Today marks the final day of Development Camp for the Sabres as their final scrimmage of the week will take place later today. However, the big news came from Joe Yerdon who noted that Zemgus Girgensons signed his entry level contract and will play in Rochester next season.
Girgensons was one of the most impressive players at the camp this week, using his straight-line, physical style to impress most who walked through the doors of First Niagara Center. He turned in the highlight of the Blue and Gold scrimmage last night, with a nifty goal against Nathan Lieuwen in the second period.
Between the two 2012 first round picks, Girgensons probably stood out more for the things he did. The highlight reel goal last night, a similarly impressive goal in individual drills the day before and playing with a lot of energy at all times during the week.
Mikhail Grigorenko wasn’t making highlights every time he touched the puck, which is probably what some expected. However, his unique skillset was certainly on display and he showed why he was ranked near the top of the draft. His core strength needs to improve so that he isn’t easily knocked off the puck.
Personally, I thought he may have been trying to do a bit too much at times during the week. When he let the game come to him and settled down, he was able to make some awesome plays. In addition to his slick shootout goal, he had a great give-and-go that turned into a beautiful cross-zone pass to Corey Feinhage for a goal.
Grigorenko will get every chance to make the team when training camp and the presseason come along. I expect that he will also get his nine-game audition before any final decision is made.
In a 7-3 game, there wasn’t too much phenomenal goaltending on display. Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen each played evenly through their half of the game before giving way to Linus Ullmark and Mark Guggenberger. Ullmark gave up the most goals but also saw the most action. Of all the goalies, he faced the most high quality chances.
The difference between Knapp’s style and Lieuwen’s is quite evident. Lieuwen is very good in game situations and battles to find and stop pucks. Knapp is a little more measured and plays a bit deeper in his crease. He will need to find a happy medium when he starts facing professional shooters on a regular basis.
Pros shine through
Marcus Foligno was probably the most impressive of the incumbent Buffalo Sabres that played in camp. Just on strength alone there weren’t many in attendance who could match up with him, particularly down low. He threw a number of big body checks and had a solid compete level throughout the week.
Cody Hodgson, Corey Tropp and Luke Adam were all clearly more developed than the others at camp and Brayden McNabb was the best defenseman by a mile. The rest of the summer will be big for those five players in their hopes of landing a roster spot.
ELC’s all around
Those prospects with entry level contracts had varied success throughout last night’s game. Dan Catenacci has bulked up and plays with a great battle level. He is also on of the fastest players I’ve seen in some time.
Kevin Sundher was good, but not great and the incoming defensemen all had strong showings. Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Mark Pysyk each were strong contributors. Pysyk was far more balanced while JGL had a nice mix of offense and defense to his game. I’m interested to see how he does against professionals.
Back to Junior
Of those on the roster who will ultimately head back to their junior team or college, there was some very good hockey played throughout the group.
For the second-straight year, Alex Lepkowski impressed me. He won’t see professional hockey for a few more seasons, but his skillset is what you want in a defenseman. He makes a solid first pass, he reads the play well (he had two great pinches to hold the zone) and he is massive.
Judd Peterson also stood out to me as a great late round selection. He is playing in the USHL and then a couple of seasons at Minnesota, so his development track is still growing. However, he was all over the ice making plays this week. He made a great play to force a turnover for a breakaway early in the scrimmage last night.
Training camp is a few weeks away and the next month or so promises to be very quiet in the hockey world. The Sabres took a major step forward with their signing of Girgensons and I’d expect to see a contract for Grigorenko come along quite soon.