goals against average all season long.
Enroth seems to have the tools to make an North American living, and the confidence to back it up. He knows he’s good, and rarely gets rattled.
I’ll put Andrej Sekera in this category as well. Sabres fans got a brief taste of what he’s capable of as left-side defenseman opposite Toni Lydman earlier this season. He’s smooth with the puck, and has shown enough own-zone acumen to tell me he’s a surefire NHLer beginning in 2008-09.
Theneilshow -Jhonas Enroth was touted “the best goalie out of Sweden since Henrik
Lundqvist”during the World Junior Championships this year.Is that a fair statement? and who’s style would you compare Enroth with?
Kristofer Baker – It’s a fair assessment in the sense that he possesses greater potential than other Swedish goalies like Chris Heino-Lindberg, Joel Gistedt, Mark Owuya, and Daniel Larsson. Lundqvist is a generational talent who carried a team to a SEL championship in a competitive lockout year before becoming the highest paid goaltender in the league. Enroth has a lot of work to do before ascending the ranks to reach Lundy’s status, but he’s off to a good start.
In terms of style, he’s a technically sound butterfly goalie. He challenges shooters much like Evgeni Nabokov, and moves well in the crease much like a Manny Legace.
Theneilshow -Some have said that the Sabres now lack talent in the prospects pool,
after having a over flowing pool for some years. Do you agree with that?
Kristofer Baker – In terms of forwards, yes. I don’t see a pure, dominant scorer with a pro-ready frame in the cupboards right now. They don’t grow on trees of course, but the next draft should see the team looking for more explosive performers.
Buffalo was top heavy with forwards just a few years ago, and is now a little light after addressing a defensive shortage with higher picks in the last couple of drafts. One guy who does have a scoring knack, Paul Byron of Gatineau (QMJHL), is less than six feet tall and is maybe 150 pounds. Tim Kennedy has been a scorer in the USHL and NCAA, but I don’t consider him to be top-end.
Theneilshow -The Sabres seem to lack that intimidating factor on the blue line. In
the 2007 draft they drafted T.J.Brennan 2nd round 31st overall. Could he fill that void in the future? What is your take on Brennan’s game? And when should we see him in a Sabres uniform?
Kristofer Baker – The Sabres have a plethora of mobile, puck-moving defensemen, with Brennan being one of them. I think his blistering slap shot is his greatest asset. I like how he makes himself a “4th forward” by going straight to the net on a rush, but he probably jumps up too much. I’d rather see more attention paid to his defensive responsibilities. The kid has one of the worst +/- ratings in the QMJHL right now, and it’s on his coaches to teach him out of that.
Brennan plays the body often, but I don’t consider it an intimidating side to his game. Mike Weber in Rochester sets a more physical tone, and is still the most intimidating presence in the pipeline. He’ll line you up and try to put you through the boards. He has caught a few guys with their heads down this season (his first as a pro).
Theneilshow -The Buffalo Sabres are one of the only, if not the only, team to use video scouting. I believe they have been using this technique for two years now. I know it’s too early to tell a lot yet, but in your opinion is this better then the “old” traditional scouting tactics? If so why?
Kristopher Baker – I’m 100% OK with it. I suspect that video had been responsible for much of their scouting work anyways prior to the announcement that it’d become the preferred method. I think it’s an efficient way to evaluate a greater group of players, and I’m pretty sure they use it as a way to deploy the scouts they do have abroad.
I’m in no position to question the Regier-era staff’s ability to judge junior talent. Some will disagree by looking at the first round alone, but they’ve done a good job of amassing quality depth in the middle and late rounds. If they keep getting value across the board, I’ll keep subscribing to the “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” philosophy regarding video scouting……..
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