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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Even though there has only been two days worth of practice, it is probably safe to say the blue squad is a deeper and more talented bunch than those in gold at Sabres Development Camp.
With an opportunity to watch the gold group’s practice today I noticed that there is a little less flash as compared to the blue team anchored by Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons. The gold team’s top set of players – Luke Adam, Cody Hodgson and Corey Tropp – certainly has the most fluidity in terms of chemistry, but the rest of the squad lacks the polish of the blue team.
Day two of camp was a little more focused on game scenarios and playing in traffic as compared to day one. There was still a fair amount of flow drills done in the early going, but the latter half of the ice time was primarily centered in a scrimmage setting.
The Adam, Hodgson, Tropp trio was heads and shoulders above the rest of the group during most of the drills. They were particularly dangerous in odd-man situations, shredding the defense on a few occasions during three-on-two drills. They also had success during the final four-on-four scrimmage to close the session.
On the whole, the gold team looked a little disjointed at times during the day and there was certainly an obvious lack of chemistry from top to bottom. I’d venture a guess that two days of 4:30 wakeup calls and SEAL training coupled with a full on-ice practice with conditioning to follow would kick anyone’s ass. So perhaps that, plus the fact that a vast majority of these players have never played together has something to do with the sloppy play. Continue reading
With day one of Development Camp in the books, it is quite clear that the Sabres have some impressive skill throughout their prospect ranks.
The prospect group has been broken into a blue and gold squad, with a few more veterans on the gold side and some more explosive talent on the blue team. Based on my schedule, I will only be able to catch the first session for Monday and Tuesday but be present for the entire time on Wednesday and Thursday.
Today’s first group was the blue team’s prospects that included Joel Armia, Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko. The blue team is certainly full of more of the high-octane talent on the Development roster as compared to those with more NHL and AHL games played on the gold team.
The blue team is loaded with the top prospects from each of the last three NHL drafts. In addition to Armia, Girgensons and Grigorenko, the blue squad boasts Mark Pysyk, Marcus Foligno and Brayden McNabb.
As for the gold team, Luke Adam, Cody Hodgson and Corey Tropp will anchor the team in terms of talent up front while Dan Catenacci, Brian Flynn, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Matt MacKenzie and Kevin Sundher all are players who signed with the Sabres in the past year.
Monday’s first session ran through a number of basic puck movement and flow drills with a few drills with a bit more of battle included. A majority of the ice time was devoted to full ice, transition drills that lead to equal (2-on-2) and odd-man (2-on-1 and 3-on-2) rushes. Most of the drills were straight forward enough that each players’ talent level was on display each rush down the ice. I would expect the next two days will start infusing a bit more systematic hockey as compared to simple rush drills. Continue reading
After seeing the undrafted players brought in by the Sabres for last year’s Development Camp, the four camp invites for 2012 should be interesting to keep track of.
With so many more draft picks and players under contract expected to be at this year’s camp, there are significantly fewer invitees coming for this year’s Development Camp. Seven players, including goaltender John Cullen, came to camp without a contract and a pair ended up signing a contract and playing in the minors with Buffalo last year.
Jonathon Parker and Phil Varone each signed a deal to play in the minors after some strong play at the mid-summer evaluation camp. Parker only played a few games in Rochester and most of the year in Gwinnett. Varone, however, was a revelation and became a fairly significant scorer for the Amerks last season.
Although there are only three skaters and one goaltender (with a totally awesome name) invited to this year’s camp, each should be worth a once over during the four days they’re on the ice. Frederick Roy is particularly intriguing based on his 92 point (27+65) year with Quebec in the QMJHL.
A teammate of first-round pick Mikhail Grigorenko, Roy is a bit undersized (5’10” 160), but put up serious numbers. The Q can always be a bit deceiving because of the general lack of defense played by every single team in the league, but 92 points is 92 points no matter where you’re playing. Except Quebec high school hockey, right Mr. Feaster? Continue reading
With Development Camp set to open on Monday morning, the Sabres will be rolling out a few firsts with this year’s version of the evaluation camp.
The first, and biggest change is that First Niagara Center will be home base for the week. The camp was previously held at Dwyer Arena at Niagara University. The twin rink facility there lent itself well to getting the entire camp roster on the ice. However, hosting at FNC will allow for greater fan access, thus leading to greater exposure. Bravo to the Sabres for leveraging this situation into something that benefits them and the fans.
Thursday’s Blue and Gold Scrimmage is bound to draw a large crowd, I’m expecting the lower bowl to be fully occupied by fans wanting to see players like Joel Armia, Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons and others. Armia, Grigorenko and Girgensons represent the other set of firsts which will be rolled out next week. In addition to the three young forwards, Cody Hodgson and Mark Pysyk will be the other first round picks in attendance for the camp. Providing fans a close look at so many first round talents will not only provide a great look at the future, it will help to generate significant buzz amongst the fan base.
It will be particularly important for some of the invitees to set a good example with these practices. Grigorenko has already been rumored to be working on a deal, while Girgensons can play in the AHL next season should he sign his ELC. Marcus Foligno Hodgson, Luke Adam, Corey Tropp and Brayden McNabb will be hoping to further convince the staff to keep them around next year; while players just into their ELCs (Armia, Pysyk, Kevin Sundher, JGL, Dan Catenacci) will be looking to make a solid first impression. Continue reading