SABRES PROSPECT REPORT
Kris Baker looks at Buffalo's key performers in the Traverse City championship game
The Buffalo Sabres gave it their best Monday night, but were outgunned by the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 in the championship game of the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich.
Despite the defeat, some notable performances were turned in by the prospects on the eve of the veterans reporting for the main portion of training camp.
Despite the final score, the lanky stopper posted another solid performance in the Traverse City title tilt. Lieuwen finished with 36 saves, including many from point-blank range that kept the Sabres in the game through the first two periods of play. His glove hand was quick to spear pucks out of mid-air, while his movement in the crease continues to show improvement entering the key middle year of his entry-level contract.
Jacobs maintained his success at the faceoff circle while playing with a sense of urgency all game long. He partnered with Logan Nelson and Peter Trainor to play an up-tempo, physical style that saw the latter draw two penalties as the Sabres forced their way back into the game. The WHL product picked up an assist on the team’s second goal, giving him a point in each of the Sabres’ four games to give him momentum heading into his first season at the professional level.
The top defender in blue and gold all tourney long, Ristolainen again stood out with his crisp execution and ability to regularly win one-on-one battles in the defensive zone. The Finnish standout was a workhorse all game, logging top power play and penalty killing duties while being charged to play shutdown even-strength minutes. He is still just 18, but if Traverse City was any indication, Ristolainen is on course to be a regular NHL contributor sooner rather than later.
Perhaps the Sabres most consistent forward through the four games, Girgensons left it all on the ice shift after shift. The Latvian lead the way as the team abandoned its dump-and-chase strategy, using his straight-line power to get to the net and apply heat along the boards. He was unable to notch a point when the team needed it most, but there’s little question that Girgensons has himself in position to make a serious push for NHL duty when the Sabres open training camp.
Right from the morning skate, it was clear that Armia had extra jump in his step. That energy transferred over for the full 60 minutes Monday evening, with the skilled shooter tying Ristolainen with a team-high four shots on goal while showing more command with the puck and a higher level of determination in the later stages. A brief ramp-up is to be expected when adjusting to the speed of the North American game, but despite not recording a point in the four-game stanza, Armia showed the skill that should see him get on track quickly out of camp.
The Minnesota native completed the tournament by showing good hustle while playing right wing on a line with Jacobs and Peter Trainor. The valuable energy provided by Nelson not only saw him draw two penalties, but also lead to him being elevated into a penalty killing role as the game progressed. Nelson finished the game with one assist, but the praise earned from the Sabres coaching staff afterward was more for his solid all-around effort.
He began the tournament watching from the stands, but Gauthier-Leduc capped off the week by playing big minutes for a second-straight game thanks to an upper-body injury to the team’s captain, Chad Ruhwedel. The offensive-minded defender looked good carrying the puck, using some nice little moves to navigate the neutral zone, while picking his spots wisely to get jump up for scoring opportunities. The Sabres’ best chance of the opening frame came when Gauthier-Leduc took a pass from Armia and walked in all alone, only to miss the net with a high-rising wrist shot.
Zadorov closed his stay in Traverse City with a bang, consistently showing his upper-body strength by pushing guys hard into the boards while mixing in a couple of thundering hip checks. His simple offensive game was a bit muffled in the finale, but Zadorov was still able to follow the play deep into the offensive zone at times with the Sabres activating their rearguards in hopes of sustaining pressure late in the third period.