Posted 12:12 PM ET | Comments 3
It's early in the morning here at Sabres training camp, day number three. Since being a college kid does not allow me time to enjoy what I want to enjoy, I missed part of the second day yesterday. Made it just in time to see the scrimmage between Team Gold and Team Gray and for session three. Session three included players such as Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Johan Larsson, Corey Tropp, Patrick Kaleta, and Cody McCormick. For seeing Larsson play for the first time, he has chip on his shoulder having the chance to play with Ennis and Stafford. He looked like he was working hard, getting physical when needed and playing with an edge. Another player that impressed me during session three was Rasmus Ristolainen. The 6' 4", 18-year old was showing off his rocket of a shot and also what he can do on defense. He skated well and his coverage forced his counterparts to take the corners and play down low.
The scrimmage ended up with Team Gold winning 2-0. Jhonas Enroth and Connor Knapp split time in the net to earn the shutout for Team Gold. Justin Kea and Johan Larsson scored both goals for Team Gold. Other players that were impressive in the scrimmage were Ville Leino, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Steve Ott. All three were playing on the same line but their chemistry was coming into play again. They were on a line together in "training camp" last season before Leino suffered an injury that split them up. Leino looks like he has a new step in his game playing with the 19-year old phenom and the 31-year old "in your face" guy. I expect Leino to play better this year, that is if he can actually stay healthy.
From what I heard from sessions one and two, players that looked impressive were Joel Armia and Jamie McBain. The 20-year old Armia can be such a factor in the lineup this season due to his skill and ability. He has great hands, slick skills with his feet and he has a knack for finding the net. Jamie McBain is going to be a nice 5/6 defender for the Sabres this season. He can move the puck extremely well and will be a nice offensive addition to the defense. McBain can also play on the second unit of the power play if needed.
Now on to the first session from this morning, which included players like McBain, Armia, Leino, Grigorenko, Ott, Brayden McNabb, Chad Ruhwedel, and Justin Bailey. Once again, the Leino-Grigorenko-Ott line worked well with each other. Grigorenko looks like he has found his step he had in Juniors, and was playing an all around good game. He was working with Joel Armia in 2-on-1 drills and had a nice feed over to Armia that beat Matt Hackett on the blocker side. McBain looked strong and continues to make a case for being a top six defenseman. He skated well and was able to force the forwards away from the net in 1-on-1 drills. One player that was not too impressive was Brayden McNabb. I really like Brayden McNabb, but he looked slow and was beaten a couple times on the 1-on-1 drills. Maybe he is still rehabbing with his knee, but I was hoping for better from McNabb. At the end of session one, John Scott was having some fun with Steve Ott during their stretches. The 6' 8" Scott was at center ice stretching, throwing his legs in the air and just acting like a goof. Steve Ott was off to his left playing along and enjoying the exercise.
During the first half of the scrimmage, it was fast paced and physical. Pat Kaleta was one who was not afraid to throw the body around. He took a hard run at Brian Flynn, and then later had a run in with Zemgus Girgensons. Both hit the ice and Kaleta was slow to get back into the play. Another player that has impressed me is Corey Tropp, because he has shown that he can still play at the level he was playing at before he tore his ACL last year. He took a nice run at Tyler Myers, and later him and Myers got into a nice shoving match in front of Connor Knapp. Good to see that in Tropp and especially Tyler Myers. Nikita Zadorov has been really good in the scrimmage so far. He is playing very smart with the puck and he is skating exceptionally well. It would be cool to see him play in Buffalo, but I believe that he needs at least one more year in London of the OHL. The only goal was scored by Frederick Roy on a penalty shot to give Team Blue a 1-0 lead. Johan Larsson blocked a Thomas Vanek shot that left him rattled for a second. Larsson was able to skate off the ice, and was able to continue on in the scrimmage.
The second half of the scrimmage, the fast paced game continued with some scoring added to it. The half started off with a quick goal by Drew Stafford. Stafford gathered a lose puck and put it home on a wrap-around goal that Andrey Makarov could not get to in time. Shortly after that, Tyler Ennis was awarded a penalty shot and beats Makarov top shelf to put Team Gold up 2-0. The penalty shots didn't stop there as Zemgus Girgensons was awarded a penalty shot after he was tripped up. Girgensons mad a nice move on Enroth, but Enroth was there and stopped his chance on the goal line. Pat Kaleta was at it again by throwing his body around, this time he ran over Shawn Szydlowski. Shortly after, Christian Ehrhoff made a nice move to get some space but his shot was stopped by Enroth. Enroth had some luck when Marcus Foligno hit the post on a beautiful 4-on-2 rush. The Vanek-Hodgson-Foligno line made a great rush and Nikita Zadorov joined to create a quality chance. Corey Tropp got a breakaway on a ply where Ehrhoff was caught on an offensive rush and the puck bounced out of the reach of Tyler Myers. Tropp roofed the shot on the glove side of Andrey Makarov to make the score 3-1 for Team Gold. Late in the scrimmage, Colin Jacobs scored for Team Blue but it was not enough as Team Gold took the scrimmage 3-2.
Nikita Zadorov was the most consistent player on the ice for the scrimmage this morning, making smart decisions with the puck, joining rushes, and just playing a powerful game. Ron Rolston said that Tyler Myers is in great shape and he should be good to go this year. I believe what Rolston said because Tyler Myers played a great game playing with Christian Ehrhoff. Myers was physical, joining rushes, and skating effectively where he did not look winded at all after a shift. Myers defended a 2-on-1 perfectly as he forced Cody McCormick to take a shot on net instead of giving him room to pass the puck to Mark Pysyk. Rasmus Ristolainen and Mike Weber were paired with one another, and both worked very well with one another. Ristolainen was able to keep a puck in their offensive zone to give his team a chance to score. He also made some good defensive plays, even using his feet to try and clear a puck out of the zone. If Ristolainen makes the roster, pairing him with Weber would work because Weber could help Ristolainen grow as a pro.
Tomorrow is day four of training camp, and Sunday is the first preseason game of the year in Montreal. I'll continue to watch over the young guns like Ristolainen, Armia, Larsson, and Girgensons. I believe all four have improved their chances of making the roster this season significantly. They will have to continue to prove to the coaches and staff that they are NHL ready and beat out some of the others. Hockey is back ladies and gentlemen!
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As always, thanks for reading!