|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
It takes a lot of big-name players and valuable assets to make a blockbuster trade.
When the Buffalo Sabres traded Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues last season, a lot of focus was put on the first-round pick the Sabres acquired in 2015, the conditional pick that became a third-rounder in 2016, wing Chris Stewart and goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
One piece of the trade that might have easily fallen under the radar was the prospect Buffalo also received in the deal, forward William Carrier.
“He was a first-round touted kid that missed half the season with an ankle injury. He’s got size. He’s got skill,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray said at the time of the trade. “He’s got stuff that we have to help him with and that’s another part of it. We’re going to try to really buckle down here with our development program and help young guys get better. He’s just that – he’s a prospect.”
Sabres fans got their first live look at the 19-year-old wing last week during the team’s development camp at First Niagara Center.
Carrier, who now checks in at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, finished that injury-shortened draft season with 16 goals and 42 points in 34 games with Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was selected in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Blues (57th overall) and then went on to sign a three-year entry level contract later that summer.
Last season, Carrier recorded 22 goals and 65 points in 66 games with Cape Breton and then Drummondville. Then he moved again when St. Louis and Buffalo came to an agreement on the evening of Feb. 28.
“I wasn’t really surprised with the trade,” he said. “I just didn’t think the trade would be that big. ”
Carrier said that the Sabres had scouted him a few times during the season and he talked with them a few times before the 2013 Draft, so he was already pretty familiar with some members of the organization.
However, he missed the end of last season with an ankle injury and was unable to join the Rochester Americans for their playoff run. He'll likely be with the Amerks in the fall.
“I was close to getting there,” he said. “I was going to show up for the second series.”
With his size and skill level, Carrier likes to see that teams around the League are attempting to model their lineups after that of the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings.
“It seems like all the teams in the NHL are looking for big power forwards now. I’m happy with that,” he said.
He also thinks he's capable of filiing any role asked of him.
"If I get some checks, score some goals, I can play anywhere," Carrier said.
During the Blue & White Scrimmage last week, he did some things on the ice that impressed Rochester Americans coach Chadd Cassidy.
“I thought early in the game, he was feeling himself out. He made a great power move to the net, put another one off the crossbar. He fended a defender off with his body,” Cassidy said. “That’s what we expected to get as a player.
“We need to see a lot of more of that obviously, but initially, there’s a good frame there and he’s a big kid. He’s already a pretty heavy kid. He can play heavy and I think he’s going to continue to grow that frame and be a physical presence for us and a guy that can contribute offensively.”
The biggest things Carrier said he would like to work on are using his size more and adjusting to the speed of the professional ranks.
“The game is pretty physical,” he said. “It’s a lot more than where I played last year.”
|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
In a rink in Edmonton, where he played hockey growing up, Tyler Ennis was about to take the ice last week when he took a call that will impact the rest of his life.
While on the phone with his agent, the 24-year-old center agreed to a new five-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres. Then he hit the ice.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe how far I’ve come’ and really how excited I am to be a Buffalo Sabre,” he told Andrew Peters and Rob Ray on Sabres Hockey Hotline on Tuesday.
Later that day, he went to his parents’ house to make the contract official. He joked that he didn’t get too emotional.
“When we signed it, they were a little teary-eyed. Being the tough guy that I am, I didn’t cry but I was holding it back a little bit,” he said. “It was pretty cool. I’m proud and I’m really excited to improve my game and take Buffalo to the next level. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Last week after development camp wrapped up at First Niagara Center, Sabres general manager Tim Murray said while he’s not sure what position Ennis might play five years from now – whether he’s at center or on the wing – he does see a role for Ennis on the team.
“He had 21 goals this year on a not-very good team, playing as a No. 1 center, getting the bad matchups. I thought considering his slow start – I wasn’t here for that but I keep being told about it – he had a pretty successful year individually,” Murray said. “Hopefully that translates into having a better year with better players around him.”
Murray has already started to add talented veterans to the roster. On July 1, he signed wings Brian Gionta and Matt Moulson and traded for defenseman Josh Gorges. They’re players that can not only contribute offensively, but also provide a leadership presence in the locker room.
Moulson played 44 games for the Sabres last season and spent a lot of time on a line with Ennis and Drew Stafford. Ennis was happy to see the three-time 30-goal scorer return to Buffalo.
Ennis will look to learn from Moulson, Gionta, Gorges and the other older players like he did when he entered the NHL back in 2009-10.
“I think when I first came in to the League, our whole room was full of leaders,” he said. “I remember guys like Mike Grier. They were awesome for everyone.”
Ennis said that he and defenseman Tyler Myers are among the players already on the team that will be looked upon to step up as leaders.
“It’s time for us to take over now,” Ennis said. “It’s a good balance of older guys, middle guys ready to take over and lot of great young kids coming up.”
As far as the center ice position goes, Ennis knows he still has lots to improve on. While he did score a career-high 21 goals last season, he’d like to work on winning more faceoffs and being better in his own end, particularly down low.
“I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do still”
|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
Few prospects have seen their offensive production escalate in the past two seasons as much as Nicholas Baptiste has.
After recording only eight goals and 27 points in his first season with the Sudbury Wolves in 2011-12, Baptiste broke out with 21 goals and 48 points in 2012-13, thanks in large part to a strong second-half surge. That outburst helped him to get drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft (69th overall).
But in 2013-14, he reached new heights.
Baptiste racked up 45 goals and 89 points and was a plus-20 through 65 games. In five playoff games, he picked up a goal and four assists.
“My season last season was definitely my best season thus far,” he said. “I think I’ve really upped my level of intensity and the way I play. I’ve started to believe in myself a little more and in my abilities. I think I’m going to put up big numbers this season so I’m really happy with how I played.”
That confidence helped him to what he feels was his best season yet. In the year-end Ontario Hockey League’s Coaches Poll, he was named the Eastern Conference’s Best Shootout Skater and finished second to Barrie’s Andreas Athanasiou as the best skater in the conference.
He just missed the cut for Team Canada’s World Junior roster in December but he said he gained a lot of confidence from being there.
He’s been invited back to Team Canada’s World Junior camp and will attend next month with Buffalo’s 2014 first-round pick Sam Reinhart. He’s seen what it’s going to take to make the team and feels he has a great chance to do so this year.
“I needed to be more consistent in my own end and I think that this season in Sudbury, I elevated myself in terms of shooting the puck and getting pucks to the net and going to the net hard,” he said. “I think that was part of the reason for why I was so successful with my numbers.”
The 18-year-old right ring has developed a knack for scoring goals, but he’s shown some versatility as well. He’s also capable of throwing the body around and playing a more physical style.
“I feel like I’ve developed my game and I’ve really shown that when Buffalo drafted me that I was a player that maybe went a little later than I thought I might’ve,” he said. “But I wanted to show that I could be a guy that could point produce and play a third-fourth line role as well.”
Right out of the gate, Baptiste showed he has a nose for the net.
At the NHL Prospects Tournament hosted by the Detroit Red Wings in Traverse City, Mich. in September, Baptiste finished second overall in scoring with seven points (4+3) in four games. He carried that momentum into the season and hasn’t stopped yet.
He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Buffalo in May and hopes to make himself a part of Buffalo’s future plans. During the Blue & White Scrimmage during development camp last week, Baptiste scored in a winning effort for his squad. Then in the 3-on-3 tournament on Friday, his team overcame a last-place finish in the round-robin to win a playoff game.
The camp featured 13 first- and second-round picks from the past five drafts including Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and Brendan Lemieux.
“When you see a team of prospects like this who are all so good, you think to yourself, ‘I could be on that team.’” he said. “And you really expend yourself to make that team next year.”
An intense week of practices at First Niagara Center for Buffalo Sabres development camp culminated Friday in a 3-on-3 tournament. The Sabres prospects broke off into seven teams with games played on each half of the rink.
General manager Tim Murray said the tournament was one of the best ways to gauge how his prospects have developed, even moreso than the intra-squad Blue & White Scrimmage played Tuesday night.
“It’s a battle. Everything’s a battle,” Murray said. “The guys that don’t battle, they’re on the periphery, they don’t have a big impact. It’s a lot harder type of game than it is end-to-end.
“Now it’s tougher on some players, too and I understand that. I get that the guys that are smart and skilled, it might not be in their wheelhouse. But that’s what scouting’s about, put guys in situations that probably aren’t their best situation and see how they react.”
The final game of the tournament pitted Team Gray against Team Gold after 21 round-robin games and then single-elimination play. Mark Pysyk and Hudson Fasching traded goals for Gray and Gold, respectively. In the closing minutes, it was Mikhail Grigorenko with a one-time shot that beat goaltender Nathan Lieuwen for the victory.
“It was pretty intense out there,” Grigorenko said. “Everyone wants to win, but you also need to be really smart, just understand how to play within the rules they told us to play.”
“Three-on-three’s are typically a little bit more fun and a lot more skilled game, but today, everybody out there was competitive and wants to win,” Pysyk said. “You saw that where guys were hitting, guys were backchecking in a sense and it was pretty intense out there.”
Grigorenko showed how far he has come as a prospect during camp, and his performance throughout the 3-on-3 tournament put his skills on display for a large crowd of fans.
“I was just trying to have as much fun as I can,” Grigorenko said. “I just really wanted to win the tournament, and I was just going to try to get the puck and just go on offense. I thought that worked pretty good.”
Despite losing in the championship matchup, Fasching was encouraged by how much he learned in the camp’s competitive setting.
“I think it was really a competitive day – competitive and intense and I think it was a lot of fun out there,” he said. “We were battling out there and it was just a lot of fun.”
Although his Team Teal lost to Team Gold in the semifinal round, Rasmus Ristolainen’s play stood out in particular. After dishing out hits on Nikita Zadorov and Colin Jacobs, Ristolainen turned around and scored the final goal in what would be a 3-2 loss.
“I was kind of pissed off that we were losing so we got a couple good goals there, but it wasn’t enough,” Ristolainen said. “Every time when I’m playing, it’s serious. I try to get the puck, I try to compete and I try to hit everything.”
Fasching, who was bloodied after a hit from the Finnish defenseman, marveled at how the size of the prospects at camp raised the level of competition.
“There’s not a lot of guys like that out there,” Fasching said referring to Ristolainen. “It’s definitely given me a different perspective and I think it makes you better as you’re playing against really good players.”
After winning the final matchup, Grigorenko, Pysyk, Justin Kea, Drake Caggiula, and Liam Pecararo hoisted the French Connection Trophy, which was introduced this year and will be awarded to the annual winner of the tournament.
Buffalo Sabres prospects will take the ice at First Niagara Center at 10:30 a.m. for the inaugural 3-on-3 tournament. The camp will wrap up as soon as a champion is named.
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What went down at Development Camp on Thursday? Brian Duff has you covered.
|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
The Buffalo Sabres have recently added a large number of prospects with size to the organization. This change has taken place at every position, helping to increase the physicality throughout this week’s development camp.
Defenseman Anthony Florentino and center Justin Kea were two players largely responsible for setting the tone Tuesday night during the Blue & White scrimmage. Kea (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and Florentino (6-for-1, 212 pounds) each made their presence felt throughout the night, but fans took notice at two moments where these heavyweights collided.
Three minutes into the scrimmage, Florentino delivered the first big hit of the night. Kea chipped a pass forward to begin the forecheck for Team White, and Florentino caught the larger Kea off-balance, dropping him to the ice.
Kea took the hit in stride and said it was part of being a gritty hockey player.
“It’s not always a bad thing taking a big hit in the first shift,” he said. “Usually I like to give the first big hit, but taking it isn’t bad because it gets me into the game.”
With about six minutes remaining in the second period, Kea got even. Florentino was looking for a fight and engaged Kea. After each party landed a couple of punches, Kea tackled Florentino to the ice.
“I asked him, it wasn’t out of dislike because he’s a real good kid,” Florentino said of the fight. “I ate breakfast with him the day of the game initially. Our team went down another goal and the last shift before, [Kea] said ‘Next shift?’ so I said, ‘All right.’
“I’m just trying to earn my spot out there. Whatever it takes, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve got three older brothers, so I’m used to getting hit in the face plenty of times. I thought it was my time to step in and do what I could.”
Coach Chadd Cassidy saw the scrum as two guys leaving it all out on the ice.
“Everybody’s got their niche in the game and they’ve got to find their way to get noticed,” he said. “If there’s one thing we’ve preached to the guys, it’s play your game and play it like you would if it’s the middle of February. Florentino and Kea saw an opportunity there and it’s a good thing, I think. That’s what we need in this organization.”
Fresh off his first season at Providence College, Florentino was accustomed to the speed he has seen at Sabres development camp, but this week has proven to be challenging for different reasons.
“The speed was similar to college; what was different was the strength of guys,” Florentino said. “The guys I’m playing against in college are a lot older, but at the pro level guys have to be stronger than ever because everyone’s a man in [the NHL].”
Thursday, development camp attendees worked with skating coach Dawn Braid. Kea has been working with her for the last month. He thinks Improving his skating and technique could help him gain more time with the Rochester Americans after playing one game there last season.
“I’m just working hard this summer to get better, skating with Dawn, and I’ve got a skills guy I’m working with,” Kea said. “I’m trying to do anything I can to be in the lineup in Rochester next year.”
Florentino and Kea will each get one more chance to impress the fans, coaches, and front office. The Sabres prospects will break into seven teams for a 3-on-3 tournament that starts Friday morning at 10:30 a.m.
SabresTV's Brian Duff chatted with defenseman Jerome Leduc on Thursday at Sabres Development Camp.
Development camp invitee Drake Caggiula talks about his experience this week with the Sabres.
The 20-year-old wing (5-foot-10, 176 pounds) scored twice in the Blue & White Scrimmage on Tuesday and will play at North Dakota in the fall for his junior season.
|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
Camp is tough, but it’s a lot of fun. Coming in here, I didn’t really know anybody or anything like that. Nerves are high as it’s my first camp. I have a few expectations for myself and so far I’ve met them. Overall, I’ve had a great time.
My linemates Tim Schaller and Kevin Sundher were good all game Tuesday. The pace of the scrimmage was very fast. It started off real high, but it’s summertime so the pace kind of slowed down a bit. Guys started making mistakes and that’s when the goals started to happen.
My goal is always to be the hardest working guy on the ice. I’m not the biggest guy by all means and with my size, I always say I have to work harder out there.
Because I didn’t get drafted, it adds a little more fuel to the fire as motivation for myself. I kind of use it to prove people wrong, like, ‘Well, maybe you should have drafted me.’ At this point, it’s over and free agent life isn’t too bad. And here I am at a development camp anyway. It all works out. I’ve just got to keep working hard to get better.
Being small, you’ve got to be strong and you’ve got to be heavy on the puck and all that. Going to college, that definitely gives me a little extra time to develop physically. Being a free agent right now and being a little bit smaller gives me more time to develop and set me up for a bit of a different future.
My freshman year was kind of up-and-down, and I thought last year – my sophomore year – I kind of stepped it up and became a lot more consistent. Obviously I want to do a little bit better than that this coming year and step into a big leadership role there, whether it’s with a letter or not.
I just have to be a leader on and off the ice and contribute to my team in all sorts of ways.
|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
After just one year of collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota, forward Hudson Fasching had to re-acclimate himself following a trade-deadline deal that sent the big-bodied prospect from the Los Angeles Kings to the Buffalo Sabres.
So how exactly did Fasching find out about the trade?
“Actually, one of my teammates just put a text in a group chat of rumors of Fasching being traded,” the 18-year-old said, laughing. “I just got out of class so it was kind of interesting how it all happened.”
Buffalo acquired Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5 from the Kings in exchange for defenseman Brayden McNabb, forward Jonathan Parker and two second-round picks that the Sabres previously acquired from the Kings for defenseman Robyn Regehr.
The Kings originally drafted Fasching in the fourth round of the last year’s NHL Draft (118th overall).
While Fasching now has a different NHL team holding his rights, he still has the ability to focus on improving his game with the Golden Gophers.
In his freshman campaign, Fasching finished sixth in scoring on a deep Minnesota team, totaling 14 goals and 16 assists. Fasching also compiled the team’s third-best plus/minus rating at plus-17.
After finishing as the top collegiate team in the country, Minnesota advanced to the NCAA Championship game, but ended up losing a 7-4 contest to Union College. Fasching scored a power-play goal in the loss.
The experience of playing on college hockey’s greatest stage prepared Fasching for the moments that top players encounter regularly at the professional level.
“It was incredible,” Fasching said of the championship game. “I think for me as a player to play in the middle of the spotlight in that big of a game, it was really humbling for me. It was really good for my development just to understand the game, understand how big moments are supposed to be handled. I think that was really big for me.”
Fasching entered his final year of pre-draft eligibility as a top prospect, but ended up falling to the Kings in the fourth round. Throughout the 2012-13 season with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Fasching struggled with inconsistent play as he looked to develop an identity for his game on the ice.
“Before my draft year, I had lost touch with my game and I hadn’t really decided what kind of player I wanted to be,” he said. “My freshman year I settled into a role. I was more of a power forward, just trying to stop trying to make quite as many skills plays, and just kind of play my game a little more as a power forward.”
Fasching was not able to participate in the Kings’ development camp last season due to commitments at Minnesota, so this week’s experience in Buffalo is certainly an eye-opener.
“I like the atmosphere out there; it’s competitive, it’s tough,” Fasching said. “There’s a lot of skill out there. It’s really fast-paced and it’s a lot of fun.”
This week’s on-ice activities will certainly help Fasching round out his game in order to take on an increased role with the Golden Gophers next season. With the experience he has collected just from one year, Fasching has started to prepare for the big moments ahead in his career.