Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 Sabres Development Camp closes. What's the word on the street?

Published by, 7-11-2017

(Compiled from media outlets including The Buffalo News and

The 2017 Buffalo Sabres Development Camp is in the books. The event which was shortened to four days concluded with the French Connection 3-on-3 Tournament, which was always the case, but missing this year was the popular Blue and Gold Scrimmage. New AGM Randy Sexton said that nixing the scrimmage, as well as shortening the camp from seven to four days, was in the best interests of the players.

"Summer training for players this age is critical," Sexton told the gathered media two days ago. "I've seen it happen in other development camps where you have these high-intensity scrimmages or practices. Kids are competitive by nature and now you've got five kids that are nursing injuries for 2-3 weeks. And that throws a serious wrench into their training regimens. So we need to be sure, back to helping these players becoming as good as they're capable of them becoming, that it includes a strong summer of off-ice training."

There was one injury, however, as defenseman Devante Stephens got tangled up with Hudson Fasching and crashed into the boards. Stephens incurred a shoulder injury "that won't require surgery," according to GM Jason Botterill. The injury will require a couple of weeks and Stephens "should be ready for training camp," said Botterill at the close of camp today. Stephens had just signed his entry-level deal with the Sabres two months earlier and there's an opening on defense in Rochester.

Other than that, the youngins were on display and from various reports, some players had themselves a pretty good camp.

Buffalo's 2017 first round pick Casey Mittelstadt looked to be the star of the show. The eighth-overall pick was mentioned often over the weekend and through Monday and with today's 3-on-3 tournament, his stature grew a little bigger. Before we anoint Mittelstadt as the next Jack Eichel, today's 3-on-3 tournament was played full-ice, similar to the NHL's overtime session. There was plenty of room to maneuver, plenty of ice to work with.

Mittelstadt's Team White marched through the tournament without a loss while on their way to the French Connection Trophy. In the championship game Mittelstadt twice was in the midst of wowing the crowd with some shifty maneuvering only to have the horn sound for a required line change. The next time, however, he weaved his way down low near the goal line and roofed a forehand from in tight to give Team White a 2-0 lead.

Winning seems to be a passion of Mittelstadt's. After he lead Team White to a semi-finals win, Brian Duff said that whether he's playing cards or checkers or whatever, "all Mittelstadt does is win." Place that atop his top-three skill-level and Sabres fans have a lot to get excited about.

The rest of Team White:
D, Bryson Martin
D, Erik Autio
LW, Brett Murray
RW, Hudson Fasching
C, Rasmus Asplund
F, Eric Cornel
G, Jake McGrath

Rasmus Asplund got some favorable mentions over the course of the camp and had some good words for Mittelstadt. "This is the first time I've seen Casey play, and I think he's one of the better players I've ever seen play," Asplund said to the media at camp's end. "He's so shifty and he's so hard to play against. I got to play with him today."

Asplund had himself a pretty good camp getting noticed for all the right reasons. Buffalo's second round pick (33rd-overall) heads back to Farjestad BK for his fourth season competing in Sweden's top men's league. Word is that he'll be placed in a scoring role for his final season in the SHL.

Autio, a camp invitee from Penn State also fared well as did Cornel in the tournament.

Finnish defenseman Oskari Laaksonen also appeared at Camp showing that he not only is real, but that he's got more on his frame than the 130 lbs. his bio's said he had on. The third rounder was selected out of no where by Buffalo, having not appeared on any draft lists.

In an interview after Day-2 of camp Laaksonen said to the media, "I was like, 'Oh my God, oh my God.' I ran to my mother. It was a special moment for me." After proving he was real he went about telling the media about the weight issue where he was listed at 103 lbs. "I was like, oh God, I have to correct that one," he said, smiling. He did. Laaksonen clocked in at just under 6' and weighed 152 lbs. It's still small for a defenseman, but the kid's got some definitive skills.

Fellow Finnish countryman Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen looked huge in goal, but was nimble and positionally sound. Laaksonen knows him from playing against him and said of the 6'4" 198 lb. Luukkonen, "He's great. He's a fun guy. He's so fun to be around. He's hugeee, man." On the ice he wasn't so fun to be around for the opposition as he was stout throughout most of the tournament.

Broadcast legend Rick Jeanneret was on hand for the play-by-play today and was joined by Rob Ray and Duff, among others. The Sabres had themselves a good crowd at HarborCenter with the team opening up sections as the fans filed in to fill the place for a 3-on-3 tournament in July. Which is not surprising.

Despite all the up's and down's Sabres fans have had, it's their team and they remained excited about them. Most players on the ice won't be representing the Sabres for a few years, but it's great to see where they are now, with that as a backdrop when we watch them three years from now. They're the future of the Blue and Gold.


The future of the Blue and Gold can also be tied to 20 yr. old Jack Eichel. The No. 2 overall pick in 2015 is Buffalo's franchise player and will be entering the final year of his contract this season. Botterill and Co. know that, and they'd like to get an extension with Eichel done this off season.

"Our conversations with Jack and the group have gone extremely well," Botterill said to the media in HarborCenter after the close of development camp. "We'll continue this throughout the summer and see if we can find a common ground because, from our standpoint, we certainly want to get something done. And everything we've heard from Jack and his agents is they want to get something done too."

Connor McDavid, the first-overall pick in 2015 was re-upped by the Edmonton Oilers to the tune of 8 yrs./$100 million, or a record-breaking cap-hit of $12.5 million. That was on the heels of a breakout season where McDavid had 100 points (30+70) and won the Art Ross Trophy (most points,) the Hart Trophy (League MVP,) and the Ted Lindsay Award for most outstanding player as voted upon by his peers.

Eichel won't be getting too close to McDavid's cap-hit, but most think his AVV could be $10 million. An eight-year, $72 million deal might get the job done, but it might take the Sabres a bit more. Botterill wants to get it done, and one would assumed Eichel and Co. want to get it done as well.

Buffalo's other second-overall pick, Sam Reinhart (2014,) is also up for an extension but Botterill said that will be put on hold. "We're excited with Sam but I don't think Sam from a contract standpoint will happen this summer," Botterill said. "We have him under contract another year and we'll see how things play out."

Botterill also has two pending arbitration cases to get ready for--G, Robin Lehner and D, Nathan Beaulieu who the new GM acquired from Montreal for a third round pick.

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