Q & A with Kris Baker

Kris Baker, of SabresProspects.com, has been working in the Sabres prospect field for the last five years. Baker currently writes for his own site, as well as Sabres.com. You can follow Kris on Twitter: @SabresProspects 

AL: What defines a prospect to you, as in when do you “Cut the cord” from your coverage?
KB: I generally consider a player a “prospect”  through the age of 23, through five post-draft seasons, or for the sake of my website, through 60 NHL games. I don’t want to get into the territory of comparing an 18-year old and a 24-year old. There is too much of a gap physically and mentally, and often the book is pretty much written when they hit 24-years old. Are there late-blooming outliers? Sometimes, but at that point they’re already an AHL/European veteran. David Leggio to me wasn’t really a prospect in this sense. Luke Adam is a completely different story…I think that five post-draft year rule as a guideline may have made better sense when assessing Luke last season, but I decided to remain consistent and keep him off recent rankings lists.

AL: What was the biggest “hit” for you on a prediction for a prospect? How about your biggest “miss”?
KB: I think from a very early stage it was clear that Marcus Foligno was going to exceed his fourth-round expectations. It was clear that at the very least he was going to be a wrecking ball checking line role role player a the NHL level. Any goals would be a bonus. A few teams are lilely less than thrilled that they opted for other players at least a round earlier.

There have actually been quite a few prospects drafted that were also predicted (Ullmark, Lieuwen, McNabb, Foligno, Sundher, and I think I’m missing one or two), but two stand out as those yet to meet expectations – Luke Adam and Corey Fienhage. They were both endorsed for second and third round picks. They were ultimately selected, but then ultimately passed on the depth chart by those in subsequent drafts.

AL: Which G in the system could make the biggest impact on the Sabres crease in the future? Where do you see them falling in the organization this year and in the future?
KB: I’ve been a huge fan of Linus Ullmark since his draft year. He’s sharing the crease this season with another young goalie, but I like his flexibility and movement for a bulky kid. He’ll probably stay in Sweden this season and next, but after that he could immediately challenge for the #2 job once he comes over (if he continues to ramp-up obviously).I think once Cal Petersen emerges from Notre Dame, the Sabres will have a very mature, very technically-sound goaltender on their hands. Darcy Regier has the luxury of having five years (max) time to let it all come together if they choose to go that route. I think he’ll be in school for at least four of those years. Cal is a smart kid. Very professional. Very, very competitive.
AL: Have you heard of any prospect being highly sought after, or being watched closely by other clubs or scouts?
KB: I wasn’t looking over the shoulders of scouts while in Traverse City, but I’m pretty confident that Girgensons was drawing attention from scouts due to his blend of skills, energy, and effort.
AL: Deepest positional depth from the Sabres? Biggest weakness/need?
KB: The Sabres current depth chart is loaded on defense. I’ll argue that Ristolainen, Pysyk, Zadorov, McCabe, McNabb, Ruhwedel makes up one of the best, if not the best, fleet of prospect defenseman in the league. Add in Austin, Gauthier-Leduc, Florentino, and MacKenzie…they’re set up rather well on the blueline.If any of Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons, and Dan Catenacci don’t ultimately end up as left wingers at the NHL level, they’ll definitely need to find more depth there. All three can play center very well, but it remains to be seen what will happen at the top level. If anything, Larsson is looking like he’ll stick down the middle.

Joel Armia, Corey Tropp, and Nick Baptiste help, but the Sabres should continue to develop more right wingers as well. That might be the more pressing need when forecasting the future.

AL: Which player in camp will have the highest probability to crack NHL roster?
Despite the contracts/experience ahead of him, there is no question in my mind that Rasmus Ristolainen will be the real deal. Up front, Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons will continue to get long looks. For Girgensons, I can see another AHL start being of benefit as the new core continues to gel. We really need to see what happens through the rest of camp, but Ron Rolston had a full season to prepare and knows how he wants this team to look. He just has to manage the waiver situation properly.

AL: Do you believe Rasmus Ristolainen is an NHL-ready defenseman?
He’s as close to ready that I’ve ever seen from an 18-year old under contract with the Sabres.

Adam Lindsay
Adam Lindsay
Sabres fan. Favorite player was Patrick Roy. Favorite Sabre currently is Tyler Myers. Favorite Sabre all time is Gilbert Perreault.
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