TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – One game into the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament and the Buffalo Sabres know they have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to make it back to the championship game. Buffalo has made the finals the past two tournaments, but a third trip is in jeopardy after losing their tournament opener.
The Carolina Hurricanes scored three power-play goals Friday afternoon as they defeated Buffalo 6-1 at Centre Ice Arena.
Buffalo was able to generate a lot of chances and outshot the Hurricanes 35-20, but they couldn’t get the puck past goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.
“I’ve played against Ned a few times. He’s a great goaltender but we can’t put it all on him either,” Brendan Lemieux said. “I think there were some mistakes on our end and we just have to bury our chances. We had too many to only put up one goal tonight so we’ve got to dial it in a little. But yeah, he was pretty good tonight.”
The Hurricanes ended up going 3-for-5 on the power play. Phil DiGuseppe scored twice (once on the power play) and Alex Aleardi was credited with a goal and two assists. Brock McGinn, Victor Rask and Brent Pedersen also tallied.
Buffalo went down early, surrendering the first goal of the game 3:19 in while killing off a penalty.
“We knew they were going to be good on the power play,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “I thought a lot of it was over-skating pucks and just not [focusing on] details away from the pucks.”
Buffalo battled back with a goal from Vaclav Karabacek with 7:16 remaining in the opening period before Carolina regained the lead with 2:28 to play in the first.
The Hurricanes added another pair of goals in the second period and two more in the third to close out the game. Buffalo started to press more in the Carolina zone late in the game and that led to some prime chances the Hurricanes were able to capitalize on.
“Maybe we had to take some risks there, but not too many. They used their chances pretty well every time,” defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen said.
The line combination of Karabacek, Lemieux and center Eric Cornel corroborated to make Buffalo’s only goal happen. From the left wing corner, Lemieux threw a pass cross-ice to Cornel who made a no-look backhand into the middle where Karabacek was able to put it past Nedeljkovic.
“Eric found me. He has good eyes,” Karabacek said. “I thought he would shoot, but he found me and I was surprised. It was a very good pass from him.”
For Cornel, he anticipated Karabacek being in the right place at the right time.
“I sort of had a feeling he was going to be there,” Cornel said. “So I got it and made the quick pass. I was lucky enough to get it to work out.”
With only one practice together under their belts, the instant chemistry for the line came as a welcome surprise.
“I got hit and then I just saw the tail end of him spinning. It was a great play,” Lemieux said. “I definitely didn’t come into this game thinking we were going to pull off something like that.”
All three members of that line were second-round picks by the Sabres in this year’s draft.
“He’s been through a lot. He’s been a really successful player at a lot of different levels and he’s also a guy who’s also very vocal and will tell guys what he thinks,” Cassidy said. “I think that’s a big part of leadership no matter what age you are.”
While Ristolainen isn’t going to adjust his style, now that he has a letter on his chest, he said he’s going to try to step up even more on the ice – especially with Buffalo needing wins in order to place well in the tournament.
“I’m not going to change everything. I’m just going to do my job and lead more on the ice,” he said.
Lemieux on moving on from the loss:
As a group, I think we have a lot to look forward to. We’ve got a group of top-notch guys that are playing well. We just need to put it together. I think the score really didn’t represent how good we were tonight.
We definitely played a lot better than the score was, but that’s the thing with hockey. Sometimes you’ve got to give that extra inch.
I’ve definitely been through my fair share of playing well and not producing or even as a group, losing 2-1, losing 6-1 and playing well. We’d rather lose well than squeak out wins when we don’t deserve them because at the end of the day it’s about improving. Especially at a tournament like this, we all want to improve and show our stuff.
Lineup changes usually depend on the health and availability of certain players. Cassidy mentioned after the game that a few players are a little dinged up and they’ll wait for further evaluation before shaking up the roster.
He also said they’ll make a decision later on Friday as to who will start in goal against New York. Andrey Makarov made 14 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres and Rangers are set to face off at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“Makky didn’t have the kind of game he wanted to have to start out with tonight, but we kind of left him out to dry a few times as well,” Cassidy said.
The game on Saturday can be heard on ESPN 1520 in Buffalo and will be streamed on Sabres.com’s desktop player. Full postgame recaps and analysis will be on Sabres.com as well.
TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – The Buffalo Sabres have found success pretty quickly in the NHL Prospects Tournament. Each time they’ve participated, they’ve reached the title game, winning the whole thing back in 2011.
Nine players from last year’s second-place team return for the Sabres. Buffalo made it to the finals a year ago, but lost to the Detroit Red Wings.
Center Daniel Catenacci is the only player back from Buffalo’s 2011 championship team. He knows what it was like to win – and he knows how disappointing last year’s loss was. While there’s a sense of unfinished business, he understands it’s a new year with a new group of players.
“Take it fresh, but at the same time, you don’t like to lose,” he said. “Being in the finals last year and not winning sucked. We want to win this year.”
The Sabres have four first-round picks on their Traverse City roster including defenseman Nikita Zadorov. In last year’s tournament, he scored the overtime winner against the New York Rangers to help Buffalo lock up the No. 1 seed in their division.
Zadorov’s eyes are on making the Sabres’ opening night roster and will try to use this tournament as a springboard into next week’s training camp. Now having one year in the Sabres organization under his belt, he’ll try to continue to be a player his teammates can look up to.
“You’ve got to be a leader every game. It doesn’t matter if you’re an older guy or a young guy,” he said. "I’ve got to step up in the NHL. I’ll have to be a leader over there and that’s my goal."
The tournament features the top prospects in eight organizations. All have the goals of making a name for themselves while helping their respective teams win.
“It’s a hard tournament. It’s a tough battle,” Catenacci said. “Guys think they’re coming in and playing a summer tournament to get ready for camp but this is a great opportunity to show your organization and obviously other organizations what you can do. It’s very important for camp to be seen and get noticed.”
Coach Chadd Cassidy will name a captain prior to the game. The man wearing the “C” could very well be one of those returning skaters.
Forward Nicholas Baptiste would have made 10, but he’s out with an injury and didn’t make the trip.
A slew of injuries at the goaltending position in the Sabres organization during the season, Makarov was called upon to help lead the Rochester Americans into the playoffs. He was solid in net down the stretch and is ready to take the reins for Buffalo in Traverse City after serving as the third-string goaltender last year.
He’ll start in goal Friday afternoon in Traverse City against the Carolina Hurricanes at 4 p.m.
The game can be heard on ESPN 1520 in Buffalo and will feature play-by-play with Paul Hamilton, color commentary by Brian Duff and analysis during the second intermission from SabresProspects.com’s Kris Baker.
A recap and video analysis with Duff and Baker will be up on Sabres.com following the game.
TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – Forward Nick Baptiste did not make the trip to Traverse City and will miss the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament for the Buffalo Sabres. He sustained an injury during the Sudbury Wolves’ preseason game on Sept 5.
Last season, Baptiste, a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, recorded 46 goals and 94 points in 70 games (regular season and playoffs). He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Buffalo in May and has a good shot at representing Team Canada at the World Junior Championship this winter.
Baptiste led the Sabres in scoring during last year’s Traverse City tournament so other players in the lineup will have to step up and produce offense. Specifically, Rochester Americans coach Chadd Cassidy – who is leading the Sabres prospects from behind the bench – is looking to Justin Bailey and Eric Cornel.
“A guy like Eric Cornel, hopefully he can have the same kind of tournament that Nick had last year for us, coming in here and being a producer right away and helping us put some points up on the board,” Cassidy said. “Those two guys are going to be counted on a lot for offense to fill that void.”
Cornel will center a line with fellow 2014 second-round picks Brendan Lemieux and Vaclav Karabacek. Bailey is slated to play right wing on the second line with William Carrier and center Daniel Catenacci.
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The Sabres take on the Carolina Hurricanes in their first game of the 2014 NHL Prospect Tournament at 4 p.m. The game can be heard live on ESPN 1520. Stay tuned to Sabres.com for postgame reaction and analysis.
TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – The beginning of the 2014 NHL Prospect Tournament marks another stop in Sam Reinhart’s goal to make the Buffalo Sabres roster in October. Reinhart, 18, was the second-overall selection in this year’s draft and the cerebral center knows he has a lot of work to do if he wants to be in the opening night lineup.
Rochester Americans coach Chadd Cassidy is giving him a great opportunity to shine right away and hopes Reinhart’s line can find some chemistry quickly in the early goings of the tournament.
In the Sabres' morning skate on Friday prior to their first game of the tournament, Reinhart was flanked by left wing Jordan Samuels-Thomas and right wing Joel Armia. Samuels-Thomas, at 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, should be able to create space for his linemates to generate offensive opportunities. A big, talented goal scorer like Armia – Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2011 (16th overall) – who is also 6-foot-3, could certainly benefit from playing with a creative center.
Cassidy was quick to point out after the skate that Buffalo’s game against the Hurricanes on Friday at 4 p.m. is only one game of many that Reinhart will have a chance to prove himself in.
“We obviously expect a lot of him from both ends of the rink, but it’s not going to make or break his career tonight,” Cassidy said.
RELATED: BAPTISTE TO MISS TOURNAMENT
There will also be some learning on both sides as the coaching staff tries to get a gauge on how to best handle each player on the roster. In that instance, Reinhart’s situation isn’t much different from any of the other prospects entering their first Traverse City tournament with the Sabres.
“We have to get a feel for how Sam ticks a little bit, what gets him going from a coaching, teaching perpective for our staff – the way we need to communicate with him and finding the right players to put around him,” he said.
The afternoon contest can be heard on ESPN 1520 in Buffalo with Paul Hamilton and Brian Duff on the call. For postgame reaction and analysis, be sure to keep your browser window open to Sabres.com
71 Jordan Samuels-Thomas – 23 Sam Reinhart – 33 Joel Armia
48 William Carrier – 43 Daniel Catenacci – 15 Justin Bailey
53 Brendan Lemieux – 46 Eric Cornel – 74 Vaclav Karabacek
70 Michael Joly – 42 Justin Kea – 52 Jack Rodewald
35 Andrey Makarov
60 Francois Brassard
Summer vacation is almost over for many prospects around the hockey world. For a few, the new season will begin on Sept. 12 in Traverse City, Michigan for the 2014 NHL Prospect Tournament.
For on-site coverage and analysis, stick with Sabres.com throughout the tournament. I'll be in Traverse City along with Sabres studio host Brian Duff and Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com.
The rosters for all eight teams participating have been announced and Buffalo’s lineup boasts an impressive number of highly drafted players. Buffalo won the tournament in 2011 and finished second to Detroit last year. Ten players from last year's Sabres squad will return to Traverse City.
Who is each team sending? We'll take a look at the top players from Carolina, Dallas, the Rangers, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota and St. Louis here. But let's start with the Sabres.
TED LINDSAY DIVISION
|(Photo Credit: Bill WIppert)|
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Sam Reinhart’s hockey IQ and on-ice vision have been praised as some of his strongest assets. The second-overall pick in this year’s draft posted 105 points (36+69) with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League last season and will look to start the 2014-15 season off on the right foot. If he wants to Sabres roster out of training camp, having a strong showing in Traverse City will help him make his case.
The Buffalo Sabres will once again be participating in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan next month. The full tournament schedule and ticket information can be found here.
Here's when the future Sabres will be playing:
Friday, Sept. 12
Buffalo v. Carolina, 4 p.m. (West Rink)
Saturday, Sept. 13
Buffalo v. NY Rangers, 7 p.m. (David’s Rink)
Monday, Sept. 15
Dallas v. Buffalo, 3 p.m. (David’s Rink)
Tuesday, Sept. 16
Seventh-Place Game: 4th Lindsay v. 4th Howe, 3 p.m. (David’s Rink)
Fifth-Place Game: 3rd Howe v. 3rd Lindsay, 3:30 p.m. (West Rink)
Third-Place Game: 2nd Lindsay v. 2nd Howe, 6:30 p.m. (David’s Rink)
Championship Game: 1st Howe v. 1st Lindsay, 7 p.m. (West Rink)
Buffalo's roster will be announced at a later date.
|(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.”
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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