Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
An impressive campaign in the AHL will make it difficult for the Buffalo Sabres to keep TJ Brennan down in Rochester when the NHL returns.
When most Sabres fans mentally went through the Sabres defensemen for the 2012-13 season, their lists usually included Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold, Brayden McNabb, Mike Weber, and Alex Sulzer, with TJ Brennan as the odd man out.
However, thanks to an impressive opening to his AHL season, Brennan may leapfrog a few of those bigger names once (if) the NHL training camps open for business.
Brennan was always known best for his cannon of a slap shot - clocking in at about 100mph - and this season has seen him put it to good use. After scoring in his last three games, the 23-year old defenseman is tied for the lead amongst all AHL blueliners with seven goals, and those same seven goals also put him in a tie for sixth in goals among all skaters. Most of his goals have come thanks to the big slapper, which is always a potent weapon no matter where the left-hander finds himself on the ice, and his howitzer is a big part of a potent Amerks power play.
It's highly unlikely that Brennan will ever evolve into a shutdown-type player on defense, though this season has also seen improved defensive consistency from him. If he can become more reliable in his own zone, then his offensive upside should vault him ahead of players like Sulzer, Weber, and possibly even McNabb and Regehr, if he becomes reliable enough.
The lockout is a good thing for players like Brennan and McNabb - it's allowing them to play in an amped-up AHL without the pressure of trying to get called up; they can simply focus on their own games and on steady improvement each and every game. If the progress and production being shown by Brennan thus far continues (he has two games this weekend) then the Sabres brass could have some difficult decisions to make come training camp.