Double Minors: Sabres prospects claim Traverse City championship

Count it as the first championship in the Pegula era. The Buffalo Sabres prospects claimed the 2011 Traverse City NHL Prospect Tournament championship in their first appearance in the event with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers prospects. Be sure to check out for Kevin Snow’s coverage and video highlights.

Buffalo sent a squad with numerous veterans, including the reigning AHL Rookie of the Year, and their dominance showed. The Sabres never trailed in the contest and asserted their victory with three third period goals. Nathan Lieuwen provided another strong performance as he ran his tournament record to 2-0 with five goals against.

The gamesheets are all kinds of incorrect on the Pointstreak website, so I can’t give a full statistical analysis. For example, Zack Kassian was credited with the final Sabres goal which was clearly scored by Marcus Foligno. Still, Kassian finished with four points which ties him with Luke Adam, Nick Crawford, Jonathon Parker and Phil Varone. If my math is correct, Marcus Foligno led the Sabres with five points (3+2).

The line of Foligno-Adam-Kassian was dominant this past week. You can tell two of the three (Adam and Kassian) have seen action in the AHL while the third (Foligno) is more than ready to make the jump. They bullied their way to a combined 13 points (6+7) over the course of the tournament and were influential in controlling the pace for Buffalo tonight.

Phil Varone was also extremely impressive. I would count him in as a free agent signing for Rochester, at the very least. A two-way deal could certainly be in his future based on his performance in training camp. Shawn Szydlowski was another youngster who improved his stock over the weekend in Michigan. A late signing last season for Portland, Szydlowski was re-upped this offseason and showed some skill at both ends of the rink. I also like Jonathon Parker quite a bit. He was very noticeable at rookie camp and was able to put up solid numbers this week (1+3).

Defensively I can’t pass too much judgement. In the brief viewing period I had (tonight’s game), it was hard to draw a conclusion on any of the defensemen on the roster. Nick Crawford had a strong showing, not surprising considering he has a season of AHL play under his belt just like Adam. Other than him it is clear that each defenseman invited needs a little more time to cook as they move deeper into their junior career. I remain very optimistic about Mark Pysyk and his development, if he projects into a more responsible Brian Campbell I will be very pleased.

It was cool to see Buffalo represented in this type of tournament. So often in the past I felt like the Sabres were practicing the Monroe Doctrine for the longest time. Now the organization is making waves, sending their prospects all over and having beers with season ticket holders – more on that in a later post. This title doesn’t mean too much in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it proves that Darcy Regier and his scouting department are still awesome at drafting. It also shows that the prospect cupboard is full of some high-quality talent. But it doesn’t quench the thirst the fans have.

Still, a display or some unique feature in the Center would be a nice way to commemorate Terry Pegula’s first championship.

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