Zack Kassian Recalled: What to Expect

Kassian has finally arrived in the B-lo.

Buffalo’s 13th selection of the 2009 draft, the Sabres picked up Zack Kassian in an effort to bulk up their team. It’s convenient now to mention the comparisons to Milan Lucic that he was receiving then. Sabres fans might have preferred him brought up a couple days ago – but he’s here – and now it’s time to see what he can do.

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A pic from the draft, taken moments before Kassian chewed up the puck, spat it out in a hundred pieces and called it a wuss.

I think my initial thoughts on Kassian during the draft were pretty spot on.

Kassian has been compared to every power forward from Cam Neeley to Milan Lucic to Brad May.

With the 13th pick, the Sabres weren’t looking for Cam Neeley, but did score a second or first or second line power forward who will bring a balance of size back into the Sabres smallish lineup.

The best comparison right now is Steve Bernier, a player that Buffalo fans know well. Kassian will hit and fight more than Bernier, but the offensive output should be about the same.

In other words, we can expect the toughness and grit of Lucic, but maybe not to much the talent. Still, he’s tied for the team lead in goals with the Amerks (at 7, with fellow ’09 draftee Marcus Foligno). Kassian also leads the Amerks with 14 points. Those numbers have made for a fine pro debut for the big guy, but what about that featured toughness? From Keith Wozniak of “Let’s Go Amerks:”

Plus: Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno are so far having great rookie seasons each having scored seven goals already.  Kassian also has seven assists compared to one for Foligno.

Minus: The lack of a physical play from players like  Zack Kassian and Brayden McNabb who were known for that at the junior level.  This doesn’t mean going out there and fighting but besides a hit here and their they aren’t having a real presence on the ice.  They’re strong and use their bodies but playing a more physical game could help change the pace of some games.  It’s likely how Buffalo has asked them to play which is understandable but it’s an element of the game that could be a difference maker at times.

(Follow Keith on the Twitter at @LetsGoAmerks.)

Indeed, that’s the style of play we saw from Kassian during the pre-season, and it’s the style we should expect from him tonight. He’s going to fight along the boards, he’s going to go to the net, and he is going to hit. Just don’t expect him to explode onto the ice and immediately hit every player not wearing a Blue and Gold sweater.

The Sabres have been stern with Kassian, ensuring that his game wouldn’t be as reckless as it was when he was a junior. If you recall, Buffalo even postponed negotiating a contract with him after he slugged a guy in a bar in Canada.

If his play at the AHL level tells us anything, it’s that the Sabres efforts and patience are paying off. Again, he’s going to work the boards, get to the net, and hit some bodies, but he’s not going to do anything reckless.

He is certainly not going to do anything to get him demoted. This is Kassian’s chance, folks. He needs to prove to the Sabres’ brass that he is going to play things their way. That’s how it works for guys who make it to the NHL. For the Sabres, they’ll get a first taste of the promise of the size and toughness that they picked up in the ’09 draft, something they sorely need before going into the playoffs again.

Good luck tonight, Zack.

Go Sabres.

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