By John Vogl
ROCHESTER -- The Sabres' season is done, and their minor-league club can't afford another loss. Rochester is in a 2-0 hole to the Toronto Marlies, and Game Three of the best-of-five series is Wednesday night in Rochester.
Though the team is in trouble, the prospects are getting rave reviews from Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy. Here are his thoughts from today on forward Zemgus Girgensons, selected in the first round last year, and center Johan Larsson and goalie Matt Hackett, who were acquired in the trade that sent Jason Pominville to Minnesota.
Cassidy on Girgensons: "He’s really come a long way this year. I’m shocked with how far he’s come. I really felt like for an 18-year-old early in the season, it’s such a hard thing because it’s hard to judge him every night because they’re playing at a level against men every night at this pace and this tempo. ... He was hard to really put a thumb on early, but throughout the playoffs he’s probably been our best forward just in terms of moving his feet, strong on the puck, finishing his checks, getting around the net. He’s a man physically, and I think the mental game has come so far this year. We’ve just seen him grow so much, and we’re really excited about it."
Cassidy on Larsson: "Larsson’s been really good. He is even better than I thought he was going to be. He’s a good two-way player, very smart, unbelievably competitive. I love the way he’s competed. He’s got a little bite to his game. He’s a guy who makes others around him better. Really good vision, moves the puck well, probably is a pass-first guy a little bit more than a finisher, but he’s tough around and the net and he can finish.
"When you watch him play, he doesn’t back down from any confrontation. He’s as strong on his skates as anybody out there. He’s similar to Girgensons without the all-speed that Z has. Z is I think a little bit more of a grinder and a guy who’s going to get his offense by being in front of the net, whereas Larsson is going to have the puck a little bit more and distribute it from there. But both really good players."
Cassidy on Hackett: "We knew about him coming in that he was a high-profile prospect. He’s proved to be that. He’s very athletic. He’s got the look of a goaltender. He moves really well, lot of confidence, has got an unbelievable glove hand. In the games that he’s played, he’s played four with us, and he’s been really good. His glove is excellent.
"He’s still got some development to do. He’s a young kid, but at least he’s got that 12, 13 games in the NHL. You can tell there’s a little bit different level there in terms of he’s seen what the higher level is and he’s got that swagger of an NHL goaltender. He’s been really good.
"From an athletic standpoint and a goaltending standpoint, I think he’s really close [to the NHL]. From a maturity standpoint, that remains to be seen until you play him at that level for a long period of time."
taggedJohan Larsson | Matt Hackett | Zemgus Girgensons