Saturday, September 5, 2015

Some names to watch at the 2015 Buffalo Sabres Prospects Challenge

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres inaugural Prospects Challenge gets underway September 12, 2015 as Buffalo hosts prospects from the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils at both HARBORCENTER and the First Niagara Center. The Sabres had been a part of the Detroit Red Wings' annual Traverse City Tournament before opting out to start their own.

Yesterday the team released their roster of prospects who will be hitting the ice or the three-day round-robin event. Second-overall picks Jack Eichel (2015) and Sam Reinhart (2014) headline a strong group of recent draft picks while defenseman Jake McCabe and goalie Andrey Makarov, both of whom were in Rochester last season playing big roles, lead a small group of "veteran."

With Eichel and Reinhart grabbing most of the attention, here are some names to watch:

--RW's Justin Bailey and Nicholas Baptiste

Both Bailey and Baptiste are 20 yrs. old and Sabres' picks from the 2013 draft class and both will be riding shotgun with Eichel and Reinhart on the right side. Baptiste plays a strong two-way game and his myriad of shots that he uses to score with. Look for him to be an all-situations, go-to guy. The speedy Bailey packs plenty of size on his 6'3" 195 lb. frame and through his work-ethic is really starting to develop a nice set of hands. Both have finished their junior careers and will begin their trek to the NHL in Rochester this season.

--LHD Brendan Guhle
The 18 yr. old Guhle, who was drafted in the second round (51st overall) of the 2015 draft whom Sabres GM Tim Murray "an incredible athlete who can really skate." At Sabres Development Camp in July the left-handed, more offensive-minded Guhle was paired with Anthony Florentino (2013, 143rd,) a big, hard-hitting, defensive-minded righty. Not sure where Ghule will be on the ice as only one of their nine d-men are right-handed, but no matter where he is, enjoy watching him get up and down the ice.

--RW/LW, Evan Rodrigues
Although he's never said it, nor has he ever been asked, one would thing that Rodrigues is looking to separate himself from Eichel and stand on his own. The pair tore it up in Hockey East last season with many attributing Rodrigues' success to playing with Eichel. It's a fair statement, but he managed to stand out on his own at Development Camp and will likely do the same at the Prospects Challenge. I was amazed at the velocity and accuracy of his shot and the quickness with which he unleashes it.

--C, Georgio Estephan
The 2015 sixth-round pick (152nd) was an underdog at the Development Camp yet managed to raise some eyebrows with his skills and hockey sense. At 6'0" 183 lbs. he has good NHL size and he uses it well. As a sixth-rounder, Estephan is a long-shot, but the Sabres can keep him in the hopper for a number of years while he continues to develop.

--F, Eric Cornel
Cornel's a good-sized, two way forward who can skate very well. He had a six-game taste of pro hockey playing with Rochester to end the season. Cornel will be headed back to the Peterborough Petes of the OHL next season and hopefully he can iron out some of his inconsistencies. For the Prospects Challenge look for Cornel to play a 200' game while, hopefully, hitting the scoresheet.

Of note: G, Linus Ullmark is still rehabbing from double-hip surgery and will be sidelined until later this year.

Missing from the annual prospect tournaments are college players as well as those who are playing overseas. Their gearing up for their respective seasons.

There's a lot of young, highly-skilled talent hitting the ice for the Sabres and no doubt expectations will be pretty high. Winning is the goal, but the main component of events like this is to see how prospects stack up against their peers as they'll be playing them at every level of their hockey career.

For the full roster and schedule, click here.

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