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Sabres' Neale follows Jeanneret into Hockey Hall of Fame as Foster Hewitt winner

By John Vogl

Harry Neale went to a Hockey Hall of Fame banquet last spring to watch Rick Jeanneret get honored with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award. Neale will go back again this year, but this time he's the one earning broadcasting's biggest honor.

Neale has been selected as the 2013 recipient of the Foster Hewitt, awarded annually to members of the radio and television industry who make outstanding contributions to their profession and the game of ice hockey during their broadcasting career. The winners are selected by the NHL Broadcasters' Association.

Recipients of the Foster Hewitt are honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame with a plaque in the great hall. Neale will join Jeanneret and Ted Darling (1994) as Sabres announcers in the Hall.

Neale joined the Sabres' broadcasting team in 2007 after a long career with CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada." He was the color analyst for five years before moving to a studio role this season.

"Harry has entertained millions of hockey fans in the United States and Canada for close to thirty years,” said Chuck Kaiton, president of the broadcasters' association. “His unique brand of humor and insight has been memorable. He is extremely worthy of this honor."

Jay Greenberg, a longtime writer who has covered the Flyers and Kansas City Scouts, among other teams, also will earn Hall recognition as the winner of the Elmer Ferguson Award. The honor, awarded by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, is given to distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honor to journalism and to hockey.

Road to the NHL Draft: Frederick Gauthier

By John Vogl

Frederick Gauthier

Position: Winger

Junior team: Rimouski (QMJHL)

Born: Mascouche, Quebec

Measurables: 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

2012-13 stats: 62 games, 22 goals, 38 assists, 60 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 8 (North America)

Lowdown: Gauthier was on his way to Harvard, which isn’t a bad place to go for hockey or an education. Then the phone rang. Sidney Crosby, a former star for Rimouski, told Gauthier to reconsider his career choice. When the greatest player in the world calls, it’s wise to listen. So Gauthier changed his mind and took his big body to Rimouski.

The big body is what should carry Gauthier to the NHL. You can’t teach size, especially when that size can skate well and create offense. Gauthier averaged nearly a point per game for the Oceanic, and his defensive awareness was outstanding. He’s universally praised for his eagerness to play in his own zone.

The knock on Gauthier is his inability or unwillingness to consistently use his size, a common complaint with big men. He doesn’t have a mean streak yet. He stumbled in the playoffs, recording just two assists in six games.

He said it: "There's a defensive end and offensive end, and you have to chip in with both. I learned that every time you're on the ice you have to give it what you got, and on the next shift give it what you got. You have to empty the tank each time you're out there, and that's what I try to do." – Gauthier to NHL.com.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Ruff acknowledges potential relocation from Buffalo, but Sabres' ex-coach retains dream of Stanley Cup for city

By John Vogl

Lindy Ruff has begun looking toward his next job – the New York Rangers are reportedly the latest to give him a call – but he’ll remain a Western New Yorker. In fact, he still carries the same dream for Buffalo as when he represented the Sabres.

“There’s one thing missing from my playing career and my coaching career,” Ruff said tonight. “I have no regrets on my playing career. I have no regrets on my coaching career, but there is one thing I want to see Buffalo have one day and that’s the Stanley Cup.”

The Sabres fired Ruff as their coach in February, but his ties to the community remain strong. The Clarence Chamber of Commerce honored him as its inaugural Sportsman of the Year during a ceremony at Westwood Country Club, and the Clarence resident received handshakes, laughs and applause from his neighbors in the Northtowns.

“I owe a lot to the City of Buffalo, to the community of Clarence,” Ruff said. “My kids all grew up and were raised here, went through school. Not many coaches can say their kids went to one school.

“I don’t have any plans of moving. I might have to relocate short term for a while, but home will always be Clarence.”

It’s possible the relocation could be downstate. The Sabres, who still have Ruff under contract, have granted the Rangers permission to speak with the 53-year-old about their coaching vacancy, according to multiple reports.

Ruff declined an interview request.

Ruff was scheduled to play in a golf tournament that accompanied his award banquet, but he canceled to take care of important phone calls, according to an event organizer. He has already interviewed for the Dallas Stars’ coaching job, and he has been linked to the opening in Vancouver, too.

Sabres give Rangers permission to speak with Ruff, report says; coaching candidate has 'phone calls' today

By John Vogl

Lindy Ruff and the New York Rangers reportedly have permission to talk with one another. The former Sabres coach was scheduled to talk to someone important today.

Ruff is being honored by the Clarence Chamber of Commerce as its inaugural "Sportsman of the Year," but he skipped the accompanying golf tournament this afternoon because he had important phone calls scheduled, an event representative said. He is expected to attend the award ceremony this evening.

The New York Rangers, who have a coaching vacancy, sought and received permission from the Sabres to interview Ruff, ESPN.com wrote today while confirming a "Hockey Night in Canada" report from the weekend. Ruff is still being paid by the Sabres, who relieved him from his coaching duties in February.

Road to the NHL Draft: Jordan Subban

By John Vogl

Jordan Subban

Position: Defense

Junior team: Belleville (OHL)

Born: Rexdale, Ont.

Measurables: 5-foot-8, 170 pounds

2012-13 stats: 68 games, 15 goals, 36 assists, 51 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 55

Lowdown: Studying is one of Subban’s top traits. The principal’s son has earned academic honors while playing in the OHL. But studying tape of his brothers and taking notes while watching their games is what really has Subban in line to add to the family legacy. His brother P.K. is a star defenseman for Montreal and a finalist for the Norris Trophy. His brother Malcolm, a goaltender, was selected by Boston in the first round last year.

Jordan Subban doesn’t have the size of P.K., but he has a similar rocket from the point that knows how to find the net. It’s hard and very accurate. He’s a power-play quarterback with tremendous passing skills and the poise to make the right play. He was plus-22 this season after a minus-23 outing last year.

His height and weight are major issues. He can be pushed around down low. If he can’t add pounds to his frame, he won’t make it in front of the net in the NHL.

He said it: "We both like to play emotional and compete very hard. He’s a little bit bigger than me, so I think I try to play a little bit more smarter and just use my stick well, where he can get away with using his strength and big body.” – Subban on comparisons to his brother P.K.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Nurse could be a hit with Sabres, but he won't be a Bills backer

By John Vogl

Darnell Nurse, a likely top-10 pick in the NHL draft who's profiled in today's editions of The News, has a football background. His dad, Richard, played wide receiver in the Canadian Football League after a season at Canisius College. Nurse's uncle is Donovan McNabb, the former NFL star.

"I love football," Nurse said. "On Sunday, I’m probably on my couch for 90 percent of the day watching football."

He's not watching the Bills, though, despite growing up in nearby Hamilton, Ont.

Continue reading "Nurse could be a hit with Sabres, but he won't be a Bills backer" »

Road to the NHL Draft: Eric Comrie

By John Vogl

Eric Comrie

Position: Goaltender

Junior team: Tri-City (WHL)

Born: Edmonton, Alberta

Measurables: 6-foot-1, 167 pounds

2012-13 stats: 20-14-3, 2.62 GAA, .915 save pct.

Central Scouting rank: No. 2 (North America)

Lowdown: Goaltending is important for Tri-City. The team’s owner is Olaf Kolzig, who played 719 games in the NHL. Tri-City alums include Montreal’s Carey Price and the Flyers’ Brian Boucher. Comrie is continuing the tradition.

The half-brother of former NHL forward Mike Comrie gets extensive tutoring year-round, and it’s paying off. The dual citizen, who grew up in Edmonton and California, backstopped Canada to gold at the Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament. A student of the game, he anticipates plays by watching a lot of video and learning players’ tendencies. He moves laterally very well.

Comrie’s season ended in February because of hip surgery. Scouts don’t have a full season to judge, and teams can’t be sure how he’ll fare under playoff pressure. He has no postseason experience.

He said it: "I think the best way to develop skills is pre-scouting. You watch a lot of their video and understand their tendencies and what the team likes to do with the puck, and also just by playing you gain experience. That’s why goalies make it at older ages. They have experiences they know where the puck is going in different situations." – Comrie to the TheHockeyWriters.com.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Video: Bucky and Sully on playoffs

News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan discussed the NHL playoffs Friday morning on "The Bucky and Sully Show," which airs live at 10 a.m. Friday every week at buffalonews.com.

Click here for more segments from the show.

Road to the NHL Draft: Nathan MacKinnon

Memorial Cup Final Ho_Naso
By John Vogl

Nathan MacKinnon

Position: Center

Junior team: Halifax (QMJHL)

Born: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Measurables: 6-foot, 182 pounds

2012-13 stats: 44 games, 32 goals, 43 assists, 75 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 2 (North America)

Lowdown: It’s not a bad thing to be compared to Sidney Crosby. Hockey’s premier player was born in Halifax, played junior hockey there and became an NHL franchise player. MacKinnon mirrors Crosby on the first two, and there’s little reason to think he won’t join him for the final piece of the trifecta. The center can do it all, primarily because of his skating. No one in the draft has MacKinnon’s explosiveness. A stride or two is all he needs to separate himself from the opponents. Once free, he has sniper ability and magnificent passing vision. He may not become Crosby, but he should become the best player on his NHL team in a relatively short period of time.

MacKinnon leaped to No. 1 on many draft boards after leading Halifax to the Memorial Cup title. He made a mockery of his competition in the junior playoffs, recording 11 goals and 33 points in 17 postseason contests. He scored three times in the championship game with scouts watching every move.

MacKinnon doesn’t turn 18 until Sept. 1 and would have had to wait until the 2014 draft if he was born two weeks later. With a maturity beyond his years, he’ll be at or near the top of the 2013 selection process.

He said it: “I’m pretty interested in some of the teams I could end up with. Obviously, anything can happen on draft day. Teams could decide to trade their picks or anything like that, but it’s human nature to be interested in that kind of stuff, what your future could be.” – MacKinnon.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Buffalo's Bailey, Blujus invited to USA Hockey's world junior camp

By John Vogl

The United States will go for a repeat at the next world junior hockey championships. Justin Bailey and Dylan Blujus have a chance to be part of it.

USA Hockey will hold its national junior evaluation camp Aug. 3-10 in Lake Placid, and the Buffalo-area duo is among the 40 players invited. Bailey, a 17-year-old forward from Williamsville, plays for Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League and is eligible for the NHL draft June 30. Blujus, a 6-3 defenseman for North Bay of the OHL, was selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 2012 draft.

The national team will be selected during a pretournament camp in mid-December. The world juniors will begin Dec. 26 in Sweden.

Road to the NHL Draft: Max Domi

By John Vogl

Max Domi

Position: Center

Junior team: London (OHL)

Born: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Measurables: 5-foot-9, 185 pounds

2012-13 stats: 64 games, 39 goals, 48 assists, 87 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 19 (North America)

Lowdown: There’s no doubt being the son of an NHL player has certain perks. Domi, for example, grew up sharing the ice with stars such as Mats Sundin, Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts while his dad, Tie, played for Toronto. Max Domi learned how to be a pro from a young age.

There can be drawbacks, as well. Opponents see the name on the back of the sweater and take their best shot. But Domi’s main obstacles have included Type 1 diabetes and inheriting his dad’s lack of height. The compact, powerful forward wears an insulin pump during games and monitors his glucose levels on the bench and at intermission.

Domi has overcome the challenges so far. He’s strong like his pugilistic father, but he’s mainly a scorer. He had a hat trick in his OHL debut and has continued to torment goaltenders. He has top-level speed and an impressive touch around the net. The concern is whether he’ll get pushed around by bigger players at the NHL level, but the name Domi carries a reputation for fighting through obstacles.

He said it: "It’s a blessing to be able to hang around with guys like Mats Sundin, Mario Lemieux, ask them questions and learn from them, obviously. It’s definitely beneficial for me. It’s a lot of fun to be around them.” – Domi.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Bruins' Campbell done for season after breaking leg and going down in playoff lore

By John Vogl

Why would a person with a broken leg continue to clog shot lanes and try to clear the puck?

A) Because he can't get out of the way. 2) Because it's the Cup.

The Bruins' Gregory Campbell added his name to NHL playoff lore Wednesday night during a 2-1 double-overtime victory over Pittsburgh. The forward blocked a slap shot by Evgeni Malkin during a penalty kill, and the Bruins announced this morning Campbell broke his right fibula on the play.

Continue reading "Bruins' Campbell done for season after breaking leg and going down in playoff lore" »

Road to the NHL Draft: Sean Monahan

By John Vogl

Sean Monahan

Position: Center

Junior team: Ottawa (OHL)

Born: Brampton, Ont.

Measurables: 6-foot-2, 187 pounds

2012-13 stats: 58 games, 31 goals, 47 assists, 78 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 5 (North America)

Lowdown: Monahan was the definition of a one-man team this season. His 78-point outing was nearly double the second-place showing of 40 on the woeful Ottawa squad. With more talent on his wings, Monahan may have put up numbers to rival the league’s best. He drew admirers anyway with offensive skills to go alongside a dependable defensive game.

Monahan is one of the top two-way centers in the draft. He has a solid hockey sense and good size to play in the middle. He should develop into a faceoff ace. He’s consistent, too, with back-to-back 30-goal, 40-assist seasons.

Monahan’s main drawback is his skating. He won’t amaze onlookers with end-to-end rushes, but he shouldn’t be two strides behind all game, either. He can slow the game to his pace and take advantage. He served a 10-game suspension for elbowing an opponent in the face.

He said it: "I believe that playing on a rebuilding team at some point in your career is part of being a professional. I learned how to control my emotions better during a game, and that allowed me to focus and play my game. I was also able to build on my leadership skills and was able to react differently at different times during the season." – Monahan wrote on his monthly blog at NHL.com.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Road to the NHL Draft: Zachary Fucale

Memorial Cup Hockey_Naso
Associated Press Photo

 

By John Vogl

 Zachary Fucale

Position: Goaltender

Junior team: Halifax (QMJHL)

Born: Laval, Quebec

Measurables: 6-foot-1, 181 pounds

2012-13 stats: 45-5-3, 2.35 GAA, .909 save pct.

Central Scouting rank: No. 1 (North America)

Lowdown: It’s easy for goaltenders to win when they’re surrounded by ridiculous talent. Halifax boasts Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, both pegged to go in the top three of the draft, and the squad rolled to the Memorial Cup championship. Fucale reaped the benefits, going 16-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

It’s not easy, though, for goalies to stay focused during routs. Halifax outscored its opponents, 347-176, giving Fucale plenty of lonely moments at the end of the rink. He received good marks for staying in the game and learning to be ready when action inevitably arrived.

Practicing daily against future stars Drouin and MacKinnon helped Fucale’s progress. He’s got good size for a goaltender and is positionally sound. He’s adept at reading plays, which reduces the number of sparkling saves he needs to make. Goalies can be a bargain toward the middle of the draft, but someone is expected to take a run at Fucale in the first round.

He said it: "I’ve evolved as a goalie from last year. I worked on every single little part of my game. I’ve become better. I’ve tried to improve every little aspect. … Playoffs, it’s do or die. You want to win. It’s big games in playoffs, and it was a great learning experience this year. I’m looking forward to other playoffs and learning more." – Fucale.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Competition committee votes to make visors mandatory in NHL

By John Vogl

From now on, every player who achieves his dream of reaching the NHL will see the ice through a visor.

The competition committee, made up of five NHL representatives and five members of the NHL Players' Association, voted today to make visors mandatory starting next season. Players with at least 26 games of service will be grandfathered in and not required to use a visor.

Forwards Steve Ott and John Scott, and defensemen Mike Weber and Adam Pardy are the only members of the Sabres who don't wear a protective shield.

The recommendation will need approval of the board of governors in June.

Continue reading "Competition committee votes to make visors mandatory in NHL" »

Road to the NHL Draft: Valentin Zykov

By John Vogl

Valentin Zykov

Position: Left wing

Junior team: Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)

Born: St. Petersburg, Russia

Measurables: 6-foot, 208 pounds

2012-13 stats: 67 games, 40 goals, 35 assists, 75 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 7

Lowdown: Like Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko, Zykov left his Russian homeland to play in the Quebec junior league. It’s trending toward a necessary step for foreign players who want to leave no doubt that the NHL, not the KHL, is the place for them.

An unknown before the season, Zykov rocketed up draft charts with a 40-goal outing that culminated in Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year honors. He has a body built for smaller North American rinks. Though Russian, scouts view him as a prototypical Canadian power forward who likes to crash the net. He is tough to knock off the puck and wins battles along the boards. He has an accurate shot and deceptive speed.

Zykov needs to improve his consistency. He hasn’t shown well in international competitions, leading to mixed reviews. While NHL Central Scouting has him seventh, International Scouting Services ranked him 19th and scouts for the Hockey News rated him 31st.

They said it: "Valentin demonstrates extraordinary rigor in everything he takes on. He is serious in his training on and off the ice, and leaves nothing half done. He is intense, driven and a perfectionist. No other player on the team possesses as much discipline as Valentin. He has a calm and quiet temperament and a positive influence on his teammates in and out of the locker room.” -- Eric Veilleux, coach of Baie-Comeau.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Sabres' prospects scheduled to defend title in Red Wings' tournament in Traverse City

By John Vogl

The Sabres' prospects are already set to play in Switzerland next season. It appears they're heading back to Michigan, too.

The Detroit Red Wings have announced the resumption of their prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and Buffalo is scheduled to defend its 2011 title. The tournament, in its 15th year, was canceled last season because of the lockout.

The Red Wings said the participating teams will be Detroit, Buffalo, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, the New York Rangers and St. Louis -- the same eight organizations that were scheduled to play in 2012.

The Rochester Americans will take a break from their American Hockey League schedule in December to play in the Spengler Cup in Switzerland.

Buffalo's Bailey, Malone show NHL scouts that hockey players can jump

By John Vogl

The importance of the fitness test at the NHL scouting combine can be debated. Panthers GM Dale Tallon doesn't give a hoot about the strength portion. Others feel the tests give insight into players' physical abilities.

If there happen to be any scouts who give extra credence to jumping, the top two prospects from Western New York will hop up the draft board.

The NHL has released the top-10 finishers in several testing categories, and Williamsville's Justin Bailey and West Seneca's Sean Malone both made the list.

Continue reading "Buffalo's Bailey, Malone show NHL scouts that hockey players can jump" »

Road to the NHL Draft: Adam Tambellini

By John Vogl

Adam Tambellini

Position: Left wing

Junior team: Surrey (BCHL)

Born: Edmonton, Alberta

Measurables: 6-foot-2, 158 pounds

2012-13 stats: 36 games, 22 goals, 17 assists, 39 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 42

Lowdown: There’s no longer a chance of Steve Tambellini stepping to the dais at the draft and calling the name of his son Adam. Edmonton fired the elder Tambellini in April after nearly five seasons as the Oilers’ general manager. Some team, though, will add another Tambellini to the NHL fraternity.

Adam Tambellini is hoping to follow his father and brother Jeff to the big leagues. He’s taken the small-circuit route to getting there. Rather than play in the Canadian Hockey League, which would have cost him any chance of playing collegiately, Tambellini skated in the British Columbia Hockey League. It’s on par with the Ontario Junior Hockey League, home to the Buffalo Junior Sabres. Tambellini helped lead his team to the championship with 10 goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games.

He’ll need to put on weight when he gets to the University of North Dakota. Though he projects well, Tambellini has to prove himself against top-level peers.

They said it: "He works hard in practice every day, and regardless of what his last name is he’d up there in the draft as a pretty high pick. … He's a pure sniper. He's got that big-league shot and release. He's a power forward, he's still a little bit slight, but he's going to fill out and mature.” – Surrey coach Matt Erhart to the Journal Pioneer (PEI, Canada) and Nanaimo (British Columbia) Daily News.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Road to the NHL Draft: J.T. Compher

By John Vogl

J.T. Compher

Position: Left wing

Junior team: U.S. Under-18 (USHL)

Born: Northbrook, Ill.

Measurables: 6-foot, 165 pounds

2012-13 stats: 49 games, 15 goals, 27 assists, 42 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 34

Lowdown: Compher is the ultimate agitator. His way with words will quickly get under an opponent’s skin. Then, with the game on the line, he has the skill to back up his comments and produce a victory. He can thrive under pressure, which he showed when he scored the clinching shootout goal against host Russia to reach the gold-medal game at the under-18 world championships.

A product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, he’s been competing on an international level for years. Few things scare him. His work ethic makes him a leader. He hates to lose and does what he can to avoid it. Compher is set to play collegiately at Michigan.

He’s not blessed with top-level skating skills. Though he has a penchant for rising to challenges, he’s never shown he can be a prolific scorer. His two-way game is what will carry him.

They said it: "If you take a puck from him, you better skate as hard as you’ve ever skated because he’s tracking you down and going to steal it back immediately. And if he can’t get it back, he’s probably going to whack you or run you into the boards.” – Don Granato, Compher’s coach on the U.S. under-18 team, to the Northbrook (Ill.) Star.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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