When a guy points to Todd Bertuzzi as his favorite player, chances are that person is either: a) a Vancouver Canucks fan who came of age during Bertuzzi’s brief brush with stardom or b) a bit of a ne’er do well. In fact, that person might be both.
Either way, Buffalo Sabres prospect Zack Kassian is a troubled young player. Yet considering the fact that he was the 13th pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, he might just be worth the headaches.
The Sabres signed Kassian to three-year entry level deal today, according to the team.
Now in his fourth year of junior hockey, the 19-year-old Kassian (1/24/1991, 6’3”, 226 lbs.) currently leads the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires in scoring with 20 points (7+13) through 11 games. Kassian, who missed the start of the OHL season after an extended stay at Sabres training camp, is among the league leaders in scoring and has already posted a pair of four-point games this season.
The Windsor, Ont.-native has 135 points (52+83) in 168 career OHL games with Windsor and Peterborough. Kassian was traded to Windsor last season, and played a key role in the team’s Memorial Cup championship run. He finished with 16 points (7+9) in 19 playoff games, and added another five points (2+3) during the Memorial Cup tournament. The hard-hitting winger has also amassed 365 PIM’s during his four years in junior.
If Kassian can harness his “hard-hitting” tendencies the right way, he can bring the kind of power forward presence that Buffalo has been sorely missing for ages. From the days of Pat LaFontaine to that short but sweet post-lockout run spotlighted by the undersized duo of Danny Briere and Chris Drury, the franchise often lacked a menacing forward in their ranks.
Of course, Kassian using his powers for good (or at least the good of his team) ranks as a pretty big “if.” Much like another troubled but talented prospect Patrice Cormier, Kassian comes with a few marks against him before even landing on the NHL stage. Whether it’s dirty hits on the ice like the one that earned him a 20-game suspension or a bar altercation that garnered him some negative attention off the ice, Kassian won’t be fitted for angel’s wings anytime soon.
But, again, that might not matter if he can keep his nose relatively clean and provide the Sabres with that rare combination of grit, talent and nastiness.