But try telling the players that tonight’s game is meaningless. NHL careers are on the line for most, while some of the free agent participants are just looking to get the attention of one of the hundreds of GM’s and scouts that have traveled to the two-rink Centre ICE complex, nestled in the back corner of a quiet Traverse City subdivision.
This is the 14th year of the NHL Prospect Tournament, and 297 players that have played here in Traverse City have gone on to the NHL. Carolina’s Jeff Skinner was here last season, and he wound up being named the NHL’s 2010-11 Rookie of the Year with 63 points in 82 games.
Skinner isn’t the only big name to have participated in Traverse City since its inception in 1998. New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk played here as an Atlanta Thrashers prospect in 2001, and he is now the tournament’s all-time NHL points leader with 642 (338+304) in 621 NHL games. Dany Heatley joined Kovalchuk on that 2001 Atlanta prospect squad, and his 625 points are second all-time among former participants.
Former Sabre J.P. Dumont has played the most NHL games of any former Traverse City participant, skating in 752 combined contests during his 12-year NHL career with Chicago, Buffalo and Nashville. Dumont played with Chicago’s entry in the inaugural 1998 tournament.
The big names don’t stop there. Detroit superstars Pavel Datsyuk (2001) and Henrik Zetterberg (2002) have also skated here, along with Scott Hartnell (Nashville, 2000), David Legwand (Nashville, 1998) and Martin Erat (Nashville, 2000/01). Twelve former prospect tournament players have gone on to play 500 or more NHL games, while another 46 have played in 250-499 games.
There will be a new champion this year, as the 2010 winners from Minnesota are just 1-1 through their first two games. The New York Rangers – Buffalo’s opposition in tomorrow’s final – captured the 2007 title. There have been eight different winners in the first 13 years, with St. Louis owning a record four championships (1999-2001, 2004). Ironically, the host Detroit Red Wings have yet to win their own event.
Just wanted to pass along a few things to you this week as we head towards the final weekend of summer:
|Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Photo: Getty Images)
“The main factor for CHL teams starting early is to accommodate the academic interests of our players,” Branch explained in an email to me last night. “High school commences after Labor Day in most instances for the WHL and OHL, and earlier in Quebec. That is the reason their camps started over one week ago.”
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Buffalo’s third-round selection in the 2010 Entry Draft, already has four points (1+3) and is a plus-4 in three games for the Rimouski Oceanic. Three of Gauthier-Leduc’s four points came in a 4-3 win over Baie-Comeau last Saturday when he tallied a goal and two assists.
|New 100 level countertops|
|New 100 level signage|
Here are two photos I took today while wandering the concourse. The first shows the new stainless steel countertops on the freshly-painted blue and gold pillars in the 100 Level (ignore the red paint; that will be replaced by gold).
The other features the new lettering on the satellite Sabres Store location next to section 101. Another project that they are hoping to have completed in time for the regular season is the addition of beverage shelves and TV’s in the bathrooms.
-An announcement of Buffalo’s roster for the Traverse City Prospects Tournament is expected to be made in the next few days. I’ll be on hand in Michigan for all five days of the tournament, providing daily features and in-game Twitter updates. Keep watching Sabres.com for more information. The Sabres open the tournament against Minnesota on Saturday, September 10 at 3:30 p.m.
In their annual Yearbook issue, THN writers predict the Sabres will finish fifth in the Eastern Conference – behind Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston and Philadelphia. The Capitals are also THN’s choice to win Stanley Cup this season. Chicago is predicted to be the Western Conference Cup representative, but Vancouver is their choice to finish first in the West during the regular season.
Before you start firing off hate mail to the THN editors, keep in mind their 2010-11 regular season predictions were almost on the money. They had both conference winners (Washington and Vancouver); nailed the top three finishers in order out West; correctly picked seven Eastern Conference playoff teams, and six in the West.
Derek Roy is projected by THN to rebound from his quad injury to lead the Sabres in scoring with 70 points, just ah ead of Thomas Vanek (69), Jason Pominville (63), Ville Leino (60) and Tyler Ennis (58). While those numbers all seem low to me, I was even more surprised their projection of a 48-point season for Drew Stafford. I’m convinced he’s a lock for at least 35 goals and 65-70 points this season.
Former Sabre Brad May was announced as one of seven hockey players to compete in season three of CBC’s Battle of the Blades. The show features former NHL’ers paired with world-class figure skaters in a competition that has become wildly popular with Canadian viewers. If you haven’t seen it, think of it as Dancing with the Stars on ice. This season’s roster also includes Bryan Berard and Wade Belak. I’ve had a chance to see a few episodes in previous seasons and it’s very addicting. Why this hasn’t been picked up by a US network is beyond me.
Finally, watch for details of a live chat with Sabres President Ted Black next week on sabres.com. He’s got plenty to talk about, including some of the latest arena renovation news.
While monitoring the questions and comments at our @Sabresdotcom Twitter feed, it’s become pretty apparent to me that many Sabres fans have a year round case of hockey fever. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Rather than use this space to talk hockey of the on-ice variety, I’ll get you up to speed with many of the offseason happenings that you’ve been asking about.
-If you need a hockey fix, the 10th annual Street HockeyFest takes place takes place this weekend on the streets surrounding HSBC Arena. What started out with 20 teams invading Chippewa St. in 2002, has now grown to almost 200 teams participating over two days. The tournament is open to boys and girls ages 5-17 at a cost of $125 per team. Each team will consist of up to five players and will be guaranteed at least three games in the all-day, rain or shine event. There will also be a tent sale on the HSBC Arena floor during day one of the tournament, featuring a wide array of unique new and used items from HSBC Arena.
-There’s still time to get your tickets for the SabreKidz Club Summer Picnic this Thursday at Coca-Cola Field. The event gets underway at 5:30 p.m. in the party tent area prior to the game between the Buffalo Bisons and Toledo Mud Hens. For more information on becoming a KidzClub member and attending the picnic, call (716) 855-4486.
-Many of you have been inquiring about PuckDrop festivities that have taken place at the arena on the first day of training camp. Because of arena availability issues on Saturday, September 17, that event and the adult street hockeyfest won’t be happening this year. We will however be hosting an open night practice during training camp, and have planned some special activities for the second home preseason game against Toronto on Saturday, September 24. More details on both events will be announced soon.
-Tickets for the two preseason games go on sale Monday, August 29 at 10 a.m. Individual game tickets for the 2011-12 regular season go on sale September 17 at 9 a.m. Don’t forget that mini packs are already on sale. Fans can save up to 10% or up to $24 per game if they purchase by this date. After Aug. 30, mini-pack holders will receive a $2 savings per ticket off window prices. Check sabres.com for all your individual and mini-pack pricing options.
-Sabres prospects will be taking part in the 2011 Traverse City Rookie Tournament from September 9-14. Buffalo has been placed in the Howe Division along with Minnesota, Columbus and Detroit. (Buffalo’s roster will be announced closer to the camp.) They will face each team in their division once, with the tournament culminating in a day of playoff games on September 14. Buffalo’s games will not be televised.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s one of the rule scenarios being presented at the NHL’s second annual Research, Development and Orientation Camp this Wednesday and Thursday in Toronto. More than 30 of the top prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft will scrimmage under the proposed rule changes, new strategies and rink modifications in a setting that closely approximates NHL game play. The players will also participate in a SuperSkills competition using the same events that were introduced at the 2011 All-Star Weekend in Carolina, as the NHL continues to evaluate the “entertainment factor” of its showcase weekend.
Included among the proposed changes scheduled to be tested over the two-day camp are: no-touch icing; no line changes for team committing an offside; all penalties served in their entirety; variations on the shootout; removing the trapezoid; and allowing hand passes in all zones. The league will also look at some other technological and rink modifications, including on-ice wireless communication between the referees, and additional cameras in arenas to allow for better television coverage with angles closer to the ice.
As the rule stands now, a goal scored during a delayed penalty call nullifies the power play. Under the proposed change, a team can score during the delayed call AND still have two full minutes of power play time. Some would argue this change would only be beneficial to teams with strong power plays. You can also look at it this way (as I was reminded earlier today): teams that don’t score as often on the power play are still given two full minutes with an extra attacker.
Serving the full two minutes of a penalty previously existed in the NHL, but was amended prior to the 1956-57 season. It was dubbed the “Montreal Canadiens Rule” by hockey historians because of the team’s proficiency on the power play, and their ability to score more than once on the same penalty.
As detailed by Iain Fyffe of Hockey Prospectus, the Canadiens scored nine extra power play goals in the 1955-56 season, while only one team managed to score twice on the same power play against Montreal. It is widely believed that the events of November 5, 1955 are what prompted many people to call for the rule change.
Boston had a 2-0 lead on Montreal at the end of the first period. Already down a man thanks to a Cal Gardner minor with 10 seconds left in the first, Boston’s Hal Laycoe gave Montreal a 5-on-3 advantage with another penalty just 16 seconds into the second period. What followed was nothing short of remarkable. Montreal’s Jean Beliveau scored a natural hat trick in just 44 seconds as the Canadiens turned a two-goal deficit into a one-goal lead during a single power play. Beliveau added a fourth goal later in the game to cap off a 4-2 win. Later that year the NHL voted 5-1 in favor of changing the rule – with Montreal naturally being the only dissenting vote.
Fans who packed the Dwyer Arena bleachers today for the first of two weekend scrimmages at Development Camp were treated to a lively contest, as Team White defeated Team Blue by a score of 5-2.
After a scoreless first period, Team Blue goaltender Nick Eno earned the loudest cheer of the day four minutes into the second. Eno was knocked off his skates while slowing the puck down behind the net, but got back to his feet in time to make a diving glove save to keep the score tied at 0-0.
Camp invitee Steven Beyers (Barrie-OHL) opened the scoring minutes later with a slap shot that beat Eno low on the stick side. Beyers finished the day with a goal and an assist.
"I'm glad I was able to go out there and make something happen," Beyers said. "Hopefully I can carry it on tomorrow. There's not a whole lot of pressure [as an invitee] -- they're not expecting a whole lot -- but you want to go out there and prove yourself."
Eno and Team White goaltender Connor Knapp, who was perfect through 22 minutes, exited the game after the goal to make way for invitee goaltenders Michael Houser and John Cullen.
The offensive play opened up a little bit after the goaltender changes, with Team White taking a 2-1 lead into the third period on the strength of a Brad Navin goal.
However, it wasn't until the game switched to 4-on-4 play midway through the third period that the scoring really picked up. With more room to skate, Team White's offense began to click, leading to consecutive goals by T.J. Brennan and Matt Zarbo just a minute apart.
The prospects will be back in action tomorrow, with another scrimmage scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on the final day of camp.
0:00 - Goailies: Eno and Knapp
4:57 - Tripping-Sundher (Isackson missed wide)
0:00 - Goalies: Eno and Knapp
4:17 - Eno diving glove save after getting taken out behind the net
7:20 - Beyers (beats Eno with a slap shot low far side) from Foligno (1-0)
7:20 - Goalies: Houser and Cullen
9:13 - Ennis on the rush on a feed from Kassian (1-1)
11:04 - Navin bangs home a rebound from Beyers (2-1)
13:07 - Holding-Zarbo (Tropp stopped by Cullen)
3rd (20 mins)}
0:00 Goalies: Houser and Cullen
8:51 - Foligno scores on goal-mouth scramble after bad Bailen giveaway in front of net (3-1)
12:18 - Switch to 4-on-4
18:36 - Brennan on a rebound (4-1)
19:44 - Zarbo on a feed from D. MacKenzie. (5-1)
19:59 - McCarron beats Cullen short side on a shot from the goal line (5-2)
Shootout (Houser and Cullen)
Ennis scores (1-0)
Foligno scores (1-1)
Biega scores (2-1)
“Our conversations have been good so far with Andrej and his representative Allen Walsh. I think there’s a basis for getting a contract done so I’m not overly concerned about the arbitration process with him.”
Other topics that Regier spoke about today included:
The potential of signing Tyler Myers to a new contract:
“We’ll touch base with them at some point in the next month. It’s something we’d like to have conversations about. I don’t think we’re at the point where we feel like we have to get it done; I think it has to work for both sides.”
The logjam at defense and how it affects players like Drew Schiestel and TJ Brennan:
“It doesn’t change their NHL readiness. I think both players will play in the National Hockey League, and I think both will play for the Buffalo Sabres. But there’s a reality that there is a competition for jobs. There are six jobs on a given night, and we’ll carry seven or eight defensemen. In their case, their focus has to be on improving to the point where they’re pushing for jobs. Those things tend to take care of themselves.”
Contract talks with Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jhonas Enroth:
“We continue to have conversations with them.”
What he’d like to see in Zack Kassian:
"A little more polish on the ice. I think in his case, not unlike others, it’s really all about the maturity level where you develop the professionalism and consistency on a day to day basis. And bring the corresponding play with it as well.”
Is Brian McCutcheon a candidate for the Rochester head coach job?
"No, I think we’re going to look at bringing in someone from the outside in that situation. We’ll work on (filling that position) over the course of the next two weeks.”
Any progress on filling the associate coach position vacated by McCutcheon?
“That’s something Lindy has been doing a lot of work on, and I know he’s talked to a lot of people.”
Is there a timetable for making trades or signing more players?
“We’re not aggressively pursuing anything. I think if we can find ways to improve the hockey club via trades probably in a more likely scenario, we’ll continue to work on that over the course of the summer. We’ll have to see how it plays out. I think there’ll be a secondary market with some of the unrestricted free agents. When that settles out you may see a little more active trade market. But that’ll depend on other teams as well.
Has he spoken to Matt Ellis about re-signing with the organization?
“I’ve expressed to Matt and his agent that we’d love to have him back in the organization. His professionalism and his leadership is special. But I think he’s going to look at any opportunity he can in order to give himself the best chance to play at the NHL level.”
Regier also said that former Portland Pirates assistant coach Eric Weinrich will remain with Buffalo in a scouting/development capacity.
(Thanks to Paul Hamilton of WGR550 for providing us with the audio file)
|Brad Navin (Photo: Getty Images)|
Navin, who turned 19 last month, scored 52 points (29+23) in 14 games during an injury-shortened senior season with his hometown Waupaca (WI) High School. This followed a 92-point (53+39) junior campaign that put him on the radar of NHL scouts who projected him to be selected somewhere around the fifth round. But for Navin, he very easily could’ve become a tiny blip on that radar when he suffered an MCL sprain in January.
“It was a bummer for sure. Having to sit out for those final three months was tough. Nobody likes to get hurt, especially when I knew there was a chance I could drafted,” said Navin, a center who already clocks in at a sturdy 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds. “It was rough having to sit on the sidelines and watch my teammates. A lot of guys stepped up in my absence and we still did well as a team; I was proud of them for that.”
The injury came on the heels of Navin turning down an opportunity to play for the Sioux City Musketeers in the heavily-scouted United States Hockey League (USHL). Luckily for Navin, he’d already caught the eye of NHL scouts while playing for Team Wisconsin in the Minnesota Elite League. He scored 30 points in 24 games with Team Wisconsin in the fall, and was only held off the scoresheet on just seven occasions.
“I decided to stay and play with Team Wisconsin because I thought I’d get the same exposure playing them as I would in the USHL. It was tough not to go to Sioux City, but even with the injury it worked out for me in the end. The Minnesota Elite League has a really high-tempo pace, and it was really beneficial for my game to play at that level.”
Scouts rave about Navin’s size and skating, but he still believes he has some work to do when he enters the University of Wisconsin as a freshman this fall. Navin knows that there’s more to hockey than just being able to regularly find the back of the net.
“I’ve always been told I have a good shot, and scoring is something that has come naturally to me,” explains Navin, who would like to pattern his game after San Jose’s Joe Pavelski. “But my work in the defensive zone will have to improve, along with learning how to use my size better to win the one-on-one battles.”
Just like every player at this week’s development camp, Navin can’t stop raving about everything he’s already learned in just the first three days.
“When I got drafted and they told me I was coming out here I was seriously shocked. Especially when they tol
d me it was taking place just a couple of weeks after the draft. Everything about this camp has been outstanding, it’s an awesome learning experience. They’ve done a great job of teaching me what to work on during the season in order to get my play to the next level.”
The final day of on-ice workouts are scheduled to begin Friday morning at 9:45 a.m. Intra-squad scrimmages are set for both Saturday and Sunday at Dwyer Arena from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
“It’s a great chance to get some extra work on my skills in this environment,” he explains. “I can’t do this back home when we just rent the ice.”
Ennis also understands he’s somewhat of a celebrity to the other campers, but shrugged off the notion that some of the other players are scared to approach him for advice.
“I’m not an intimidating guy by any means. The guys can come and talk to me whenever they want.”
|Photo: Carolina Hurricanes|
“Toronto didn’t do any this when I came up. I think this is just so important for the guys to not just be exposed to the coaching staff and how the Buffalo Sabres play, but also the teaching aspect through video and translating to the on ice drills. Just understanding what the Buffalo Sabres are all about will be instrumental in their development.”
The focus of the early part of the camp is on skill development through the on-ice drills and daily video sessions. Adams said they aren’t as concerned about certain players standing out in the drills as they are in seeing continued improvement.
“I like to see guys start to play at a little higher pace as the week goes on, so that when they leave here, they are thinking quicker and making quicker plays,” he explains. “The NHL moves fast and we like to play a fast game. Our message is to get quicker in all aspects of your game – hands, feet and how you process the game in your head.”
Adams also realizes the importance of the off-ice meetings, and how they can use those to further enhance this experience. They try to emphasize to every player that it’s not just about how fast you can skate or how hard you can shoot the puck.
“That’s the message we try and get across: if you think you’re doing enough, you’re probably not. You need to work more, learn more, study more, and ask more questions. It’s part of our duty as a staff to give them the truth and reality of how difficult it is to play in the NHL. And in the process, give them every chance to succeed.
“You can’t just have a camp for a few days and expect them to get the message. We need to teach, use the video. Each player is different in what they need, and we need to help each player learn what it takes to succeed. It’s up to us to give them the best opportunity to become an NHL caliber player.
Even though Adams is relishing his time on the ice with these youngsters, don’t expect it to stir any thoughts of a comeback.
“I do feel young, but my body doesn’t,” Adams said with a smile. “I love being on the ice, interacting with the guys and seeing their enthusiasm. It wasn’t that long ago that I was their age. Just being on the ice and seeing their excitement is fun for me.
On-ice workouts continue Thursday and Friday at Dwyer Arena beginning at 9:45 a.m. Several hundred fans attended today’s session, and crowds are expected to increase each day this week. Intra-squad scrimmages are scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
The only absentee so far is Joel Armia, Buffalo’s first-round selection (16th overall) in this year’s draft. It’s still unclear if the native of Pori, Finland, will be attending camp at any point this week. Goaltender Nathan Lieuwen and forward Colin Jacobs are in camp, but both missed the first day of workouts with undisclosed injuries.
On-ice workouts continue Wednesday from 9:45-11:45 a.m.
The 42-man roster includes nine invitees, three of whom come from Western New York. Forward Matt Zarbo (Grand Island, NY) had 14 points in 28 games for Clarkson University last season, after spending the previous two years in the USHL; 22-year-old blueliner Nick Bailen (Fredonia, NY) played for RPI last year, and finished with 36 points in 38 games; and goaltender John Cullen (Hamburg, NY) who posted a record of 15-14-2, while splitting his time in the OHL last year with Windsor and Sarnia.
Another notable camp invitee is 6-foot-4, 214 pound left winger Geordie Wudrick. A third-round pick (88th overall) of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2008 Entry Draft, Wudrick was among the WHL leaders with 43 goals in 71 games for the Kelowna Rockets last season.
This won’t be the only development camp that defensemen Mark Pysyk and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc will attend this summer. They’ve both been invited to Team Canada’s National Junior Team Development Camp next month in Calgary, in advance of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship that will take place Edmonton and Calgary starting December 26. For Pysyk, it will not only be a chance to make the team he was cut from last year, but to play in front of his hometown fans in Edmonton.
“It was in Buffalo last year, and that would’ve been neat to be a part of. But having it my hometown will be really something if I’m able to get there. It was great to get the call and I’m really looking forward to that opportunity.”
“I don’t think it’s really possible to want it anymore than you do. It’s the national junior team – Team Canada – it’s what we watch every Christmas growing up. I don’t think there’s any extra need for extra motivation."
But despite Pysyk’s success on the ice, he continues to be denied his goal of connecting with singer Taylor Swift via Twitter. Several times last season, Pysyk would post updates on his personal account in the hopes of catching the eye of the world famous singer by including her name (@taylorswift13) in his messages.
“It was something that started when me and a couple of buddies on the team were bored on a road trip,” explains Pysyk. “We were trying to get some celebrities to tweet us back, and I chose her. But nothing has happened yet, so I’ll keep trying.”