It was more of the same for the Sabres prospects as they worked through the third day of the annual summer camp.
Not much differed from the first two sessions with a steady mix of full-ice flow drills mixed with more situational settings as Thursday’s Blue Gold scrimmage nears. Each set of prospects had their moments of wowing the sizeable crowd on Wednesday.
Zemgus Girgensons received the biggest ovation, with even a few fans standing to applaud his nifty goal in a one-on-one drill. Girgensons turned Jake McCabe inside out, used his body to force the defenseman out of the play and then went forehand-backhand on Connor Knapp for the tally.
Girgensons simple game is easily noticeable and certainly appeals to most Buffalo fans who enjoy watching an honest, hard working kid. He has been vocal in every single drill this week and hasn’t shied away from contact if in the vicinity. Expect to see him throw his weight around a bit in the scrimmage.
Cody Hodgson also had a few moments in the sun during the later session of the day, garnering a nice response on a beauty of a wrist shot early in the gold team session. Hodsgon’s line with Luke Adam and Corey Tropp is easily the most impressive trio in camp simply due to their time together and experience against professional competition.
The Grigorenko, Girgensons and Armia line isn’t far behind, but the Hodgson line certainly has that moxie that most professionals seem to have.
As for Grigorenko, he has been somewhat invisible at times during drills when some probably expect him to dazzle every trip up the ice. However, in game settings he is an entirely different player. He is incredibly smooth in traffic and has the ability to contain the puck in limited space. I’m hopeful that his explosive offensive game is more prevalent in a full 60-minute game scenario.
Dan Catenacci was already the fastest Sabres prospect entering this camp. However, the size he has added in the past year is impressive. Catenacci is thick in the chest, neck and shoulders and no longer looks like the 18 year old drafted last season. In one-on-one race drills he was untouchable. His agility and straightaway speed are unmatched.
Jake McCabe shared some very interesting thoughts on Justin Schultz and gave a nice window into the personal side of the decision making process that Schultz went through before signing with the Oilers.
McCabe has held his own during the camp and bears and incredible resemblance to Brayden McNabb in terms of size and style. McNabb is certainly more filled out, but McCabe doesn’t shy away from contact and engages opponents early whenever possible. Given that Wisconsin is a defenseman factory bodes well for his future.
Training camp is going to provide the proving grounds for Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen to prove who is worthy of the second spot in Rochester next year. Knapp has some strange tendencies – half butterfly, plays very deep – that gives me some cause for concern. Lieuwen continued the trend of average play during drills but a strong showing in game situations. I expect the battle to be interesting to follow as training camp nears.
At times during Wednesday’s skate it seemed as if there were a few sets of heavy legs circling the ice. Who could blame these guys? They’re up at 4:30 every morning for a Navy SEAL workout before hitting the ice. That would wear on anyone, let alone a group of 18, 19 and 20 year olds. I’m hoping there is still some pop left for the scrimmage so some proper evaluations can be made.
Blue-Gold Scrimmage Primer
With the scrimmage set for 6:00 pm, I’m hoping to see a fast-paced 60 minutes. Neither team has a full set of four lines and the gold team is actually short one player. Given the varying skill level of each squad, there should be plenty of room for goal scoring. There are a few players I’m going to be keeping a close eye on:
- Judd Peterson: He has fit right in despite being the most green of all the prospects. I’m interested to see how he fares in a game setting with collegiate, junior and professionals all around him.
- Grigroenko/Girgensons/Armia: All three have had impressive moments over the first three days, a strong showing in the scrimmage would help to reinforce the hopes some have begun to form after seeing the trio on the ice this week. For Grigorenko and Girgensons, a strong showing could be used as a foundation for a contract.
- Pysyk and JGL: Each of the dynamic defensemen have had a solid week of camp. JGL has shown a good nose for the puck and hockey IQ. Pysyk has been steady but unassuming. I’m hoping to see a bit more from each in a proper game.
- Linus Ullmark: Ullmark has been solid throughout the first few days. He’s still a few years away from getting a contract, but I still want to break him down a bit in a game scenario.