So far, the Feb. 2012 trade between the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks that sent Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani to the Canucks and Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer to the Sabres has worked out for the best for both teams. Kassian is thriving alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin, while Hodgson has three goals in six games for Buffalo.
Both were first round draft picks for their respective original teams, and both clubs have to be thrilled to finally see both players living up to their potential. Kassian’s five goals lead the Canucks after seven games, as the physical presence he brings as a power forward has been a great fit on Vancouver’s top line.During the lockout, Kassian starred for the Chicago Wolves in the AHL, scoring seven goals and recording 20 points. He still plays a physical game and can lay down heavy hits, but has matured since his days as a sometimes reckless junior player.
During the 2010-11 season, Kassian scored 26 goals and added 51 assists for the Windsor Spitfires, and another six goals and 10 assists in the playoffs. He turned pro with the Sabres following that season and was assigned to the AHL Portland Pirates. He scored 15 goals and racked up 26 points in 30 games for the team’s new affiliate, the Rochester Americans, in 2011-12. He saw his first NHL action with the Sabres later that season, and scored three goals in 27 games.
With the Canucks still sorting out their goaltending situation, they’ll need everything they can get out of their forwards. Kassian’s emergence as a legitimate top-line scoring threat is great for the team, and he should only continue to get better the rest of the season.