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Professional hockey writer shares tips for your fantasy team
Sunday, September 19, 1999

So you are joining a fantasy hockey league, but you just got to draft a player from your Buffalo Sabres. Well here’s a list of Buffalo Sabres that should interest you and a bit about what you can expect out of each of them this season. Getting to the Stanley Cup Finals is a great way to see how players react to high-pressure situations and for some it brings out the worst in them. For many other players it shows how truly good they can be when they are focused and willing to do everything it takes to win. That desire to win is not, however always carried over to the following season. So before you put too much stock in what players, especially Sabres did in the playoffs remember it is a new season. Another thing that is important to remember when you are drafting players for your team in a market chalk full of Buffalo Fans is you will probably pay more than market value to draft any or the Sabres.

Miroslav Satan, (RW) 24, 6-1/195 This talented Slovak is the odds on favorite to lead the Sabres for the second straight season. He is a good goal scorer, but even so his 40 goals might be hard to repeat. Even so he should still get in to the 60-65 point range this season. There will be two knocks against him going in to the start of the season. The less than stellar play he demonstrated in last season’s Stanley Cup run and most importantly he will not be a known quantity around the league. He remains unsigned so like always make sure he’s signed before you take him. Forecast - Expect a fairly solid season, but he’ll have trouble duplicating last season’s torrid goal scoring pace.

Michael Peca, (C) 25, 5-11/181 The only other Buffalo forward I had rated in the CBS Sportsline’s Top 50 forward projections. An awesome open ice hitter with better than average touch around the net. If only he was 2 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. Being a Canuck fan, it rips my heart out every time he leaves his feet to deliver another one of his bone rattling hits. Oh well we still have the intense Alex Mogilny plugging in his 14-15 goals a season! Back to Peca, He does tend to ware down, although that didn’t stop him from playing all 82 games last season. Forecast - A shot at 60-65 points but little upside as he already gives everything he can on every shift.

Curtis Brown, (C-LW) 23, 6-0/190 A virtual unknown around the league, but make no mistake this oversight is already starting to change. Appears he will be used on the top line which will help him progress into the 50-60 point range. He has better size than Peca and doesn’t tend to hit every thing that moves so he shouldn’t ware down like Peca does either. Brown is still more of a playmaker, but is developing into a player that should be a twenty-goal scorer. He remains unsigned so make sure he signs before you draft him. Forecast Not as safe a pick as Peca or Satan, but a sleeper pick that could lead the Sabres in scoring as early as this season.

Stu Barnes, (RW) 28, 5-11/185 The fans in Buffalo did not see the “real” Stu Barnes until about the mid way point in last year’s playoffs. His scoring drought was reaching legendary proportions when he finally started to pot a few goals. Once he did regain his confidence he was one of the more effective Sabres on the ice and showed the Sabre faithful a preview of why management acquired him in the first place. He’ll be more comfortable after some time in the Buffalo defensive system and will return to form. He only had 36 points last season, but was often in the Penguins doghouse. So expect a rebound to around the 50 point mark this season. He remains unsigned so make sure he’s signed before you take him. Forecast A solid 50 pts with some upside.

Michal Grosek, (LW) 24, 6-2/207 Will the real Michal Grosek please stand up? Is he the player that looked like he was starting to deliver on some of the talent we all know he has or is he the player that ended up in the coach’s doghouse because of playoff performance that saw him get only 4 assists in 13 games. At 24yrs old the former is still the odds on favorite to be the real player, but the latter does show that he is still a bit of a gamble. Grosek is still an enigma and anyone selecting him could get the “bull or the horns”! Forecast He could go either way, but expect him to still hit 45-50 points.

Brian Holzinger, (C) 26, 5-11/190 It is about time that this former Hobey Baker winner lives up to the hype that has followed his career like an albatross around his neck. He has blazing speed but too infrequently uses it to accomplish much of anything. Holzinger has the talent to easily hit 50 points, however it is starting to appear that he would be best served moving on. He has 69 points in the last two years unfortunately that number is a combined total over those two seasons! His 8 points in 21 playoff games don’t inspire a lot of confidence than he’s about to have a breakthrough season. So unless he gets a new Zip Code, expect much of the same. Forecast A slight improvement to 40 points.

Jason Woolley, (D) 30, 6-1/188 The only Buffalo defenseman that I had rated in the Top 20 with CBS and for good reason. After getting 43 points, he may finally be getting recognized for his offense. A good goal scorer and fairly dependable two-way defenseman, but he doesn’t have the upside of many of the top defensemen. He can also score fairly well, however he should take advantage of his shot more often. Forecast- Similar numbers to last season and a repeat of 43 points is quite possible.

Alexei Zhitnik, (D) 26, 5-11/200 He is an example of a player that had a great offensive performance in the playoffs, but that won’t necessarily carry that level of play over to the following season. Zhitnik has the talent to be a regular 40-45 point scorer if he would play with more intensity more often. He had 33 points in 81 games last season which is was 12 points less than the previous season. He has all the tools to rebound, but anything higher than 40 points would be a big bonus. Forecast A slight rebound to 35-40 points, but many will over rate his performance due to his 15 points in 21 playoff games. Make sure you’re not one of them!

For those Sabre’ fans that are either in a very deep fantasy league or eternal optimists here are a few prospects that might just be worth taking a gamble on, especially in keeper leagues.

Maxim Afinogenov, (RW) 20, 6-0/185 Any good news out of the Sabres camp got overshadowed by the news of Dominik Hasek’s retirement at the end of the season, but with one of the best players not in the NHL finally agreeing to join the Sabres it was not all doom and gloom. Maxim Afinogenov is a speedster that had showed his stuff with the Moscow Dynamo in Russia last season. With the news that the Sabres have gotten him to finally come to the NHL, he could eventually become a game breaker. He has decent size, but does not like the rough North American style. If your fantasy league allows for mid-season pickups you might want to let Afinogenov time to acclimatize himself to the NHL. Forecast: Upside 20-30 points, but is extremely valuable in keeper leagues.

Cory Sarich, (D) 21, 6-3/190 Has the height but needs to add another 10-15 pounds of muscle to play effectively in the NHL. He is a presence with or without the puck. Has the talent to one day to be a good #2 or 3 defenseman. But he still needs to work on his shot, so don’t expect a lot of goals anytime soon. The Sabres feel Sarich is ready; he just has to prove it. Expect 10-15 points this year. Forecast: Dependable play and some great highlight film hits.

The key to doing well in a fantasy league is to forget about what player you like and what players you don’t. Drafting only players youlike is a sure way to end up near the bottom of your league. The people that win pools would draft Fidel Castro if he had a good slap shot. Fantasy hockey is not life and death so good luck and keep it in perspective and most of all remember to have fun!

Article composed by Ron Jones, professional hockey writer for CBS Sportsline, McKeen's Hockey Yearbook, along with other hockey publications.