|Mark Pysyk (Photo: Sabres.com)|
It probably wasn’t the scene that Ron Rolston expected to see on the first day of training camp for the Rochester Americans. Not only was the head coach able to run his troops through their paces in the cozy confines of First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo, but he had a whopping 34 players in attendance. Normally AHL camps open with a bare bones roster, and don’t increase until final cuts are made from the parent club. With the Sabres in lockout mode, the second-year bench boss was enjoying having to deal with two groups of 17 players.
“It’s quite a bit different. Usually you have to wait for guys to get sent down. I think at last year’s camp we started with just three lines,” said Rolston. “But it’s a great scenario for us to have this many players and this much depth. When you look at the guys out there, we have 10 defensemen on the ice that can play in this league at a very high level. It’s the same up front; we’ve got a lot of depth up there. It’s a good situation for us because right off the bat it puts us in an environment where we have to be competitive, and the guys have to compete for jobs. That’s the kind of team we want to be – difficult to play against. I think this is just going to add to that because of the competition here.”
Sabres GM Darcy Regier spoke to the media following today’s second session, and said he’s already started to make use of the free time that he’s been afforded due to the lockout.
“I actually got up to Quebec City; I saw (Mikhail) Grigorenko play last weekend in his first two games (with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts),” Regier said. “I will see more junior games, do more scouting. And obviously we’ll spend a lot of time in Rochester. But we’ll find ways to get better as an organization in this period as well.”
Regier was impressed with Grigorenko’s play last weekend, saying that he’s already shown improvement since watching him at the Canada-Russia Junior Challenge series in August.
“Offensively he had six points – four in the first game and two in the second. I actually liked his play in the second game more, when he set up the first two goals. I’d seen him in Halifax (in August), and he was more involved five-on-five this time. That’s a very good hockey club that Patrick Roy has in Quebec and he’s a big part of it. He’s their number one center and he’s playing with a couple of really good players. It’s a good team, and I think Patrick expects him to be the go-to-guy when he’s there. It’s an opportunity for him to grow as well.”
Forward Mark Mancari arrived at camp a shell of his former self. The 6-foot-4 winger returned to Buffalo 20 pounds lighter, after spending last season with the Vancouver Canucks organization. A seventh-round pick of the Sabres in 2004, Mancari realized that bigger isn’t better, and reported to camp at a svelte 208 pounds.
“I spent the summer working extremely hard. I lost a lot of weight, and I tried to work on my foot speed a little bit,” explained Mancari. “I think with the NHL changing, and rules changing, I thought that being big, heavy and strong was the way to go. Obviously I think I made a mistake in that decision. This year being lighter, I already feel better out there. It’s only been one skate but I definitely feel better, and I feel like I’ve taken a step in the right direction.”
Mancari has posted back-to-back 30+ goal seasons, and has averaged almost 30 goals over his last four AHL campaigns. Regier was pleased to see the changes that Mancari has made, and believes he can make an immediate impact in Rochester.
“If you look at what was one of the inhibitors of him making the next step, it was foot speed. When you lose that weight, that’s certainly going to help with your feet. He’s a smart player and someone who works hard on improving. He’s a leaner, meaner Mark Mancari who can score goals, and I think that’s great for the organization.”
Forward Evan Rankin was the only player missing from today’s on-ice sessions, as he was battling a virus.
It’s an early wake-up call for the players on Saturday, with practices scheduled for 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. at First Niagara Center. These are both closed to the public. The Amerks will open the Rochester portion of training camp on Sunday at Blue Cross Arena at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
General admission tickets for the Amerks’ home preseason game at The Sports Centre at MCC versus the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 7:05 p.m. are now on sale for $5 and can be purchased at the Customer Service desk inside The Sports Centre at MCC or at the Amerks Main Office located at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the ink barely dry on Patrick Kaleta’s new three-year deal, Darcy Regier continues to work on getting the team’s last remaining restricted free agent under contract.
Coming off an injury-plagued season that saw him score 15 goals and 19 assists in 48 games, the 22-year-old Ennis remains unsigned with training camp set to begin in late September. Regier says that talks have been ongoing, and is confident a deal will get done soon.
“We spoke with his agent yesterday and I think that will continue today,” Regier told the media today at First Niagara Center. “The positive is that it’s moving in the right direction.”
Regier also confirmed today that he has not met with unrestricted free agent Shane Doan, and nothing is scheduled for now. But with multiple media outlets reporting that Doan is in Vancouver today meeting with Canucks management, Regier said the Sabres would definitely have an interest in talking to with the 35-year-old Doan if he continues to make his North American tour of possible landing spots.
“What I would say about Shane’s situation is that I admire the level of loyalty he’s provided to Phoenix. He’s spent his whole career with that organization, and I think that’s meaningful and I admire that. But in the event he’s not going to stay there, we certainly do have an interest.”
The Sabres lost 334 man games to injury last season – the equivalent of losing four regulars from the lineup each night. Despite playing a career-high 63 games, Kaleta missed 15 games as a result of three different injuries. Regier would like to avoid the injury bug again this season, and is hopeful that some subtle adjustments to the protective equipment will benefit an aggressive player like Kaleta.
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH DARCY REGIER
“I’m always hard on manufacturers because they build their equipment for the players, and the players are largely about comfort and lightness – but comfort and lightness doesn’t always work on the protection side,” explained Regier. “We’ve become a lot more involved in the equipment the players are wearing, along with the player. We go back to the manufacturers and let them know we’re not prepared to use their equipment because it doesn’t provide adequate protection. Because when Pat gets hurt, we don’t have as good a replacement as he is as a player.”
Ten days ago was not a good day in the history of our country or for our faith in mankind.
The shootings in Aurora, Colorado, rocked us all, forever changing the lives of those closest to the tragedy, and reminded us that each day is to be treasured, and hopefully lived with a purpose.
For anyone who tuned into Sabres Hockey Hotline that Friday, you might have been surprised to hear me struggling with my emotions, getting choked up when discussing the casualties and senselessness of it all. A lot of that emotion comes from being a parent and feeling such great sympathy for those families so undeserving of such overwhelming grief. Some of it also comes from confusion, my inability to comprehend how and why mass slayings have happened, and continue to happen around the world.
I was personally touched by the responses I received from listeners via social media that day. There was an appreciation for me being so honest, so saddened, and so real I think, in a world where a lot of us (myself included), on many a day, can come across - unintentionally - as somewhat phony or insincere.
It was also a difficult time for me because of who I had been preparing to speak about that day to begin with.
Just over a year ago now, Alix lost her life while skateboarding at the hands of an impaired driver. Like many in Western New York, I was waiting by the minute for the outcome of the trial two months ago, and was again, like many, shocked, angered, saddened, and sick to my stomach over the verdict that was rendered.
I don’t remember what we were discussing that night on the NHL Network, but I do remember wanting to get in the car and get home as soon as possible to see my family. It took a little longer than I had anticipated.
As soon as I was in the vehicle I was just paralyzed by the radio, and the passion (and anger I believe) in the voice of WBEN’s Tom Bauerle. Agreeing with everything he said I just felt a connection to all of it. And I hoped that at the appropriate time down the road, I could help out in some small way.
So, on that fateful Friday, I was attempting to get the message out about the “Rockin for Rice” event at Bassett Park in Amherst on July 22.
And that too brought out a lot of emotion in me.
Alix was not destined to become a professional athlete and high profile name. But at 18 years of age she had already become a person many of us could only dream of being. Just ask those that knew her.
And even those that didn’t. Like Jon Fulcher who organized the “Rockin for Rice” event.
Pretty amazing isn’t it? Someone who didn’t even know Alix worked tirelessly to get this event off to a great start in its first year.
And this is where the sports connection, or if you want to make it just hockey, the hockey connection comes into it for me. What is the one thing that we talk about more than anything else when it comes to what we want in a player on our team?
Character. Always. Over and over. Shane Doan please!
Alix was full of character. A person who would do anything for anyone in need. Sounds like the perfect teammate to me.
And in typical Buffalo fashion, and like in hockey too, Fulcher stepped up at this time of need, kickstarting a mission to get a skate park built and named in honor of Alix Rice and her family.
Understandably politics will come into play at a time like this. Despite best intentions, there will be opposition to the construction and maintenance of a new facility. And skateboarding, and its culture, unfortunately isn’t as well received by the masses as many a team sport.
Let me say this: we aren’t all the same.
Kids need different options. Thinkers need places to think. Artists need places to create. Boarders need venues to practice and be themselves.
Per capita, there are as many great young people doing things on wheels as there are on blades, spikes, and any court shoes you can find.
All sports have elements we’d rather not expose our kids to. But for some reason when there is a final score to look at on a big board, we brush those elements aside.
It’s unfair and irresponsible to simply grab a wide brush and paint skate parks with negativity. My hope is that politics won’t ruin the vision or the end goal. Because I am also looking at this another way.
In the big picture of life, we can’t win this one. We have lost an absolutely beautiful child far too soon. And the loss was compounded by the outcome of the trial.
But we have a chance to control our destiny and gain a symbolic victory. Show our city pride, and honor the Rice family by donating to the skate park, and let Alix’s name stand out as a beacon, a reminder of the perils of drunk driving.
As for the cost of the park, I have heard it will take into six figures to get it done. Exactly how much, I am not sure.
Is it a lot? I guess. But I have almost 10,000 followers on twitter (@duffersabres), the majority of them with a WNY connection. And to think that if everyone of them chipped in a single dollar, we would surely be going in the right direction wouldn’t we?
I acknowledge that a lot of my followers might be at a time in their lives when charitable donations aren’t the top priority, meaning being young, being a student, is filled with financial challenges. But it might also be a good time to discuss the ultimate goal here with a family member, take stock of what is important to you in your community, how you want Buffalo to be thought of in your lifetime and collectively come to terms on what you can do for your neighbor.
Some of our greatest joys as parents of two young girls has been seeing them learn the value of being charitable. Donating clothes and toys to those who can really use them. Watching them take a dollar and put it into a Salvation Army kettle and feeling the warmth in the heartfelt thanks from the person standing for the cause.
I know a lot of businesses are among those following me on Twitter. Perhaps they can challenge one another to step up.
If so inclined, I encourage you to go to www.alixrice.com and click on the link to donate.
I look forward to the day that ground is broken on the Alix Rice skate park. And I hope that when our kids ask us "Who was Alix Rice?", that we all do our best to tell the whole story. That Alix was an amazing daughter, friend, and example of all that is good. And that even though she was taken far to soon, her spirit and smile will always be with us.
|Jake McCabe (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
It’s been an interesting past few weeks for defenseman Jake McCabe. Not only was the 18-year-old from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, selected in the second round (44th overall) of the NHL Entry Draft by the Sabres, he also had a front row seat to one of the most compelling dramas of the offseason.
Standing six feet tall and 195 pounds, McCabe is coming off an impressive freshman season at the University of Wisconsin where he posted 12 points (3+9) in 26 games. One of his teammates and close friends on the team just happened to be fellow blueliner Justin Schultz – the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers, and the star of what simply became known in the social media world as the “Schultz Watch.”
Drafted by Anaheim in 2008, Schultz went unsigned by the Ducks during his four-year signing period. He became a free agent in late June after leaving Wisconsin following his junior season, quickly making him one of the most sought-after unrestricted free agents in recent memory.
WATCH FULL INTERVIEW WITH JAKE McCABE
McCabe was living with Schultz throughout the courting process, and couldn’t believe what was unfolding before his eyes.
“He was pretty calm about it. That’s just his demeanor; it’s how he goes about things every day. He wasn’t cocky at all, but he had all the right to be. Twenty-six teams were after him, not many guys get that opportunity when you’re going to sign an entry-level contract,” explains McCabe. “Teams were just asking ‘come to us, come to us.’ He talked to some really cool people - guys like Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey gave him a call. They were trying to pull all his limbs each and every way. He talked to his family, and he thinks that Edmonton will be a great fit for him.”
Schultz’s ultimate decision gained attention across North America, but especially up north in Canada where it was compared to how LeBron James chose to play with the Miami Heat last summer. McCabe said the negative publicity was unwarranted, especially as some media painted the picture of Schultz being nothing more than an attention-seeking diva who had yet to play a game in the NHL.
“That whole ‘Schultz Watch’ thing kind of got blown out of proportion. He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t want publicity; he doesn’t want things to get that big. But it did, and he handled it well,” McCabe said. “People were questioning his character, which is kind of ridiculous since they don’t even know the kid. In my opinion, he’s a great guy.”
McCabe has no doubt that Schultz will have an immediate impact with the young Oilers, and looks forward to seeing him play at the NHL level.
“He’s such a competitor. At every practice he’s the hardest worker out there. He’s always pushing to be better in every aspect of his life. I played golf with him the other day and he shot a four-under-par 68. He’s a great ping pong player, bowler. You name it. He strives to be the best at everything.”
Development camp concludes on Thursday night with the Blue & Gold Scrimmage at First Niagara Center. Game time is 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 each for general admission seating, and can be purchased at the First Niagara Center box office or online at Tickets.com. Parking is available for the scrimmage for $4 in the First Niagara Center ramp and $2 in the surface lot.
|Frederick Roy (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
Because he’s not a goalie, the name Frederick Roy doesn’t jump out at you on the development camp roster. A 92-point player with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts last season, the shifty, five-foot-10, center looks like just another camp invitee doing his best to impress Sabres management this week at First Niagara Center. But that’s where his anonymity ends.
Frederick is the son of Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, who played 18 years with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche. These days, Patrick is the co-owner, head coach and general manager of the Remparts, a position that could have made life very interesting for father and son over the past few seasons. However, according to Frederick, it was never an issue.
“We knew that when we got to the rink it was business. I was just another player. At home we are really close, we are really good friends. It’s just that we work well together – he’s a good teacher and I’m a good student.
“He’s taught me one way to play the game – the hard way. It’s 100 percent every time I set foot on that ice; I give my heart and soul to the team I’m playing with.”
This can be an unsettling time of year for someone trying to earn a roster spot with the big club. Whether it’s the NHL Entry Draft, trades or free agency, there’s always seems to be some sort of roster shuffling going on that could affect your future. Corey Tropp explained that no matter how much you need to stay focused on your own personal goals, you can’t help but read or listen to all the offseason chatter.
“You pay attention to it; I’d be lying to you if I wasn’t. But I have a job, and that’s to compete, work my tail off and make the team coming out of camp. That’s what I’m striving for,” explains Tropp, who turns 23 on July 25. “At the end of the day you’ve just to got to think realistically that if you play well enough, and you’re working hard enough, your opportunity is gonna come.”
Tropp knows that he’ll be given every opportunity to possible to compete for a roster spot in training camp, after playing 34 games with the Sabres last season. But he also realizes that it’s not going to be handed to him.
“I think the staff here is very fair. If you perform better than somebody else, you’re gonna get that opportunity, and you’re gonna be that guy that maybe they thought the other guy was. My mindset is to control what I can control. Right now that’s getting myself prepared for September.”
Growing up as the son of an NHL’er, Marcus Foligno has experienced first-hand how quickly a player’s life can be uprooted by a trade. But he was reminded of it again recently when his brother Nick was dealt from Ottawa to Columbus on July 1. The brothers were together when the trade went down, so Marcus was there to see Nick’s immediate reaction.
“He took it well. I think he was shocked really. He loved Ottawa, the city and the community. Nick and his wife were very involved. One of the things about Nick is that he’s really good at public speaking, and he did it a lot in the community. He’d had a good year, but it was just one of those hockey deals. He took it pretty well, and he’s really excited to be with Columbus. They have an organization that’s up and coming. He’s really looking forward to getting there and being a big player for that team. He’s gonna fit well with them.”
If Darcy Regier needs a new ringtone, he might want to look no further than the new pop hit “Call Me Maybe.” Four days away from the entry draft, Regier admitted at today’s press conference at First Niagara Center that he’s been making more phone calls than usual heading into one of his busiest times of the year.
“We are very active as it relates to finding ways to improve our hockey team. Some of the names you hear that are out there, we’ve had conversations with those teams,” Regier explained. “I think it’s way too early to know whether or not anything will happen. I think there are a lot of teams like us in similar positions that are trying to do the same thing. At the start of the draft week, even the week before, you start to get a sense. But then as we get closer to the draft, things have a way of materializing.”
With a pair of first-round picks at 12th and 21st overall – and two more in the second round – Regier said the Sabres have some “flexibility” in terms of what they are able to do. But whether that means trading up or acquiring a proven NHLer, Regier expects it play out over the course of the next 96 hours or so.
“It’s too early. It could go anyway. We could use those four picks just to pick players in the draft. It’s the value of the players in the draft and how soon they may be ready for the National Hockey League, versus the cost to acquire some other player.”
Edmonton and Columbus own the first two picks this year, and the chatter has been that the Sabres should try and use their wealth of early draft picks to move up into one of those spots. But according to Kevin Devine, Buffalo’s Director of Amateur Scouting, this may not be the year to mortgage players off your roster for high draft picks.
“It depends where. We’re not adverse to moving up. But this year’s draft, it’s the first since I can remember, where there’s really not a consensus top five out there. If you polled all the head scouts in the league, you’d probably have 30 different lists."
Devine says the lack of proven star power at the top of the draft may scare some teams off if they are considering a blockbuster move into the top five.
“At the top of the draft, there’s no Stamkos or Nugent-Hopkins. I don’t see a draft like that this year. I think it’s a very good draft. It’s as many as 20 players deep in the first round where you can get a real good player. But for us to move up in the top five and the price it’s going to be, I’m not sure if it’s worth it because I’m not sure if any of those players have distinguished themselves any better than a player who might be around nine. Now if we’re sitting at 12 and we really like a guy and we see him falling, there’s a possibility we might move up. For us to move up into the top five, it’s a low percentage at this point. We’re more likely to move up from 21 than 12.”
IIHF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
With this year’s World Championship groups being split between Sweden and Finland, the 23-year-old Enroth has the rare opportunity to play in front of his hometown fans in the Stockholm bracket. Sweden leads their group with an undefeated 4-0-0-0 record, and Enroth has picked up two of those wins over Norway and Denmark – while posting a 2.50 GAA and .868 save%. Sweden has been splitting their goaltending duties between Enroth and veteran Viktor Fasth, who was named tournament MVP and top goaltender in last year’s World Championship.
UP NEXT: Russia (today), Italy (Saturday), Latvia (Tuesday)
The Slovaks are in tough in the Helsinki bracket, which also includes Canada, United States and Finland. They dropped their first two games to Canada and Finland, but bounced back with wins over the US and Kazakhstan. Sekera scored the game winner in the 4-2 win over Team USA on Monday, a game they led 3-1 after the first period. Sekera has two points (1+1) in four games, and is averaging almost 18 minutes of ice time – trailing only Zdena Chara (22:54) and Dominik Granak (20:23).
UP NEXT: Belarus (Saturday), Switzerland (Sunday), France (Tuesday)
WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE
Mark Pysyk’s goal with 55 seconds left in regulation was the game winner, as the Edmonton Oil Kings defeated the Portland Winterhawks 4-3 on Thursday in Game Five of the WHL Championship. The Oil Kings now lead the series 3-2, and are one win away from advancing to the Memorial Cup.
“Marky’s been a horse in this series,” Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal told EdmontonOilers.com. “He’s penalty killing, he’s matching lines, he’s on the power-play. His leadership on the ice is second-to-none and he showed it with that game-winning goal. He’s outstanding.”
Game 5 highlights and post-game interviews. (courtesy of EdmontonOilers.com)
Game 5 Scoring Summary
UP NEXT: Game 6 - Saturday @ Portland, 9 p.m. ET (Listen Live)
QUEBEC MAJOR JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Summer vacation for Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and his Rimouski Oceanic teammates started earlier than they wanted thanks to a dominating 8-0 win by the Saint John Sea Dogs on Thursday. The Sea Dogs swept the QMJHL Presidents Cup championship series in four games, and are headed back to the Memorial Cup for the second straight season. Stanislav Galiev (3+2) and Tomas Jurco (2+3) each had a game-high five points and plus-six rating for the Sea Dogs. Gauthier-Leduc led all QMJHL defensemen with 19 points (8+9) in 21 playoff games, after collecting 74 points (28+46) in 62 regular season games.
Game 4 Scoring Summary
ONTARIO HOCKEY LEAGUE
The London Knights have won three straight games in the OHL Championship, and a win tonight at home would punch their ticket to the Memorial Cup. London won Game Four on Wednesday in St. Catharines by a score of 4-1. If the IceDogs are able to extend the series past tonight, Game Six would take place on Sunday (2 p.m.) at the Gatorade Garden City Complex in St. Catharines. Sabres prospect Steven Shipley now has points in consecutive games for Niagara, after picking up the primary assist on Myles Doan’s third period goal in Game Four. In 19 playoff games, Shipley has nine points (5+4).
UP NEXT: Game 5 - Tonight @ London, 7 p.m. (Listen Live)
WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE
EDMONTON vs. PORTLAND (TIED 2-2)
Rhett Rachinski scored 9:07 into overtime to give the Edmonton Oil Kings a 4-3 win in Game 4 last night in Portland, evening their WHL Championship series at 2-2. Mark Pysyk picked up an assist on Stephane Legault’s second period goal, giving him two points (0+2) in the series. Pysyk has nine points (2+7) in 17 playoff games, along with a plus-five rating and 12 PIMs.
* Game 4 highlights and post-game interviews (courtesy of EdmontonOilers.com)
* Game 4 Scoring Summary
UP NEXT: Game 5 - Thursday @ Edmonton, 9 p.m. ET (Listen Live)
ONTARIO HOCKEY LEAGUE
NIAGARA vs. LONDON (LONDON LEADS 2-1)
The London Knights have won two straight, and they are looking to take a stranglehold on the OHL Championship series tonight when Game 4 is played in St. Catharines. Niagara won the first game in double OT on a goal by Dougie Hamilton, but the Knights bounced back with consecutive wins to take a 2-1 series lead. Steven Shipley’s assist on Brett Ritchie’s power play goal in Game Three was his first point in six games, giving him eight points (5+3) in 18 games.
UP NEXT: Game 4 - Tonight @ Gatorade Garden City Complex in St. Catharines, 7 p.m. (Listen Live)
QUEBEC MAJOR JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
RIMOUSKI vs. SAINT JOHN (SAINT JOHN LEADS 2-0)
The Rimouski Oceanic and Saint John Sea Dogs have played a pair of 3-2 games to start their QMJHL Presidents Cup series, but the top-ranked Sea Dogs have had the upper hand in both contests to take a 2-0 lead heading into tonight’s Game 3 in Rimouski. Jerome Gauthier-Leduc has recorded an assist in each game, and he now leads all QMJHL defensemen with 17 points (8+9) in 19 games this spring for the Oceanic.
UP NEXT: Game 3 - Tonight @ Rimouski, 7:30 p.m. (Listen Live)
Mark Pysyk had one assist and was named the game’s first star, as the Edmonton Oil Kings opened up the WHL Championship with a 3-2 win over the top-ranked Portland Winterhawks. Pysyk, Buffalo first selection (20th overall) in the 2010 Entry Draft, assisted on Edmonton’s first goal just 1:25 into the game when his point shot was tipped in front by Rhett Rachinski.
"I thought Mark (Pysyk) was outstanding tonight," Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal told EdmontonOilers.com after the game
* Video highlights, interviews and game recap (EdmontonOilers.com)
* Game Summary
UP NEXT: Game 2, tonight @ Rexall Place in Edmonton, 9 p.m. ET (Listen Live)
NIAGARA 3 – LONDON 2 (2OT)
The Niagara IceDogs took Game One of the OHL Rogers Cup championship with a 3-2 win in double overtime over the London Knights. Boston Bruins draft pick Dougie Hamilton scored the game winner at 9:13 of the second overtime. Sabres prospect Steven Shipley was held off the scoresheet for Niagara.
* Game Recap (St. Catharines Standard)
* Game Summary
UP NEXT: Game 2, Saturday @ Gatorade Garden City Complex in St. Catharines, 7 p.m. (Listen Live)
RIMOUSKI AT SAINT JOHN
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and the Rimouski Oceanic play Game One of the QMJHL Presidents Cup tonight in New Brunswick against the Sea Dogs. Game time is 7 p.m. ET (Listen Live)
The postseason rolls on for three Sabres prospects, as each of their teams have advanced to their respective league championships in the Canadian Hockey League. Mark Pysyk (Edmonton, WHL) and Steven Shipley (Niagara, OHL) will start their series on Thursday, while Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Rimouski, QMJHL) will have to wait until Friday to play Game One. The champions from the OHL, WHL and QMJHL will then advance to the 2012 Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, Quebec, from May 18-27.
Catch up with each of the three players below, along with links to follow their live game action.
Drafted: 2010, 1st round (20th overall)
Contract Status: Signed 3-year entry level contract (June 2, 2011)
Pysyk has seven points (2+5) in 13 games, as the red-hot Oil Kings have only lost one game in the playoffs. Edmonton had won 22 straight games (last 11 regular season, first 11 playoffs) before being handed a 5-1 loss to Moose Jaw in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final. Pysyk has used his puck-moving skills to front a stellar-defensive corps that has given up just 22 goals in 13 games – including two shutouts and seven other games when they have allowed just one goal.
Pysyk had 38 points (6+32) and 83 PIMs in 57 games this season, and also won a bronze medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.
UP NEXT: Edmonton will host Portland at Rexall Place in the first two games of their best-of-seven Ed Chynoweth Cup Final. Game One is Thursday at 9 p.m. ET (Click here to listen live)
Drafted: 2010, 3rd round (68th overall)
Contract Status: Signed 3-year entry level contract (December 30, 2011)
Gauthier-Leduc heads into the final with 15 points (8+7) in 17 games, after being held pointless in two of Rimouski’s last three games. His eight goals are the most among all CHL defensemen in the playoffs, and he needs just two points to surpass Halifax’s Konrad Abeltshauser as the QMJHL’s top scoring blueliner in the postseason. The 19-year-old led all Canadian Hockey League defensemen in goals (28) this season, and his 74 points in 62 games were tied with Spokane’s Brenden Kichton for the most among all CHL defensemen.
UP NEXT: Rimouski opens up their best-of-seven President Cup Final series on Friday in Saint John against the top-ranked Sea Dogs at 7 p.m. ET. (Click here to listen live)
Drafted: 2010, 4th round (98th overall)
Contract Status: Unsigned
Shipley has seven points (5+2) in 15 games for the IceDogs, contributing most of his ice time as a checking center. All five of his goals came in three consecutive games during the first round against Oshawa. Shipley is coming off the second 20-goal season of his junior career, recording 22 goals and 49 points in 63 games played.
UP NEXT: Niagara travels to London for Game One of the best-of-seven OHL Championship Series on Thursday, with Game Two at the Gatorade Garden City Complex in St. Catharines on Friday. Both games start at 7 p.m. (Click here to listen live).
Josh Gabriel (6’, 185 lbs., 2/13/1996) continued a successful offseason for the Buffalo Junior Sabres program, as he was selected in the second round of yesterday’s United States Hockey League (USHL) Draft by the Tri City Storm. The Lancaster, NY-native had 54 points (30+24) in 61 games this season for the 16U Jr. Sabres. Gabriel joins two other 16U Jr. Sabres that were picked in the Ontario Hockey League Draft on April 7. Defenseman Frank Hora (6’, 164, 6/1/1996) was drafted in the eighth round (147th overall) by Kitchener, while right winger Brendan Dunning (7/19/1996) was taken by Niagara in the 10th round (199th overall.)