With rookie camp opening on Monday it is the right time to take a look at the battles that will be taking place this September. Much of the roster is set and there will probably be few surprises. However there is a chance for upsets and underdogs.
There is a top-6 forward spot up for grabs. There are also 2 defensive spots and 2 bottom-6 forward roles open for competition. It will be an interesting camp for several players in the Sabres’ system.
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The Top-6 Forwards:
Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville will make this group without a doubt. Jochen Hecht is also likely to start in this group unless someone has a breakthrough camp. Here are the other players fighting for a spot at the top of the depth chart:
Tyler Ennis: As close to a lock as you can get without actually having one. Ennis was told “Not to get content” by Darcy Regier at last seasons end. But, he was their best player in the postseason last year and was productive late in the season. Ennis is a top-flight prospect and has the mentality and grit to be a fan favorite for years. The only thing holding him back is the depth at the left wing position. If he did grow complacent during the off-season he could fail to make the squad. With his size it really wouldn’t behoove the Sabres to keep him in Buffalo as anything but a top-6 forward. If he did he could be a sleeper for the Calder Trophy this season. Chance of making the team in the Top-6: 95%. Chance of making the team in the Bottom-6: 0%
Drew Stafford: Stafford’s career started strong. The last two years he has not been as advertised. He was supposed to be a big, strong addition to the Roy – Vanek dynamic. He hasn’t done it. Stafford hasn’t created space for them, hasn’t scored consistently and hasn’t defended them on the ice. Stafford has not been a very good player, which is disappointing considering his great potential. Can Stafford regain a spot on the team? Yes, Stafford is a very intelligent young man. He realized he wasn’t good enough last season. You could see him trying to make adjustments in his game, but it’s very hard to change your game mid-season. Look for Stafford to come back tougher, stronger and with a commitment to defensive play. With a good work ethic Stafford could become the player Sabres’ fans have always hoped he can be. If not, this will be his last season in Buffalo. Chance of making the team in the Top-6: 60%. Chance of making the team in the Bottom-6: 25%
Nathan Gerbe: Gerbe is small. He looks like an Ewok. He is also an outstanding hockey player. He has matured as a player since 2008-09 and he showed it by being an asset in the playoffs last year. Gerbe is a sniper and loves to shoot the puck. He is also very quick. The surprising thing about Gerbe is his feistiness. He caused new Sabre Tim Conboy to chase him around HSBC Arena and pummel him into the ice last year. Gerbe has the potential to break onto the team as a pest and work his way into a scoring role. A 4th line of Gerbe-McCormick-Kaleta would be great for energy and would pack some scoring punch. Chance of making the team in the Top-6: 50%. Chance of making the team in the Bottom-6: 60%
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