Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Traverse City, 2014 plus a quick note on Pegula and the Buffalo Bills

Reprinted with permission from

First off, while typing this piece, word on the street from numerous sources is that Terry and Kim Pegula have won the bid to buy the Buffalo Bills and will be owners pending league approval.

Back in July, it looked as if the Pegula's put the hammerlock on all other bidders with word of a possible $1.3B non-binding bid. In the eyes of the Wilson Trust, it would seem the Pegula's just had too much going for them--most notable their immense wealth and liquidity and their passion for keeping the team in Buffalo--to deny them.

Congrats to the Pegulas and the Bills, but most of all, congrats to the fans of Buffalo. Stability for the second Buffalo franchise has been a long time coming.

Makes me wanna SHOUT!! (kick my heels up)


The Buffalo Sabres announced their Traverse City Hockey Tournament Roster yesterday. Amongst the 24 Sabres prospects who will travel to Northern Michigan from September 12-16 are four first round picks, lead by the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Sam Reinhart, plus six second rounders.

This will be the third time Buffalo has competed in the tournament. They won it in 2011, their first year of participation, with a 5-2 victory over the NY Rangers prospects. After the lockout season of 2012 kept all the teams on the sidelines, the Sabres came back to defend their title last year only to fall short to host team Detroit in the Championship Game.

It's the 16th year the Red Wings will be hosting the event which features prospects from eight teams split up into two divisions. The Wings anchor the Gordie Howe division which also feature the Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. Buffalo is in the Ted Lindsay division with the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars and NY Rangers.

The round-robin preliminary rounds begin with four tournament games per day on two ice rinks from Friday-Monday. The teams will practice in the morning and play games in the afternoon/evening. Sunday is a practice day with no games scheduled.

After seeding is set with the completion of Monday's games, Tuesday games will begin with the 4th place teams in each division playing for 7th place at 3:00pm. The 3rd place teams begin play for 5th place at 3:30, the 2nd place teams for 3rd place at 5:30 and the top two teams in each division playing for the championship at 7:30pm.

The event is set up to showcase prospects in an NHL-type setting. The rules are somewhat loose as to how many pro players each team is allotted, but it's usually kept to a handful. The Sabres will be icing Joel Armia, Daniel Catenacci, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe and Andrey Makarov. All have had played extensively in the AHL with a few (Ristolainen, McCabe, Makarov) already making their NHL debuts.

In addition to the vets, some free agent invitees are usually needed to fill out the roster and this year the Sabres will have six. Getting their opportunities with the Sabres are RW's Joseph Blandisi and Jack Rodewald, LW Michael Joly, D Ryan MacKinnon and Jared Walsh, G Francois Brassard.

The Sabres have been building a large prospect pool and would easily fill their roster with those exclusively in the system. But college and international players are inaccessible as they're attending their respective camps gearing up for their seasons.

As always, potential and progress are best judged when competing against one's peers and it will be fun to see just where certain players stand amongst them.

Reinhart has particular appeal. The Sabres haven't drafted a player that high in the draft since Pierre Turgeon in 1987 (supplemental drafts not withstanding.) There's no doubt he has the smarts and the skills to make the jump to the NHL this year. How he measures up physically seems to be the only question mark.

Anchoring the Sabres back-end is Rasmus Ristolainen. A year ago he and Nikita Zadorov were the twin towers on defense for Buffalo. They provided an imposing presence to the point where Columbus beat writer Aaron Portzline wrote, "I'm no scout, but those two looked beastly on the backend."

Ristolainen is about as close to the NHL as one could get and he should be a dominating presence this tournament. Zadorov is still very raw and one should look to see if he can play more within himself and trust his drive and talent. That's the maturity-level he needs to achieve before he can make it to the big club.

After a broken hand messed up his North American debut, Joel Armia finished the year strong in Rochester. He should also be a dominant force.

Two players who had rather average (at best) Sabres Development Camps were Catenacci and D, Brycen Martin (2014, 74th overall.) Both will be looking to add more.

In net, a strong tournament by Makarov will catch head coach Chadd Cassidy's eye and be a salvo hurled in the direction of fellow Rochester Americans goalie Nathan Lieuwen in their battle to be named starter.

Jake McCabe got in seven NHL games last season and he made his mark by leveling former Sabre, Daniel Paille with a shoulder to chest blast at the blueline. McCabe presents an intriguing prospect as his all-around game encompasses hits like that, rock-solid defensive play, offensive acumen, leadership and a winning attitude.

2013 third-round draft pick (No. 69) Nick Baptiste will be back for his second Traverse City tournament. Last year he was a force bringing a relentless work ethic to the ice while leading the team in scoring with four goals and three assists. He's thought of highly in the organization as witnessed by his recent signing to an entry-level deal. Baptiste was a third round pick of the previous regime and new GM Tim Murray had no trouble inking him.

There are others to watch like Brendan Lemieux and one that I'm really intrigued by, Vaclav Karabacek as well.

It all begins Friday.

The Buffalo Sabres Traverse City Roster:


Joel Armia--2011, 16th overall
Justin Bailey--2013, 53nd
Nicholas Baptiste--2013, 69th
Joseph Blandisi--Invitee
William Carrier--2013, 57th (STL)
Daniel Catenacci--2011, 77th
Eric Cornel--2014, 44th
Colin Jacobs--2011, 107th
Michael Joly--Invitee
Vaclav Karabacek--2014, 49th
Justin Kea--2012, 73rd
Brendan Lemiuex--2014, 31st
Sam Reinhart--2014, 2nd
Jack Rodewald--Invitee
Jordan Samuels-Thomas--2009, 203rd (Atlanta Thrashers)


Brady Austin--2012, 193rd
Ryan Mackinnon--Invitee
Brycen Martin--2014, 74th
Jake McCabe--2012, 44th
Rasmus Ristolainen--2013, 8th
Jared Walsh--Invitee
Nikita Zadorov--2013, 16th


Francios Brassard--Invitee
Andrey Makarov--FA

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