It was a lot of fun. It was nice to see a couple familiar faces again, meet the new guys in the system, and play at a high level like that for a couple days. It's a nice change of pace from the normal summer skates that we've been doing. It was a really competitive game to end these couple of days. I think I speak for a lot of guys to say we had a blast out there.
I think once the blood started flowing, we all got into it pretty quick, started banging bodies around there and got really competitive. That's a pretty cool thing to see when just a minor scrimmage turns into a pretty physical competition, and that's just a hockey player for you. I can't say enough about how much fun it was, and I can't wait to come back again next year.
I was pretty happy with camp. I made some good plays, I made some bad turnovers, but it's summer hockey. You kind of match yourself up to the competition, elevate your game for the week, and see what it's going to take to get up to that next level.
Especially since this was my second year, I was prepared for a lot of things, and last year was a real grind. I had a lot of fun this year, and I can't wait to come back again next year, it was a blast. They ran a really, really solid camp.
I'm going to go back to Wisconsin for another year, and I guess we'll take it year-by-year. I want to win a national championship pretty badly and next year we have a really great chance at it. I'm in a great position to develop; I have no hurry to leave Wisconsin. Coach [Mike] Eaves is awesome at what he does and he produces players year after year, so I'm in a good spot. I'm not going to rush things and we'll go from there.
Nick Baptiste and Logan Nelson each scored twice to lead Team Blue to a 6-3 victory over Team Gold in the Buffalo Sabres’ annual Blue & Gold Scrimmage on Friday.
The scrimmage, which concluded the club’s three-day development camp, offered the Sabres coaching staff a chance to watch the organization’s prospects in a game situation.
“It was a good couple of days,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “I was excited. Since I’ve been here, it was probably the best development camp in terms of quality of players – speed, skill, the quality of defensive corps that we have out there.”
Alex Lepkowski had a goal and an assist for Team Gold. Daniel Catenacci and J.T. Compher tallied for Team Gold as well.
| Zemgus Girgensons
“It was a fun game,” Girgensons said. “The last two periods were pretty intense with some good hits.”
CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY OF THE GAME
The two teams weren’t afraid to get physical. Defensemen like Lepkowski and Matt MacKenzie were throwing the body around early. Nikita Zadorov, Buffalo’s second first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, laid a huge hit on Brad Navin at center ice during the second period. Zadorov also collected two assists.
Nathan Lieuwen started for Team Gold and made the save of the first period, stopping Girgensons on a one-timer from inside the paint. Baptiste found Girgensons from behind the net, but Lieuwen kicked out his left pad to deny Girgrensons.
Penalty shots replaced power plays in this scrimmage and Lieuwen stopped Girgensons on the only attempt of the first period. Lepkowski scored his goal on a penalty shot late in the second period.
Team Blue skated into the locker room after the first period with a 1-0 lead after Phil Varone scored with 3:40 to play in the period. Catenacci tied it up for Team Gold at the 8:46 mark of the second period, but by the end of the period, Team Blue held a 3-2 advantage.
Team Blue came out to score three quick goals to start the third period, with Baptiste’s second of the night and Girgensons’ only tally coming seconds apart.
“It’s a great group of guys, especially I liked our [team],” Girgensons said. “We had a good grind and good skill. We put that all together and you see the score.”
The night ended with a shootout. Players from both teams got to show off their breakaway skills and Team Blue once again came away with the victory, this time by a 3-2 score. Girgensons, Eric Locke and Jonathan Parker scored for Team Blue. Justin Bailey and Chad Ruhwedel scored for Team Gold.
Bailey, a native of Buffalo, drew applause from the hometown crowd during his shootout attempt and dropped a few jaws. While walking in, he kicked the puck with his left skate to his stick and then reached over to his backhand to beat goaltender Cal Petersen.
“I struggled a little bit in the shootout in practice and I figured, why not try a move that works sometimes when I just messing around. Luckily it worked out,” Bailey said.
17 Daniel Catenacci - 25 Mikhail Grigorenko - 15 Colin Jacobs
19 Connor Hurley - 41 J.T. Compher - 22 Justin Bailey
20 Brad Navin -13 Sean Malone - 12 Christian Isackson
47-Tyler Gjurich - 45 Judd Peterson
24 Brayden McNabb - 5 Chad Ruhwedel
3 Alex Lepkowski - 4 Jerome Gauthier-Leduc
27 Kevin Czuczman - 34 Anthony Florentino
38 Eric Locke - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 20 Jonathan Parker
21 Kevin Sundher - 41 Phil Varone - 25 Logan Nelson
19 Gustav Possler - 17 Justin Kea - 72 Nick Baptiste
46 Alex Iafallo - 22 Andrew Black
31 Cal Petersen
35 Connor Knapp
Buffalo Sabres prospect J.T. Compher talks about his experience at development camp so far:
Overall it's just been a lot of fun, meeting all the guys in the system and kind of seeing what pros go through on a daily basis. Getting on the ice and skating with Coach Rolston has been awesome, and being in the weightroom, getting tested, seeing how some of the older guys are working out and what they're doing. It's been fun being around everyone, and also the work that's being put in is very important.
I knew some of the guys coming into camp. I know Sean Malone. We played on a team together, the U.S. team, and some of the USHL guys and college guys I've seen, played against, heard of... I knew Justin Bailey a little bit. Obviously I've heard of all of Buffalo's draft picks, [Zemgus] Girgensons, [Mikhail] Grigorenko, and it's been fun to skate with them also.
Off the ice, we've been obviously working out, some off-ice testing and stuff like that, and we get the chance to hang out and do some fun stuff. The new guys, we went kayaking the other day, and yesterday we got to do go-karting which was a lot of fun, and then we had dinner on the lake. We also got to watch Anchorman at dinner. It's been fun to relax a little away from the rink because they've been kind of long days. It's fun to kind of let loose with all the guys we've just met.
It's been cool to see and learn about recovery after, just getting more information has been awesome. The strength coach was really in depth, how to recover after, and they have a great system here where you can weigh in online. So it's great to see what the pros have been doing and getting more resources to work with during the year.
2:15 - 3:30 p.m.
This year’s Buffalo Sabres development camp features two days of on-ice workouts and an intra-squad scrimmage. The final on-ice practice wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with Team Gold, featuring some Buffalo natives.
Justin Bailey, a second-round pick in 2013, Sean Malone, a sixth-round pick this year, and Alex Lepkowski of West Seneca were all on the ice together, wearing the jersey of the team they rooted for as kids.
Tyler Gjurich of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres also participated in the afternoon sessions.
Alex Iafallo of Eden, N.Y., an undrafted invitee, skated with the early group of Sabres prospects.
“Last year I watched the draft, obviously being a Sabres fan myself and you see guys like [Mikhail] Grigorenko, and [Brayden] McNabb’s here,” Bailey said. “I think it’s good to go to guys that have kind of been through this training camp before, guys who have played a few NHL games, to be able to ask them questions since they know obviously better than you do. I’ve been utilizing that to the most of my ability so far.”
Having some familiarity with the players in the camp is helpful as well.
“I have my friend J.T. [Compher] here. Justin [Bailey], as well from Buffalo,” Malone said. “That’s pretty cool and we’re going through the same experiences and having a good time so I’m enjoying it.”
For those that have been to the Sabres development camp before, the condensed schedule is welcomed. Last year, the camp was five days along and included an early morning training session with Navy SEALS.
“Thinking back, it was a good experience but it makes me cry inside a little bit,” center prospect Daniel Catenacci said with a smile.
Catenacci, in his third development camp, is working on making the transition to the pro game. He played last season with Owen Sound of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and scored three points in two games with the Rochester Americans. That taste of the American Hockey League has proved to be a good motivator.
“I just think the confidence, knowing that you can play at the pro level and do well, succeed,” he said. “I think confidence is the biggest thing and when you have that, you know you can do a lot better.”
Development camp concludes tomorrow with the Sabres Summer Fan Fest and the Blue & Gold Scrimmage. Doors to First Niagara Center open at 3 p.m.
10:30 a.m. - Noon
The early group, which will be Team Blue at the “Blue & Gold Scrimmage” on Friday, took the ice in the morning and participated in a more traditional practice. Wednesday, the early parts of the practice focused on on-ice testing and skating drills. On Thursday, however, the coaching staff put the players through breakout drills and other shooting workouts right away.
Another notable change came in the form of personnel. Center Connor Hurley, drafted in the second round of this year's draft, was skating with this group in place of 2013 fifth-round pick Gustav Possler.
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo’s first pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, said that he’s still getting used to some of his new equipment, so he felt more comfortable on Thursday than on Wednesday.
“[I felt] better than yesterday, but still I have a lot of work,” Ristolainen said. “This practice was my third only of this summer so I have a lot of work to do to get into game shape.”
Another aspect of the game he’s adjusting too is the size of the rink. He’s accustomed to playing on the international-sized rinks in Finland, but is enjoying the shift to a smaller sheet of ice.
“We have a lot of bigger rinks in Finland but I like the smaller ones,” he said. “I like to play like an American style of hockey, hit hard and play a fast game. To me, it feels very good.”
While this is Ristolainen’s first development camp, it’s the fourth for defenseman Mark Pysyk. The Sabres’ first-round pick in 2010, Pysyk played in his first NHL games last season. If there’s one thing he’s learned from these development camps that he can pass on to the younger players, it’s to embrace what is available to them during this week of practice.
“We were just talking about that, just take advantage of all the stuff here,” he said. “There are NHL coaches, trainers, mental skills coach, power skating coaches. Take advantage of the resources that they have here in the Sabres organization. ”
Sabres goaltending prospect Andrey Makarov talks about his first day at Sabres Development Camp:
It's a pretty long day, but it's nothing new. It's a development camp. Work hard for three days, a couple days, then go home and see the family. I am looking forward to go back to Russia; I will be going to my brother's wedding.
This is my second camp. I was at camp last year with the Florida Panthers. I didn't sign there. Now I've signed with Buffalo, so it's different. I feel differently. In Florida, you just go there, and it's like thanks for coming, and that's it. This is different.
I feel great. I came in on the second of July, a little bit early before everybody got here. I was working out and skating a little bit. I've been working out in Russia. I didn't skate in Russia and now I've been skating again and I feel good today. I feel great.
I'm so excited to be in this organization right now. I know Grigo [Mikhail Grigorenko] and [Nikita] Zadorov. We pretty much go everywhere together, have fun, go to some restaurants together, whatever. Zadorov, I saw him at a junior camp but he didn't make the team. Grigo, I've played against him and I played with him in two World Juniors.
Buffalo's a great city. I don't like big cities; I like kind of smaller cities, so this is nice.
10:30 a.m. – Noon
All eyes were on the defense during the first session of the day at First Niagara Center.
The early group featured 2013 first-round picks Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, as well as 2012 second-round selection Jake McCabe and 2010 first-rounder Mark Pysyk, who made his NHL debut last season, playing 19 games for the Sabres.
For the approximately 500 fans in attendance, it was their first chance to see Ristolainen and Zadorov skating with a Sabres logo on their chests.
Adding the two defensemen to the organization on draft day not only gave the Sabres more depth on the blue line, but more size, too. Ristolainen is 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds while Zadorov is 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds. Just don’t tell Zadorov that he’s young in the face.
“I’m big and I play a physical game. I didn’t know before that I’m young in the face, but maybe [I am] a little bit,” Zadorov said with a laugh. “But [if] I play hard, it doesn’t matter what my face [looks like]. I just play hockey and do my job.”
CLICK HERE FOR THE PHOTO GALLERY FROM DAY #1
Zadorov was visibly excited to be taking the next step toward fulfilling his dream of playing in the NHL.
“It’s amazing. It’s my first practice and I feel great right now,” he said.
The coaching staff started the practice with about 30 minutes worth of skating tests. After the ice crew resurfaced the rink, the players came back out with the goaltenders for one-on-one drills that focused on passing and shooting. The players then took to one side of the ice, turned the nets around and ran a rotating, two-on-two scrimmage with both goaltenders.
After practice, the group had lunch and prepared for an afternoon meeting, followed by some off-ice training.
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
The second session featured more skating drills, this time highlighted by Brayden McNabb, Chad Ruhwedel, Mikhail Grigorenko and Daniel Catenacci.
Grigorenko has worked a lot in the offseason to improve his skating.
“I think it’s better. It’s more powerful,” he said after practice. “I have more balance and I think I got faster.”
For McNabb, just being back on the ice is a thrill. He injured his knee in March and has been rehabbing ever since.
“This camp, I’m just trying to get back on my feet,” he said. “I haven’t skated since the injury really, so this is good for me to get back on my feet and continue to get better each day.”
During practice, the Rochester Americans, Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate announced that they had signed defenseman Alex Lepkowski and forwards Frederick Roy and Michael Zigomanis to AHL contracts. When the news came down, Lepowkski was on the ice.
He was drafted by the Sabres in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft (No. 137), but was not offered a contract. The West Seneca, N.Y. native signed the deal with Rochester earlier in the week.
“It’s great to be a part of this organization still and to be part of the Amerks,” Lepkowski said. “I’m really excited for the season to come.”
Daniel Catenacci – Mikhail Grigorenko – Colin Jacobs
Connor Hurley – J.T. Compher - Justin Bailey
Brad Navin – Sean Malone – Christian Isackson
Tyler Gjurich – Judd Peterson
Brayden McNabb – Chad Ruhwedel
Alex Lepkowski – Jerone Gauther-Leduc
Kevin Czuczman – Anthony Florentino
All 19 of the Sabres' picks from the 2012 and 2013 NHL drafts should be there, as well as five of their six picks from 2011.
Three invitees -- Mikhail Grigorenko, Mark Pysyk and Chad Ruhwedel -- played with the Sabres last season. Defenseman Brayden McNabb played 25 games in Buffalo during the 2011-12 season.
Twelve members of last season's Rochester Americans squad are set to be in attendance as well, including McNabb, Pysyk, Zemgus Girgensons, Daniel Catenacci, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Connor Knapp.
Tyler Gjurich, an undrafted invitee, scored 97 points in 53 games for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres in 2012-13.
Camp concludes with “Sabres Summer Fan Fest” on Friday, featuring a scrimmage at 4 p.m. and an outdoor concert by 10,000 Maniacs at Canalside. Fans can purchase tickets for the event here.
Here’s a breakdown of how the Sabres acquired each player invited to camp, which opens Wednesday:
2013 NHL Draft
D Rasmus Ristolainen (Round 1-No. 8 Overall)
D Nikita Zadorov (1-16)
LW J.T. Compher (2-35)
C Connor Hurley (2-38)
RW Justin Bailey (2-52)
RW Nicholas Baptiste (3-69)
G Cal Petersen (5-129)
RW Gustav Possler (5-130)
D Anthony Florentino (5-143)
C Sean Malone (6-159)
C Eric Locke (7-189)
2012 NHL Draft
C Mikhail Grigorenko (1-12)
C Zemgus Girgensons (1-14)
D Jake McCabe (2-44)
C Justin Kea (3-73)
C Logan Nelson (5-133)
G Linus Ullmark (6-163)
D Brady Austin (7-193)
RW Judd Peterson (7-204)
2011 NHL Draft
C Daniel Catenacci (3-77)
C Colin Jacobs (4-107)
D Alex Lepkowski (5-137)
G Nathan Lieuwen (6-167)
C Brad Navin (7-197)
2010 NHL Draft
D Mark Pysyk (1-23)
D Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (3-68)
C Kevin Sundher (3-75)
D Matt MacKenzie (3-83)
RW Christian Isackson (7-203)
2009 NHL Draft
D Brayden McNabb (3-66)
G Connor Knapp (6-164)
Free Agent Signings
G Andrey Makarov (Signed 2012)
RW Jonathan Parker (Signed 2011)
D Chad Ruhwedel (Signed 2013)
C Tim Schaller (Signed 2013)
C Phil Varone (Signed 2012)
F Andrew Black
D Kevin Czuczman
F Tyler Gjurich
C Alex Iafallo
Note: LW Joel Armia (drafted by the Sabres with the 16th overall pick in 2011) and LW Johan Larsson (acquired via trade in 2013) have prior personal commitments and are unable to attend. The roster is subject to change.
Development Camp Schedule
Wednesday, July 10
Group 1: 10:30 a.m. - Noon
Group 2: 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 11
Group 1: 10:30 a.m. - Noon
Group 2: 2:15 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Friday, July 12
Blue & Gold Scrimmage - Begins at 4 p.m.
The Buffalo Sabres added some depth to the defensive corps over the weekend and brought back some familiar names.
Saturday morning, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier announced that the team had agreed to terms with free agents Alexander Sulzer and Drew Bagnall. Sulzer has played 32 games over the past two seasons for the blue and gold. On Sunday, the Sabres traded for defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who is no stranger to Buffalo.
Tallinder returns to the Sabres following a three-season absence. He was drafted by the Sabres in 1997 and played 468 games over parts of eight seasons with the franchise. He signed a four-year contract with the New Jersey Devils in the summer of 2010 and over the past two seasons, he’s been limited to 64 games and 10 points.
Sabres general manager Darcy Regier sent forward Riley Boychuk to the Devils in order to reacquire the 34-year-old Tallinder.
During the 2009-10 season – his last the Sabres – Tallinder was paired almost exclusively with Tyler Myers. Myers went on to win the Calder Trophy that year as the NHL’s top rookie. Tallinder was also on Buffalo’s top pair with Toni Lydman during the team’s runs to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007.
“We are excited to have [Tallinder] back in the mix on our blue line,” Regier said in a statement Sunday. “His experience will be invaluable not only in adding more stability to our back end, but also in the development of some of our younger defensemen.”
Sulzer, 29, signed a one-year contract. His 2012-13 campaign was cut short when he suffered a knee injury on Feb. 23, causing him to miss the final 28 games of the season. Sulzer was acquired at the 2012 trade deadline from Vancouver as part of the deal that brought center Cody Hodgson to Buffalo.
Bagnall is a 6-foot-3, 222-pound defenseman that played 47 games for the Houston Aeros, the Minnesota Wild’s affiliate in the American Hockey League. He also served as the team’s captain last season. Bagnall signed a multi-year, two-way contract, so it’s likely he’ll be a big veteran presence for the Rochester Americans of the AHL this upcoming season.
As September’s training camp approaches, keep an eye on how the Sabres’ defensive depth chart shakes out.
Defensemen on the roster from last season include Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Weber and rookies Mark Pysyk and Chad Ruhwedel. Factor in Tallinder, Sulzer and Jamie McBain, who was acquired from Carolina at the 2013 NHL Draft, and that’s eight spots right there.
Brayden McNabb and Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo’s top pick in 2013, are also candidates to crack the roster come October.