“Vets” Steal the Show at Development Camp

It’s easy to get overly excited about development camp. Any group of highly skilled, largely NHL-caliber hockey players will typically look pretty good working through drills. Especially small-area skill drills with minimal defensive challenge. There’s plenty to glean from the week as fans, media and coaches have the opportunity to see players perform in a variety of settings but crowning greatness from the endeavor can be tricky.

I’ve been guilty of taking too much away from the camp myself. Back in 2012 I was convinced that Judd Peterson was sure to be a late-round gem due to his development camp performance. Since then I’ve tried to avoid falling into the same trap. I’ve found it helpful to focus on individual growth and skills rather than trying to project any sort of impact onto the Buffalo Sabres roster. In other words, I’m not trying to name an MVP based on the stickhandling drills they did on Friday.

There are some obvious caveats to this. Casey Mittlestadt’s coming out party last year helped to erase some of the doubts people had about him heading into the draft. Even just a few weeks removed from his draft Mittelstadt was among the most skilled players at the camp and his play certainly inspired confidence in the fanbase, and perhaps the organization as well. But there are just as many cases where an impressive camp performance won’t accurately reflect where a player stands organizationally. So I try to keep that in mind when attending camp.

With that in mind, I’m going to try something a little different with my round up. This will be more of a notebook, touching on players who showed either growth or intriguing upside based on their play. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.25 – Mittlestadt, College Signings and Expectations

Casey Mittelstadt is under contract. So is Will Borgen while Judd Peterson signed a minor league deal. Good thing the Sabres have trouble signing college players.

On this episode of the podcast we discuss the impact of Mittelstadt’s signing and what type of expectations we should have for the rookie over his first six games. We also touch on how Borgen’s signing has the potential to turn the pipeline in a positive direction and, most importantly, Mittelstadt’s choice of number.

 

Two in the Mailbox – When Does Mittelstadt get Signed, Next Year’s Goalies and Pipeline Graduates

Two in the Mailbox, the weekly mailbag on the Sabres, goalie stuff, Buffalo and anything in between, is back. You can submit to the mailbag using #2ITBmailbag on Twitter or emailing 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

Matt/@matt_hervan – Which Casey signs a contract first, Mittelstadt or Nelson?

Sign this man

This is a good one. There’s been some chatter that Mittelstadt will return to Minnestoa for another season rather than signing to play in Rochester. There’s no guarantee that’s what Jason Botterill would want him to do – although it’s likely given his m/o – but that’s an option that would be on the table which could also keep the clock on his entry-level deal from starting. However, if Mittelstadt is to sign it’s my belief that it will come this spring after his season with the Gophers comes to a close. The Sabres would have the ability to pitch him on getting pro games right away, even burning a year of his ELC if it comes to that. He’d get a chance to make his NHL debut and he’d be able to play in the playoffs with Rochester as well, which should be a decent selling point for the player just as it would be an attractive development step for the club.

Getting Nelson extended seems like it’s going to be an offseason task. He’s unrestricted thanks to his Group VI UFA status but he really fits the mold of a true RFA. So it seems likely that once the season wraps up that Botterill will get to work on penning a new contract between Nelson and his agent.

It’s worth noting that my assumptions here are based on rumors and media reports on both player’s contract status. It would be just as easy to view Nelson as a player the Sabres will prioritize now rather than waiting until the summer when the clock is really ticking. Same goes to Mittlestadt as there’s been more than a few reports indicating the full court press will come in the summer.   Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox – What to do with Mittelstadt?

Two in the Mailbox, the weekly (week and a half this time) mailbag on the Sabres, goalie stuff, Buffalo and anything in between, is back. You can submit to the mailbag using #2ITBmailbag on Twitter or emailing 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

Jake/@Jvince11 – What do you think the chances are that when Mittelstadt’s season is over that he signs an ELC and at least plays in Rochester? Maybe Buffalo? A Clayton Keller move like he did with PHX last year. Continue reading

Best Value Games for the 2018 World Junior Championships

Things are going to be quite a bit different in Buffalo when you compare things to the last time the World Junior Championships came to town.

Downtown is far more vibrant, Canalside is slightly more developed and HarborCenter will serve as the second home for the tournament. No more jaunts to Dwyer Arena to catch the secondary matchups, which not only means that the corner of Perry and Washington will be home to more action throughout the tournament, some of the intriguing non-marquee matchups will be easier to access.

You can get an up close look at Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for single digit prices at this year’s World Juniors.

The WJC will always have a handful of can’t miss preliminary matchups and this year will be no different. The outdoor game between the US and Canada, which is reported to have a surprisingly low attendance number (paywall) at the moment, is the obvious headliner, but Russia-Sweden, USA-Finland and Canada-Finland will be well worth the cost of attendance as well. What fans in Buffalo should be aware of are the slate of games lacking headliners which will be both affordable and appealing from a Sabres-fan perspective. Continue reading

Plenty of Players to Keep an Eye on at Sabres Development Camp

There will be a strong pro presence at this year’s Sabres Development Camp thanks to a host of older prospects who will Buffalo’s recent draft classes at the team’s annual summer camp.

Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, Hudson Fasching, Brendan Guhle, Sean Malone, Alex Nylander and CJ Smith all saw time with the big club last season and are part of a larger group of 13 players who enter development camp with a professional contract. 

While this group might not necessarily be as sexy as the 2015 camp headlined by Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, the impressive stable of talent at this year’s development camp will likely draw the attention of the most prospect apathetic fans like @buffalowins. Thanks to the presence of the last two first round picks and a number of other intriguing prospects, this year’s development camp has the potential to provide some entertaining and insightful results.

Since there will be so many players with pro experience at camp, the skill level ought to be higher than previous years. However, with that skill level comes the expectation of dominance for more developed prospects. The likes of Bailey, Fasching and Guhle should stand out this weekend and the only real surprise would be if someone from the group of incumbent pros doesn’t look heads and shoulders better than some of the younger attendees.

I always have a handful of players I look forward to seeing at camp but I had trouble whittling down this year’s roster to just five or six intriguing names. So, because there were so many players I had hoped to see, and in the interest of being a bit different from the other Development Camp previews that are out there, I thought I’d provide a few groups of players who offer the most intrigue to me. You may not have as much interest in these groups or individuals as I do, but these will be the players I’m keeping track of this weekend in the hopes that they’re on track to become long-term contributors for the Sabres. Continue reading