BUFFALO, NY: Zack Kassian in a position we should soon get used to seeing him in. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
We continue with the '12 Questions For Christmas' series, with question #10 today. Zack Kassian at this point has been with the Buffalo Sabres for nine games now, and has shown us flashes of what we had expected. Tonight will mark his tenth game here, his first against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and quite a few fans will be hoping to see him plastering some white Leafs jerseys against the glass at the FN Center.
Today's question follows after the break.
#9 - How good can Zack Kassian be for the Sabres?
When Kassian first made it up here from the Rochester Amerks on the day after Thanksgiving, it really felt like we finally had something to give thanks for after how brutal November had been. Chris wrote an excellent introductory post about Kassian with a recap of his career so far, definitely a must-read for those unfamiliar with the burly right winger.
In his nine games played for the Sabres, Kassian has three goals and two assists, going -1in that time. He has been averaging 12:41 minutes of ice time per game, and until Ville Leino's injury against the Ottawa Senators, he was on the third line with Leino and Luke Adam. While the winger introduced himself to the League with a couple of huge hits, since then he seems to be focusing more on maintaining pressure on opposing teams with a strong forecheck than trying to lay players out with highlight reel bonecrunchers. He has 15 hits and 12 shots on goal, and also picked up 11 minutes in PIM, which includes a fighting major against Matt Martin of the New York Islanders.
Right now Kassian is being utilized on the checking line, like a Patrick Kaleta upgrade. While there is a need for the Sabres in that position, it would certainly be considered a waste of a 13th overall draft pick if that is all he can be. He definitely has the physical size at 6'3", 215lbs to make a difference in the corners and in front of the net, can skate very well and also has the skill required to turn into a power forward that scores on a consistent basis (how long will we wait for Drew Stafford to eventually become dependable?).
Any forecasts of Kassian's future with the Sabres will have to come with a disclaimer. He has had some disciplinary issues dogging his career, and it would be a shame to see his potential be marred by phonecalls from the offices of Brendan Shanahan. So far he seems to have kept his temper under check without losing the edge to his game. He is expected to be the flagbearer of the next core of the Sabres, marking a departure from the post-lockout small, skilled players and transitioning to the big, aggressive and gritty forwards that will hopefully shed the pushover label the Sabres have earned themselves.
It may be difficult to predict since it has only been nine games for him so far, and let's all be less optimistic and more realistic - where do you see Kassian fitting in on the Sabres lineup? A top three forward opposite Thomas Vanek? Replacing Stafford in the top six? A checking line forward who can score? Or returning to Rochester at some point this season?