When the Buffalo Sabres decided to select former Peterborough Pete forward Zack Kassian 13th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, they knew what they were getting— a hard-nosed tough guy with developing offensive ability.
On Thursday, Kassian debuted with his new squad — the Windsor Spitfires — scoring a goal, and delivering a thunderous blow that has been undoubtedly labelled as a head shot. As a result, the soon-to-be 19-year-old will have a seat in the presser, as the Ontario Hockey League handed out an indefinite suspension.
The 6'3", 210 pounder levelled a defenseless Matt Kennedy of the Barrie Colts, who was looking up at a floating puck near center ice. Kassian, however, did not slow down, and left his feet while delivering the crushing hit.
Immediately Kennedy's teammate Matt Stanisz stepped in to confront Kassian, who welcomed the sparing challenge with open arms. Consequently, Kassian rocked Stanisz, too.
Although I love the rugged toughness of Kassian, there is no place in the game for dirty and dangerous hits like that.
Not only was the hit high, but Kennedy did not have the puck on his stick. Though the puck was in his vicinity as it bounced up in the air, there is no doubt Kassian deserves the suspension.
The LaSalle, Ontario native struggled early this season with the Petes, scoring only eight goals and 27 points in the season's first 33 games. What's more, Kassian recorded a minus-18 plus/minus rating, before being dealt to Windsor to play for former Sabre tough guy, Bob Boughner.
Now Kassian's season has taken another nose dive, and he will learn his concrete punishment as the week progresses. Don't be surprised if the OHL lays the hammer on the youngster.
For Buffalo, the future still looks very bright. Coming into the draft, Kassian was highly regarded as one of the toughest players in junior hockey. Scouts and hockey analysts compared him to the likes of Boston Bruin forward, Milan Lucic. For Sabres fans, Kassian can be easily compared to the high-motor, freight train otherwise know as Pat Kaleta.
Let's hope Kassian gets another chance this season to continue to develop his offensive skills, as well as toughness , to show he can be a legitimate force in the pros.