where an empty HSBC Arena lays waiting for the NHL labo
Things are very quiet these days at the foot of Buffalo’s
Main Street, where an empty HSBC Arena sits waiting for the NHL labor dispute
to be resolved so it can once again be filled with throngs of screaming fans,
flying pucks, and the roar of the horn signaling another Sabres goal. With the
arena in perpetual darkness, Sabres fans have been given a few rays of hope as
two recent draftees, Clarke MacArthur
(WHL) and Dylan Hunter (OHL), have
been lighting up scoreboards from coast to coast in Canadian junior action.
MacArthur, a speedy winger with the Medicine Hat Tigers, has
yet to cool after getting off to a blazing start in the 2004-05 campaign. The
Tigers began their quest to return to the Memorial Cup playoffs by posting four
straight victories, with the Lloydminster, Alberta native leading the way with
eight points during the span. MacArthur would continue his dominating play with
two goals and five assists and a +2 rating in the Tigers next three contests,
earning Greyhound WHL Player of the Week honors for the period of October 4
-11. Despite the Tigers’ equal rolling of four lines on a nightly basis,
it is very clear that MacArthur is a main cog in the Tigers 10-1-1 start.
MacArthur makes a lot of noise with constant energy on every
shift. He seemingly always finds the puck, and uses great vision to display his
excellent playmaking skills. He can shoot and pass with equal aptitude, and
doesn’t shy away from playing the role of agitator by hitting the corners hard.
In a recent 7-0 whipping of the Calgary Hitmen, MacArthur registered a “Gordie
Howe Hat Trick” with a goal, an assist, and a third period fight. The feisty
forward also racked up an additional six penalty minutes in the game courtesy
of two checking from behind infractions.
The 74th overall selection in 2003, MacArthur
currently is tied for second place in WHL scoring with 21 points in 13 games,
scoring in all but two of the first-place Tigers’ skates. Becoming more of a
solid two-way player, he has a +10 rating and 27 PIM to accompany his fine
offensive pace. Expect the explosive winger to be in the mix with Tigers
teammate Cam Barker when Brent Sutter announces the Team Canada roster for the
2004 World Junior Championships to be played this winter on American soil. The
sky truly is the limit for this prospect whose stock keeps rising.
With MacArthur producing well in the west, London Knights
winger Dylan Hunter is doing much of the same in OHL play. The Knights, loaded
offensively with first-round NHL talent like Corey Perry, Rob Schremp, and
David Bolland, got out of the gate quickly with a 14-0-1-0 start. While Perry
is leading the league in scoring with 36 points, it is Hunter, a ninth round
pick, who is second on the Knights and fourth overall in the OHL
scoring race with 11 goals and 15 assists in 15 games. He has appeared on the
score sheet in all but two of London’s games this season.
The late-round find from Petrolia, Ontario is on a mission
this season to prove his skeptics wrong. Dogged by the reputation as being a
lazy player and coach’s son, Hunter was passed over in his first year of draft
eligibility, and was facing the possibility of being a player without an NHL
team until the Sabres called his name late on day two of the 2004 draft after a
2003-04 season that saw him nearly double his previous offensive highs. Hunter
is on pace to eclipse the 100-point barrier while seeing time on the first
power play unit where he has found the net four times thus far. He certainly is
making a strong case for not returning to the junior ranks next season, but it
remains to be seen whether his success as part of the CHL’s top-ranked unit
will translate well into a pro career.
Both Hunter and MacArthur were named to teams representing
their respective leagues for this season’s CHL Canada/Russia Challenge. With
Medicine Hat looking like the team to beat in the WHL, it appears that the two
could have the chance to share another junior hockey experience as London will
host this year’s Memorial Cup. Even if NHL clubs never take to the ice in
2004-05, it appears that Sabres fans will still have plenty to cheer about
whether it’s a “General” always ready for battle, or a “Hunter” prowling for
in the CHL
Sound defenseman Andrej Sekera is
currently 17th in scoring for defensemen, and 18th in
overall rookie scoring with two goals and six assists thus far. The Czech
import is seeing power play time while making strides towards adapting to the
North American game. The Attack are 8-6-0-1 on the year in the competitive race
for second place behind London in the Midwest Division.
Peterborough Petes forward Patrick Kaleta is on pace to put up career offensive numbers this
season. The Angola, NY native currently is fifth in team scoring with six goals
and 14 points, including three power play tallies. He continues to be a
physical force for the Petes with 37 PIM, good for third on the team. The Petes
are tied with Belleville for the top spot in the East Division.
Ottawa 67’s forward Mark
Mancari is settling back into his offensive digs after starting training
camp back on the blueline. The big winger who had a career year last season
playing alongside two-time scoring champ Corey Locke has seven goals for 10
points as he looks to build chemistry with new linemates.
Barrie goaltender Jeff
Weber has been in net for four of the Colts’ seven wins, posting a 3.20 GAA
and .910 save percentage.
WHL: Mike Card (8th Round, 2004)
of the defending Memorial Cup champion Kelowna Rockets has posted one goal,
five assists, 23 PIM and a -2 rating. He had a two-assist game on October 6th
as the Rockets handed Medicine Hat their only loss to date. With Kelowna
resorting to a tight-checking defensive system that was successful in their cup
run, Card’s once-regarded offensive instincts have been somewhat stifled by the
team-first concept. Regardless, Card’s point total is still good for eighth on
the Rockets as their leading scorer, Troy Bodie, has just 12 in the young
Portland Winter Hawks defenseman Michael Funk has been rather ineffective offensively, notching one
goal, an empty netter, plus three assists and a -1 rating for the third place
‘Hawks. While he has remained steady on the back end, the Sabres second round
pick in 2004 has yet to display the physical dimension that many were hoping
was added to his arsenal.
Drummondville Voltigeurs forward L.P.
Martin recently returned to action after missing the first 13 games of the
season due to injury. The Volts leading scorer in 2003-04 is getting his legs
back, having scored a goal in three straight games after going pointless in his
first two games back. Sabres fans will be delighted to learn that he added over
15 pounds to his 6’0 frame from last season.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.