Sabres prospect TJ Brennan probably played his last game for Rochester last night. In fact, he probably played his last game in the AHL for now.
The 6'1", 213lb. offensive defenseman will head east to Buffalo for today's start to training camp after pulling off a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" last night in Syracuse during the Amerks 4-1 win over the Crunch.
Brennan started out the trick last night by coming to the defense of Amerks forward Zemgus Girgensons who was leveled by Crunch forward Richard Panik. Although it wasn't much of a fight, Brennan did not hesitate to drop the gloves for what he considered a late/dirty hit on his teammate.
Next up, mid-way through the third period with the Amerks up 2-1, Brennan go the primary assist on Kevin Porter's goal to make it 3-1.
And lastly, Brennan connected on the PP with less than five minutes to go on a wicked one-timer from the circle (for video, visit sabresprospects.com).
Brennan left Rochester for the Sabres camp with a team-leading 14 goals, 21 assists, 35 points and seven powerplay goals in 36 games.
Drafted with the first pick in the second round (#31) of the 2007 draft, the former lacrosse player who didn't start playing hockey until he was 10, spent his first three seasons working on his defense. Although he still put up respectable offensive numbers.
During his first two seasons in Portland and last season in Rochester the defenseman was finding his way. In an interview with the Cherry Hill (NJ) Courier Post's Randy Miller, Brennan admits to 'kind of stressing a bit' during those seasons. But this season he may have finally "got it." 'It’s been a really fun year,” he said, "I think I’ve learned to just work on my game and do what’s in my control.'
What's in his control right now is a shot at making the team for this abbreviated season.
The Sabres, though, have eight NHL defensemen on the team already, and it will be a tough road to make the club.
But he does have two things working in his favor.
First, Head Coach Lindy Ruff seems as if he may be tinkering with the idea of incorporating specialists including a "specialty defensman" while givining his top-six forwards and top-four defensmen the bulk of the minutes. This could open the door for Brennan to be used as a powerplay specialist on the point.
And secondly, Brennan is on a two-way contract and is out of waiver options. Should he be exposed to waivers, there's little doubt he'll be picked up by any number of clubs who are in the market for defensemen.
Regardless of what happens, Brennan seems intent upon 'doing the best [he] can' while 'letting the people with power make the decisions,' and if he continues where he left off in the AHL, it will be a most difficult decision for the Sabres.