Sunday, July 20, 2014

Final thoughts on the scrimmage + the 3-stars

Reprinted with permission from

Expectations were high for the Prospect Scrimmage last night as a number of first and second round picks hit the ice.

The announced attendance for the scrimmage was 8725. That's nearly nine thousand fans going to watch hockey on the 15th day of July.

It says a lot about the fans and says a lot about the players that the organization has been accumulating over the course of the last three years.

The game its self was pretty intense with plenty of hitting and it was a tight-checking affair which left players like 2014 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart locked up for most of the game. Reinhart's Team White linemates Brendan Lemieux (2014, 31st) and Joel Armia (2011, 16th) also found little ice to work with.

Rochester Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy ran the camp and gave the Reinhart line a formidable matchup. Cassidy put together a big, strong, edgy checking line of Zemgus Girgensons centering Jordan Samuels-Thomas and William Carrier. He also threw out Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe on defense whenever possible to lock things down.

Girgensons seemed to be having some fun showing the youngins just what the NHL game will be like. Not too deep into the first period, Girgensons welcomed Reinhart to the NHL style of play with a crushing check the blueline which drew a collective "ooohh" from the fans.

To their credit, and the reason that Team White came out on top, the forwards were constantly driving to the net and scoring goals because of it.

It was probably the most predominant aspect of the entire scrimmage. No single player stood out save for White goalie Linus Ullmark. The 2012 6th round pick was the only goalie not to get scored upon.

That fact was somewhat disappointing to some, but was to be expected.

Once again, this was a prospect camp in the middle of July. They hadn't played in weeks and they were playing with unknown linemates.

Among the things we saw at the scrimmage was Lemieux channeling his father Claude as he ran all over the ice laying some hits and annoying Ristolainen to the point where they were jabbing at each other. Nothing came of it, but it was spirited.

Former first round pick Nikita Zadorov is big, has a long reach and still "likes to hit" but he's still a raw prospect.

Grigorenko was noticeably bigger, but didn't have an impact. He's still having trouble with passion and would he have driven to the net after dishing on a 2-on-1, he'd have had a gaping net staring at him.

Another year in the AHL for him will do him well. Maybe even a move to wing would help as well.

Team White's Mark Pysyk was his usual self going unnoticed while making the right play all the time.

JT Compher, Nicholas Baptiste and Justin Bailey all have room to grow while the future looks bright for long-term prospects Eric Cornel and Max Willman.

The skilled, shifty Team White scored on their opportunities while the bigger, heavier Blue Squad looked like a collection of two-way/checking line players. The future vs. the present.

And so it goes.

Three stars of the night:

#3--Linus Ullmark--two years ago he came in showing the fundamentals with which he'd be building upon. He's progressed nicely having tightened up his game and he looked bigger in net which is a direct result of his confidence level climbing.

#2--The Crowd--Nearly 9000 in attendance for a scrimmage in mid-July. The players salute to the crowd was well deserved.

#1--Anthony Florentino and Justin Kea dropping the gloves--It was an intense scrimmage, but these two took it a step further by droppin' 'em. The 6'1" 212 lb. Florentino held his own against the 6'4" 220 lb. Kea. During the second period intermission the Sabres Brian Duff asked Florentino about the fight. Florentino, to which the defenseman replied that it was a bit out of the norm for him because there's no fighting in college. He said he just wanted to show he was up for it at the next level and that he was trying to get his team going.

The fight, by the way, got the biggest roar from the crowd.

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