Saturday, July 9, 2016

On Rasmus Asplund's leadership and , of course, Jimmy Vesey

Buffalo Sabres prospect Rasmus Asplund was a projected first-round draft pick in the 2016 who fell to the second round. As the 5'11" 176 lb. native of Flilipstad, Sweden fell Buffalo GM Tim Murray kicked it in gear and made a trade that moved the Sabres up to the third pick at the top of the second round and with that pick they took Asplund.

The deal Murray made with Florida centered around Panthers d-man Dmitry Kulikov and Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk. "I knew it was going to be Mark [Pysyk] as the main component of the deal," said Murray to the gathered media post-draft. "It was originally going to be our first 3rd-round pick. We continued to negotiate and I went back to them told them we need to flip-flop our second round picks because Asplund was still on the board."

The Sabres went heavy with skill and speed at this year's draft. In the first round they selected Alexander Nylander, a highly-skilled Swede whom Central Scouting's Dan Marr described as "a dynamic player who is an elite skater with a creative skill-set." Marr had Asplund ranked as the fourth best European skater in the draft while the Sabres, according to Murray, had him ranked as the only '5' left on the board in their rating system that goes as high as seven.

What the center lacks in size he makes up for in gumption. Asplund's been described as a skilled, two-way center with a quick, accurate shot who has a nose for the net and is responsible defensively. He also possesses great leadership skills as evidenced when he captained Sweden’s U-18 team at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Tournament while still a 16 yr. old.

New Rochester Americans head coach Dan Lambert, who's running this year's Sabres Development Camp, offered up this anecdote concerning Asplund's leadership.

Lambert was talking with Brian Duff of after Day-1 mentioning that despite all the new faces at the rink he had some connections with a few of the players including a "young Swede" who he was familiar with dating back to a U-17 tournament when he was one of three coaches for the host country at the 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge held in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.

"I was coaching U-17's and he was [Sweden's] captain," began Lambert. "In the ceremonial face off he snapped it back and we were supposed to win it because we were the home team. I was like 'Whoa, I can't believe he just did that.'"

Lambert called it a pretty emotional moment that got his team pretty fired up, so at camp he approached Asplund and asked him about that. According to Lambert, Asplund's response was, 'Our team was so scared I had to do something to get them going.' highlighted Asplund in their Day-1 recap and he talked of how he approached his first development camp. "It starts off the ice," he told Duffer. "You really need to get prepared mentally to be a big guy in the locker room, to be the guy the other guys want to follow.

"I want to be the guy that makes a difference." And after spending two years playing against professionals as a young pup, Asplund says, "I'm more ready than I've ever been to be that guy now."


The Jimmy Vesey courtship continues and although it's been bantered around relentlessly, it is a major story for the Buffalo Sabres.

Jet T-Pegs hit Beantown the night before while yesterday Murray basically handed Kyle Okposo his new Sabres jersey prior to the free agent-signee's first presser in Buffalo then rushed off to catch an 11:01 flight to Boston with head coach Dan Bylsma in tow. Also along was Jerry Forton, according to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo news citing the Providence Journal. Forton was an assistant coach at Harvard during Vesey's freshman season.

The Sabres had the big guns out for this one sitting across Vesey and his agent Peter Fish (who's also Jack Eichel's agent) as well as Vesey's father, Jim.

The Vesey saga has received enough press but the fact that his father--who is employed by the Toronto Maple Leafs as an amateur scout--reportedly attended was rather curious in a couple of ways.

First off, what was an employee of another organization doing at the meeting? And secondly, for as much as Jimmy Vesey claims to be making his decision independent of his father and other family members, how can he do so with a paternal presence in the room for his first big meeting with an NHL team?

It's enough to at least raise an eyebrow or two.

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