The Eichel Era

David Leggio dazzled this season in Germany. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

Williamsville native David Leggio can laugh and smile now reflecting on a crazy seven months. A season that began with the veteran goalie sitting at home looking for work ended with him celebrating a championship wearing lederhosen following a dynamic 14-game playoff run starring for Munich WHC, a team in the German DEL.

“This was the way I hoped it would go,” Leggio said Wednesday. “It doesn’t happen often. It doesn’t always happen how you envision it.”

In perhaps the finest of …

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Auston Matthews is hockey's most coveted prospect. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

The “Shanaplan” worked.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who stripped down their roster this season under the direction of president Brendan Shanahan and finished dead last, won tonight’s NHL Draft Lottery.

The Leafs, who had 20 percent odds for the No. 1 overall pick, will almost certainly use it to select Arizona-raised center Auston Matthews, the prize of this year’s NHL Draft.

The Buffalo Sabres stayed put in the lottery, meaning they’ll select eighth when they host the draft June 24. They had 6 …

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The Sabres lost the lottery in 2015 and picked Jack Eichel second. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

BUFFALO – Given the Sabres’ slim odds for the No. 1 overall pick in tonight’s NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto – just 6 percent, thanks to their 23rd-place finish – they likely won’t win.

Heck, the Sabres owned the greatest odds to nab the No. 1 choice the last two years and lost both lotteries. Instead, they “settled” for the No. 2 selection, drafting young stars Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

So what might happen this year? First, let’s explain the new …

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Johan Larsson (right) battles Florida's Brandon Pirri on Jan. 5. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

BUFFALO – The Sabres have re-signed center Johan Larsson to a one-year contract, the club announced today.

The deal is worth $950,000, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Larsson, 23, was set to become a restricted free agent this summer.

The Swede just finished his most productive NHL season, compiling 10 goals and 17 points in 74 games, all career highs. His five game-winning goals tied Jack Eichel for the team lead.

After months of so-so play and getting scratched, Larsson started pivoting Marcus …

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Carlo Colaiacovo enjoys mentoring young players. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – Carlo Colaiacovo’s goal when he signed a one-year contract in July was pretty straightforward. Following three seasons of sporadic duty, the veteran defenseman wanted to become an everyday player again with the Sabres.

“When I signed in Buffalo, I believed that opportunity was there for me, and obviously things change,” Colaiacovo said last week.

Things changed a lot on the blue line in a hurry.

The Sabres signed Cody Franson days before training camp started. Jake McCabe, a prospect on the …

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Brendan Guhle impressed the Sabres during training camp. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

ROCHESTER – Buffalo Sabres prospect Brendan Guhle noticed the familiar faces throughout his late-season AHL recall to the Americans.

One game, Guhle played against tough guy Zack Stortini, who used to scrap for the defenseman’s hometown Edmonton Oilers. Another contest, Guhle faced veteran goalie Yann Danis.

“I remember I had a hockey card of Yann Danis when I was a kid,” Guhle said Friday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial following his fourth pro appearance. “It’s crazy. I think it’s really cool.”

Guhle, …

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Linus Ullmark struggled late in the season in Rochester. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

ROCHESTER – In the midst of a nine-game AHL winless stretch in which Buffalo Sabres prospect Linus Ullmark allowed 37 goals, the rookie goalie received a much-needed confidence boost.

When a bruised finger prevented goalie Chad Johnson from playing April 9, the Sabres recalled the struggling Swede from the Americans hours before their season finale against the New York Islanders.

In his first NHL start since Jan. 12, Ullmark helped the Sabres win 4-3 in overtime. The victory, Ullmark’s only win at …

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Matt Ellis will have options if he retires. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

ROCHESTER – Physically, Matt Ellis said, he hasn’t felt this good in four or five years. At 34 years old, having just finished his 14th pro season, the popular former Buffalo Sabres forward believes he could keep playing.

“I definitely feel like I got lots left in the tank,” Ellis said Thursday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial.

Still, Ellis understands he could be nearing retirement. This season, his first out of the NHL in 10 years, he played only 56 times …

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Andrey Makarov became a spare part late this season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
4

ROCHESTER – It rarely happens. In fact, it might have been a first. Five days after posting a 30-save shutout, the Americans scratched a healthy Andrey Makarov for their next game, Friday’s 5-0 loss to Albany.

Top Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Linus Ullmark started the home finale. Nathan Lieuwen, just back from his three-week NHL stint, backed up the Swede.

The loquacious Makarov, 22, watched from the stands wearing a suit.

Two years ago, Makarov was developing into the Buffalo Sabres’ best young …

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Patrick Kaleta has played only 26 games with Rochester. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
6

ROCHESTER – Patrick Kaleta smirked before pausing 10 seconds. The popular former Buffalo Sabres winger kept searching for the right word to describe his first full AHL season since 2006-07, his rookie year.

The oft-injured agitator, a veteran of 348 NHL games, never found one.

“Kind of hard to put a word on it,” Kaleta said Friday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial. “But with what I can kind of control playing-wise, I did what I needed to do. I’ll just leave …

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