Things haven't been going well for the Buffalo Sabres this year - at 10-15-4, they're one spot from the cellar in Eastern Conference - but you'd generally have to think the future's bright. The Sabres own a pile of fine young talent (Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Tyler Myers, et al), plus some quality veterans (Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville) in their primes, and the fairly reliable goalie tandem of Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth. It's been a tough season, sure, but there's hope going forward.
One of those hopes was T.J. Brennan. The 23-year-old (soon to be 24) defenseman had put an impressive campaign together for AHL Rochester this year, playing there during the lockout and accumulating an extremely impressive 35 points in 36 games. And he wasn't just along for the ride, racking up assists - he scored 14 goals in the minors, plus one in 10 NHL games with Buffalo, giving him one more goal this season than Vanek's picked up thus far. Admittedly, in more games. But hey, he's a defenseman!
So what did the Sabres do? They played him in just 10 games, scratched him repeatedly, and then traded him to Florida on Friday for a fifth-round pick.
A fifth-round pick. For a defenseman who scored - this year - at a point-per-game pace in the AHL. Now, I get that Brennan hasn't done much at the NHL level, with just two points in 21 games with Buffalo spread over this year and last, but his potential is massive as a former second-round pick who's scored 15, 16 and 14 goals in his last three AHL seasons.
Naturally, Brennan stepped into 23:42 of ice time in his Panthers debut Saturday, scoring a goal against the Isles' Evgeni Nabokov.
And that's this week in NHL trades that should never have happened and will be regretted for a long time to come.
Tyler Johnson, C, TB - Johnson went undrafted when he was in juniors, but certainly received plenty attention after ripping off 53 goals and 115 points in his final season with Spokane of the WHL. The Lightning signed him up and sent him to the AHL, where he's notched 63 goals and 63 assists (how balanced!) for 126 points in 134 games over the last two seasons. Since being promoted, he's done a lot with a minimal amount of ice time, averaging less than 11 minutes in his three games, and yet ripping off a goal and two assists. He may be undersized at 5-9, 182, but Johnson sure packs a punch in the offensive zone and has gone plus-42 in his AHL career (including plus-25 this year for a Syracuse team with mediocre goaltending), so he's not a liability defensively.
Jack Campbell, G, DAL - Campbell was flip-flopped with the ineffective Richard Bachman, and he'll probably see his first NHL action in whichever of Wednesday and Thursday's back-to-back games isn't started by Kari Lehtonen. The 11th overall pick in 2010, Campbell's got a reputation as a big-game netminder thanks to his success in international competition, but he's been fairly mediocre for AHL Texas, posting a .906 save mark over 32 games.
Taylor Beck, LW, NAS - The 2009 third-round pick starred for the OHL's Guelph Storm in his final two years of juniors, and after a mediocre start to his pro career with AHL Milwaukee last season, he's significantly improved this year, already eclipsing last season's point total with a team-leading 41 in 50 games. A budding power forward, Beck's got an impressive combination of size and offensive skill that should play in the NHL long-term.
Ryan Spooner, C, BOS - Spooner's been killing it for AHL Providence this year, easily leading the team with 45 points in 50 games. That's come on the back of a pile of assists - 33 of them by the slick playmaking centerman, who was selected by the Bruins in the second round in 2010. Spooner's undersized and will need to prove able to handle the physical game at the NHL level, but he's going to have a chance to skate with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton in Tuesday's game against the Jets.
Mikhail Grigorenko, C, BUF - Speaking of underperforming young Sabres, Grigorenko's seen 22 games of action for Buffalo this year and managed a whole goal and four assists. Finally, the Sabres elected to send him on down to get some experience back with Quebec of the QMJHL, from which he jumped to upstate New York. The 12th overall pick in last year's draft hasn't played in the AHL, and it's an odd choice to return him to juniors rather than the minor leagues, having already burned a year of his entry-level contract. Sabres GM Darcy Regier is doing a great job of managing the team horrendously enough to be fired at the end of the year.
Gustav Nyquist, C, DET - With Darren Helm (back) on the verge of returning, Nyquist's latest too-short trial with the Wings came to an end. He'd picked up a point in two games with Detroit, skating solid minutes, but returns to the AHL, where he leads the circuit in scoring with 60 points.
Chris Terry, LW, CAR - Terry got into three games with Carolina, scoring a goal in the first, but seeing ever-decreasing ice time thereafter, before being shipped back to the AHL. Still, his first taste of the big leagues was a positive one, and the winger's got a promising future as a scorer. He still leads Charlotte in scoring by 10 points over his nearest competition.
Mark Stone, RW, OTT - Stone got into four games with Ottawa in his first regular-season NHL experience, skating 10 minutes on average and going minus-1 with no points, three shots on goal and 10 hits. The physical play's great, and we know he's got plenty of offensive skill after he racked up an incredible 229 points in his final two junior seasons. The AHL hasn't treated him as well so far, as he's got just 22 points in 40 games there this year, but look for him to continue developing into an impressive power forward in the long run.
Tyson Barrie, D, COL - Barrie was sent down last Tuesday after having been scratched in two consecutive games. Still, you gotta like his six points in 15 games with Colorado this year, not to mention his 29 in 38 with AHL Lake Erie. We all know Barrie's offensive upside - it's just a matter of when the Avs decide he's solid enough in the defensive end that they're willing to commit to him.
The Future to Come
This week's prospect is Martin Frk, a 19-year-old right wing currently playing for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. The Red Wings' 2012 second-round pick is on a nice development path, exhibiting this year that typical third-season scoring breakout you see in juniors. The young Czech has ripped off 36 goals and 84 points in 56 games this season, good for 13th in the circuit in scoring.
Frk's got a great combination of size and shooting ability that should play well long-term for the Wings. They like to bring their prospects along slowly, as we've seen with Nyquist and many who came before him, so Frk is going to have a long time to develop his raw skills in juniors and the AHL. He's a few years off, but by the time he gets to the big leagues, you're going to want to own him in fantasy. The guy can flat-out score.
If you have any players you'd like me to discuss in next week's column, please direct all inquiries here, or feel free to discuss them in the comments.