Justin Kea (2012, third round) added five points to his surprising season haul last week as the surging Saginaw Spirit extended their OHL winning streak to five games. Kea, who scored a combined seven goals in his first two seasons in Saginaw, has fully embraced his elevated role in 2012-13, collecting 36 points (16+20) through 44 games while blossoming as one of the league’s elite defensive forwards.
The big centerman opened the week with a bang Wednesday, potting a pair of first period goals before setting up the game-winner late in the third as Saginaw downed Plymouth 6-5. On Saturday, Kea continued his excellent two-way play with a goal, an assist, and a game-best plus-three rating as the Spirit defeated London 5-2 to hand the Knights their first regulation loss in 29 games.
A top notch faceoff performer, Kea’s statistical growth and willingness to do the heavy lifting make him a pivotal piece to coach Greg Gilbert’s squad. The newly-appointed assistant captain will look to continue the mid-season momentum on Friday when the Spirit welcomes Sault Ste. Marie to the Dow Event Center.
Dan Catenacci (2011, third round) saw his four-game goal slumber come to an end Thursday with a power play strike as Owen Sound lost at Niagara 3-2 in a shootout. The polished pivot continues to pace the Attack with 54 points (22+32) heading into Friday's tilt at Kingston.
On Thursday, Alex Lepkowski (2011, fifth round) returned to the Barrie lineup for the first time since Dec. 15 as the Colts earned a 5-4 shootout win over Mississauga. The stingy defender, who missed the club’s previous seven dates while recovering from an upper body injury, finished with a game-high plus-three rating. Lepkowski suffered a setback in the week’s action, and sat out Saturday versus Niagara.
Andrey Makarov made 30 saves in his return to the Saskatoon net Friday as the Blades dropped a 3-1 decision to Red Deer. Makarov surrendered a goal at 5:28 of the first period, snapping his shutout streak of 134:49 going back to early December. The Blades’ undisputed starter, Makarov followed up on Saturday with another 30-save effort in a 2-1 loss to Edmonton.
Colin Jacobs (2011, fourth round) scored his 14th goal of the year over the weekend to help Prince George earn three of a possible four points versus division rival Kamloops. The power play tally was Jacobs’ first point in six games of the 2013 calendar.
Mikhail Grigorenko (2012, first round) was unable to connect in back-to-back games, a first in his prolific season, before departing for Buffalo to participate at his first NHL training camp. The exciting playmaker left Quebec having scored 29 goals and 50 points in 32 junior games.
Grigorenko, who was the only junior player to receive an invitation to their weeklong training camp, can be evaluated for a maximum of five games without using up a year of his entry-level contract, providing one of the major storylines as the Sabres staff pieces together their roster for the shortened 2013 schedule.
Christian Isackson (2010, seventh round) made national highlights Wednesday with a beautiful backhand goal as No. 1 Minnesota skated to a 4-1 victory over No.2/3 Notre Dame. Isackson, who on Saturday saw his four-game point streak snapped as the Gophers cruised past Alaska-Anchorage, has filled various roles as a sophomore en route to posting 14 points (3+11). Minnesota returns to action next weekend, hosting rival North Dakota for the final time in the regular season as members of the WCHA. Minnesota will begin play in Big Ten hockey conference in 2013-14.
Jake McCabe (2012, second round) resumed top defensive pair duties over the weekend as Wisconsin swept Minnesota State with a 2-1 victory. Brad Navin (2011, seventh round) played in just one of the two weekend tilts for the Badgers, who extended their winning streak to six games while going unbeaten in their last 10 (7-0-3).
Judd Peterson (2012, seventh round) saw his four-game point streak come to an end Friday as Cedar Rapids defeated Muskegon 4-1. The Junior A rookie has gained confidence with each passing week, stacking an even 20 points (7+13) through 28 games while
Linus Ullmark (2012, sixth round) earned his second SEL start of the year Thursday, making an impressive 33 saves to guide MODO to a 3-1 win over Brynäs IF. Ullmark improved to 2-0 in his top league starts while posting a 1.19 GAA and .957 save%. The 19-year old netminder returned to the J20 squad on Sunday, making 20 saves in a 4-3 victory over Färjestads BK.
In SM-Liiga action, Joel Armia (2011, first round) directed nine shots in 14:08 of work Saturday as Assat claimed a 3-2 win over TPS. The flashy Finn has one assist in three games since returning from the World Junior Championship, upping his production to 15 points (10+5) with 20 games left on the schedule. The Aces will be in action again on Tuesday versus Tappara.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s web site - sabresprospects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @sabresprospects for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.