Sabres Place Four Prospects In Team Canada Selection Camp
Today around 1PM EST, Hockey Canada announced who the 39 invites are for their 2011 Team Canada WJC selection camp would be. Among the top prospects are the Sabres’ highest-profile CHL players – Zack Kassian, Brayden McNabb, Marcus Foligno, and Mark Pysyk. With four draftees invited, the Sabres lead the NHL in terms of prospect representation. After the break is a look at how each player has done so far this season, with a special appearance by SabresProspect.com’s head honcho Kris Baker!
If anything, Zack Kassian was expected to make the Team Canada roster while he was in the Sabres’ training camp. With 39 points through 21 games (including 12 goals, which ties his scoring output from last season in 17 fewer games played), Kassian is 9th in the OHL in scoring and will be heavily counted upon in Buffalo.
Kris says: Kassian is on the final roster. Dave Cameron’s head will need an exam if not. I’d like to see him assume the #2 RW spot and get PP time down low. I think somewhere in the vicinity of 8-10 points is realistic given his role, and they all may come against Norway. Otherwise, Canada’s pool is going to be tough. Could be some tight games with RUS and SWE.
A much more surprising camp invitee is the Sudbury Wolves’ captain Marcus Foligno. Little more than a support scorer and grinder in his time in junior, Marcus has exploded offensively with 27 points in 25 games played. Despite being born in Buffalo, it was his time growing up in Ontario that made him eligible to suit up for The True North.
Kris says: Huge reward that he gets this invite. Kid is a warrior. There’s no way in Blasdell that he’s there to play center though. He’ll grind it out down a wing, cycle hard, and get his big body to the net. If he makes the team, it’s on the #4 line in a limited energy role. Real team guy, and his invitation shows that Canada wants to play an NHL style with some bigger lunchbucket guys in front of a good skating D.
Out of all of Buffalo’s CHL prospects that were predicted to make the WJC in 2011, Zack Kassian was at the top of the chart. Right below him was Brayden McNabb, a big mean Western Canadian boy patrolling the blueline as captain of the Kootenay Ice. Initially missing 8 games due to injury, he came back with a vengeance. With just over a point-per-game (17 points in 16 games) and on pace for 120 penalty minutes, Brayden is showing yet again what makes him a valuable defenseman who can play wherever he must on the ice.
Kris says: I don’t care what some people say, McNabb knows how to play defense. My biggest concern with him last year in Kootenay was that he could sometimes be careless with the puck. He’s committed fewer turnovers this year, and overall has developed into their solid backbone. Guy is a mule and shuts down top WHL forwards every game, so I think he has a fair shot. Do I think he’ll be on the team? Man, it’s so hard but I’m going to say yes, perhaps in a #6/7 role. I think his leadership, experience, and all around game will really help round out Cam’s D core.
Lastly, we have the Sabres’ first round draft pick in 2010 – Mark Pysyk. Not flashy by any means, Pysyk is solid in all areas and is captaining his Oil Kings this season. However, he’s a long shot to make the team.
Kris says: Not a surprise that he made camp, but a huge underdog to make the team. it’s great that he’ll get the camp experience, but sort of like what i wrote at sp, needs to be a tad more assertive with and without the puck. It’s not that his nuts haven’t fully dropped. I actually think there’s an injury concern brewing that may hold him back from being more engaged physically. He’s a real good kid and a real good player, and I think one more year of development makes him a lock for the final roster in 2012.
Hockey fans north of the 49th parallel and around the world won’t get to find out which of these four make the final cut until December 15th, but it’s a safe bet at least two of the four will be skating on Boxing Day in Buffalo as the world watches.