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By Dan Salfin, Sabres Prospect Editor-In-Chief
Monday, June 21, 1999

With draft day only being less than a week away, I thought I'd give the low-down on a few of the OHL players who may be in Buffalo's range come Saturday. I have not seen that much QMJHL or WHL games outside of what games are televised so for now I will just give my scouting reports on the OHL players who I have seen in person a few times.

Peter Reynolds - Reynolds is an at-home defenceman. Nothing more, nothing less. He has played extremely well in front of Chiarello and isn't afraid to use his size to his advantage. He has exceptional puck pursuit and has always shown to play well in his own end. Watching him play on a regular basis, Reynolds is hardly ever caught out of position. He can make a good lead pass out of his own end and whenever other teams try to shoot the puck in deep and forecheck, Reynolds usually beats the player to the puck and wins the puck along the boards. If want a defenceman who produces a lot offencively (say like Brian Campbell), Reynolds would not be a good choice but if you want a defenceman who plays considerably well defencively in his own end he would be a perfect fit.

Chris Kelly - A fan favourite here in London and for good reason. I can attest to what a hard worker Kelly is and would be in our best interest for a future left winger. He's got soft hands, was a huge factor on special teams for the Knights this season, is a good passer, can bring the puck up ice efficiently, played much more physically this season and also has a great sence of defencive awareness. From what I have seen out of Kelly, he looks like he is ready to take his game to the next level and will be a major factor in the Knights' success next season, bringing leadership to the team with the departure of Fata, Barch, Scherban, along with other NHL draftees looking to pursue a career in professional leagues. Believe it or not, I have often made comparisons from Kelly to who else but the devil himself, Miroslav Satan while watching him play. Both players can accelerate down the ice with blazing speed, both Miro and Kels have soft hands and great stick-handling skills, but both players have only one drawback: their physical presence. When Satan was with Edmonton, he had the skills to become a prolific scorer but was afraid to take or give a hit. Then after coming to Buffalo, Satan played much more physical and because he wasn't afraid of being hit, he was able to play his game and his numbers have gone up as a result as we have seen this season. The same goes with Kelly. After last season, I was beginning to write Kelly off as another player who could not make it in the NHL with his lack of physical play but this season Kelly proved that he can play a physical game and is no longer afraid of being hit along with Satan. Lately, we have seen Satan make a few stand-out hits and because of adapting to the physical North American game well, he has been able to use his assets (speed, stick-handling) to the best of his ability and you have seen the result and I feel the same can go for Kelly who already has shown signs of physical growth for the Knights this season.

Mike Zigomanis - I have heard a lot of the scouts write him off, but I think Ziggy despite his lack of size has the upside and raw skill to be a decent second or third line centre in the NHL but because of his inability to finish I doubt he will be a legitimate first line centre. He had a decent start to the 1998-99 campaign but since Mavety put Ziggy to centre Andy Ianiero and Elich, his numbers suffered. Determining by his performance in the OHL, he has the raw skills to become a legitimate playmaker. Ziggy makes crisp passes up ice and can skate fairly well, but whether he can compete physically when the level of skill increases remains a question.

Sheldon Keefe - Have only seen Sheldon play twice but let me say that Keefe has shown incredible skill in the OHL this season. While not being the biggest player on the ice, I must say he has one of the biggest hearts. Like a lot of the Knight players during the playoffs, Keefe for the Colts has shown a tremendous amount of effort and intensity. Shift by shift he will do whatever offencively or physically to contribute for his team. Like Zigomanis, I have seen a lot of scouts unfairly write Keefe off because of his lack of size. I do not consider this to be much of a factor. He is gritty for his size and won't be intimidated. Shows a lot of character and also has proven to finish well as he, (cough, cough) Peter Sarno, and Sabres prospect Norm Milley battled out for the OHL scoring title this season. I can almost guarantee that he will be passed up by a few teams due to his lack of size, but do not be fooled by the character, intensity, offencive upside and grittiness of Keefe. He could very well end up being one of the Sabres second round choices as the Sabres have been known to select players who play similar to the style of Keefe.

Charlie Stevens - With Wayne Primeau possibly being exposed in the expansion draft to be obtained by the Atlanta Thrashers, the Buffalo Sabres could be looking to draft a centre who has a great deal of size. The answer for this dilemma could be a 6'3, 229 centre named Charlie Stevens out of Guelph of the OHL who the Central Scouting Bureau projects will be drafted late in the first round or early in the second. Stevens was selected #1 in the OHL Entry Draft by the St. Michael's Majors out of Toronto a few years back and the scouts made quick comparisons from Stevens to Eric Lindros. In his first year playing in the OHL, disappointment set in as he played no where near up to his potential and his effort wasn't there either. He was then traded to Guelph of the OHL and he started to re-gain his form. His numbers improved and so did his play. In the games which I saw Stevens play here in London, he was a major factor and he was hitting everything in sight. He also scored a few goals against the Knights and also got into a tussle to add to his name which took place after the second period in a game earlier this year. While Stevens' 58 points is nothing exceptional, it is a vast improvement from his numbers in previous years in the OHL and more importantly his determination and effort have substantially improved as well. This kid can shoot. Many scouts are writing Stevens off, but I can see Stevens being a steal for whichever team drafts him and with our prospect system already having an unsurmountable amount of depth, I feel Stevens is worth taking a chance on for being our future first-line centre, especially if Primeau is going to end up in Atlanta next season.

Brad Ralph - Ralph has been a player who teams might want to take a chance on but may want to overlook come draft time. Ralph has the size and works to the net well but has trouble finishing. I caught a game he played in Windsor and what sticks in my mind was a stupid penalty he took during that game. From the few games I have seen, Brad has played well in the offencive zone on the forecheck and can be a force in the slot area. He can also skate up ice with the puck well. He has a decent shot and great instincts. What bothers me about Ralph is the fact that he has a hard time finishing. The chances have been there, but while his goal-scoring count isn't necessarily disappointing, there is some room for improvement. Ralph could be a viable possibility to look into come Saturday with one of their second round picks as the fact that he is good on the draw and can work well in the slot are among the Sabres needs.

I will be sure to give reports on other OHL players who the Sabres may want to consider drafting over the next few days and if anyone has any scouting reports on those players from other leagues, e-mail them to either myself or Sabre Sword.