28 February 2012
Next up in the blogger opinions on Zack Kassian, is Philip of Black & Blue & Gold for his thoughts on Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani. You can follow him on twitter at @PhilBBG
"First of all, it's pronounced "Kass-e-in".
Zack Kassian was the Sabres pick in the 2009 draft, taken 13th overall. At the time, he was the sometimes-scoring, often-punching captain of the Petersborough Petes. It was for this reason that the Sabres drafted the big winger. The spring after he was drafted, he was traded from the Petes to the Windsor Spitfires to boost their jam in the top six. His first game in Spits red, he laid out his infamous missile check to the head that earned him a 20 game suspension. Once he got back on the ice, he was a force along the boards and helped chip in offensively as Windsor won their second straight Memorial Cup. His final season in junior, Kassian was a scoring juggernaut and the undisputed heavyweight champ of the OHL before the WJC in Buffalo. In the tournament at then-HSBC Arena, he played the role of human wrecking ball alongside future Amerks teammate Marcus Foligno. Fans and media alike were impressed by his powerful hitting and offensive instincts.
His play petered off after the WJC tournament, both offensively and aggressively. Critics noticed, but a strong showing in the Traverse City prospect tournament brightened fans on his future. He certainly got his offensive game back in Rochester, but the toughness seldom showed up. He struggled to play consistently when called up by the Sabres as well.
Consistency has been the only real knock on the winger. Kassian is a big boy, capable of fending off multiple defenders with a single arm (it's really impressive how strong he is) and claiming territory on top of the crease. How often he does is another story. He doesn't have the best wheels but is hard to stop when he gets rolling. He doesn't have the best shot, but has shown off "silky mitts" more than once. He can own the ice but rarely challenges for it. e can punch, too. Holy jumpin', can he punch. Just look him up on Hockey Fights. NHL scouts and local pundits question his motivation and heart. If he finds the drive to go hard every game, he's a productive second liner who can score 20 goals, control play along the boards, and defend his linemates. If he doesn't, he could wind-up a 4th line goon with some offense to spare. Is he NHL ready this season? No - he's barely an AHL rookie, much less NHL rookie.
Marc-Andre Gragnani isn't so promising. An offensive defenseman, MAG (or Grags) is a guy whose defensive play was wretched enough that he didn't even dress every night and when he did, he was given bottom pair minutes and scant power play time. Alain Vigneault coached him in the QMJHL, which is why the Canucks might have wanted him, but otherwise he won't be an impact pick-up anytime soon unless something dramatic happens to him. With the depth in Vancouver, he might wind up on the Chicago Wolves' roster. "
So there we have it, though I feel like I've come out of this question feeling less sure of Kassian helping the team this post season than before I started asking questions about him. At least I know how to pronounce his name correctly.
Big thanks to Philip for answering my questions on our new acquisitions so quickly. Give his site Black & Blue & Gold a visit and follow him on twitter at @PhilBBG