Friday Camp Notes

Nathan Gerbe's legs just might be longer than Tim Kennedy's. This is just the first of many observations taken from Friday's development camp practice session. It's hard to get a feel for these players as a whole during drill work and shortened 4-4 and 4-3 workouts. The end of camp scrimmage sessions will start to fill in the gaps, but we won't fully capture the overall effectiveness of these kids until the ensuing regular seasons - wherever they may be. Still, here's some reaction to what took shape this afternoon at Dwyer Arena. Gerbe had another strong showing, displaying pure skating and shooting skills through the variety of drills. His tenacious nature suggests it's not going to take long before he's creating upward pressure on the Sabres top 12. He's not going to get faster or bigger anytime soon, so once acclimated to the speed of things, he's good to go. Tyler Myers continued to show promise with his skating and positional game. He made one questionable clearing pass in a 4-4, but in his defense, the blueline interceptor was wearing the same color jersey. His reach alone causes problems for the oncoming attack, and he's shown good closing speed when feeling opportunistic offensively. Along similar "opportunistic" lines, it was nice to see Corey Tropp kick up an extra gear in an attempt to split a pair of defenders. Tropp seems to be getting bigger, and we continue to come away happy with his developing skills. Chris Butler displayed strength in many facets today, consistently closing angles down with his body and reach while again displaying a hard, low point shot. He's a steadying presence on the ice. Today, he showed excellent lateral movement to find good shooting lanes. He's physically close to ready, but will definitely benefit from a year seasoning in Portland. He tumbled with Gerbe early in a 3-2 drill. Mike Weber was his usual tough self in front of his net, and we're more impressed with his continued dedication to footwork. With better feet he's a better closer, often forcing guys wide to push. Dennis Persson had a solid, two-way outing. In 4-4's, he twice stepped up to score on Eno, and his overall effort was simple yet sharp. He looked like a different player today after some early concerns yesterday. In early 1-1's, Marek Zagrapan and Drew Schiestel had a good battle in front of Adam Dennis. Schiestel was focused on locking up Zagrapan's stick, while Zags bumped for position. Schiestel keeps impressing with his skating. He plays a solid positional style in his own end, and we're liking his smarts and overall make-up more and more. His puck carrying skills are excellent, so all you really need to see next season in St. Catharines is general consistency while using any added strength to hold his positional ground. Zagrapan looks ready for training camp. Today, he and Philip Gogulla showed glimpses of chemistry while skating with Gerbe in 3-2's. The trio brought the heat against Butler and Mike Kostka, making creative reads to keep Brad Eidsness busy in the first half hour. Gogulla is up to snuff for North American play. If he remains stateside after camp this fall, the Jochen Hecht clone will be right in the thick of things on the Portland call-up list. He's a long strider who controls things offensively, but could opt to go back to the DEL if he doesn't stick with the Sabres. At the other end of the ice, Kennedy, Dylan Hunter, and J.S. Allard had trouble getting things going in the 3-2 against T.J. Brennan and Nick Crawford. The unit found themselves twice doing push-ups for not scoring, and was bailed out on their third series when Kennedy buried a rebound past Adam Dennis. Dylan Hunter then followed by roofing one on Dennis. Both goals were set up by Allard. Kennedy looked better today, but still had trouble cutting low. He again showed an edge when he did get there, and has good hands for loose pucks around the net. A scrimmage session will be a better medium for his smart game. Brennan looked well early, at one point riding Allard into the boards for the first boom of the afternoon. He's rolls with a real good stride, and has a pro-sized frame in the works. Allard himself showed traits of a smart, serviceable player this afternoon. It'll be interesting to see how he comes out physically in the scrimmages since he's not an overwhelming force. A strong-armed Alex Biega held his ground against Allard in a 1-1 drill, then dumped his fellow Quebecois on the ensuing rebound. Biega is another player who keeps demonstrating qualities of a solid two-way defenseman. He had a real solid battle with Gerbe at one point, rekindling the Beanpot rivalry. He later took a wrister off the helmet from drill partner Weber, but was OK. Andrew Orpik knows what his role is on the ice. He likes to bull his body to the net, and drifts towards the corner and lower wall to make plays on the puck. It's a good mentality for a converted defenseman to have, and resulted in a goal during the 3-2's while on a line with Felix Schutz and Mark Van Guilder. I think he's a strong candidate to be signed next year. Eidsness was sharp this afternoon. Technically sound, he is rarely out of position while mature with his rebounds. In early warm-ups, he stopped most everything in the 1-0 and 2-0 skates. (The 1-0's are generally designed to get the goalie some rubber - i.e. shoot from beyond the hash - and the 2-0's get the goalie going laterally.) Nick Eno made some really nice saves in tight during 4-4 and 4-3 action. His legs are long and quick. His puckhandling skills could still use some work. After a centering pass exceeded the reach of a streaking forecheck, an Eno misplay towards a defenseman behind his own net resulted in him just getting back to stop an open Tyler Ennis. Ennis showed some craftiness today, using his quickness to fire high from all angles in an effort to keep the goalie honest. He likes to hold on to the puck, looking to shoot more than pass (from what I was able to take in today). Mike Card displayed more steady tendencies today. The plan is to not scrutinize his game until fall. Marc-Andre Gragnani is a puck handler with vision. He is likely needed on the blueline in Portland this season given the numbers, but with all things equal, his skill set suggests that he'd be best used at LW. For now, we'll pencil him closer to a Mark Streit than a Christoph Schubert. Felix Schutz is deceptive offensively, showing some polish with a couple quick snappers. We like his game, and are hoping for a solid two-way commitment in the AHL. Luke Adam again showed his effectiveness around the net in limited viewing. Every time I watch him, he does something positive. After stepping in front of Mike Card pass, he went down the ice late in the 4-3's to beat Enroth. We saw enough of him last season to know what we now have in house. Same with Paul Byron. He has great speed entering the zone, and falls into open spots to get into scoring position when he doesn't have the puck. Jordon Southorn was effective in drill work with Myers. He looks like a steady guy who has the skill to wheel it a bit when given space. I'm curious about his reaction to pressure in the defensive zone. Drew MacKenzie has the makings of a smart defender, but I spent more time watching others. I did see him get beat once by Byron. He's listed at 6'2, 200 pounds, yet the 6'1, 190-pound Butler appears much larger from the angles I've been viewing from. Jacob Lagace has yet to reveal much. He's battling his way offensively in drill work. He had trouble keeping up with Gerbe in 2-2's, but you see his overall talent level at work. Derek Whitmore continues to look like a serviceable AHL contributor. I haven't paid a ton of attention to him. He's 23, and there's a lot to cut through. Mike Kostka is showing solid basic skills. He's yet to get worked over, but I'm not putting any value in a development camp for the rookie free agent. We need to see him against the big forwards in training camp. Invitee Jacob Cepis continues to show effective speed on the outside. He's not out of place among the other smaller forwards. Nick Crawford skates well enough, and seems to handle the puck well. He doesn't look out of place. Invitee Brady Irwin continues to stand out among the invitees. A very swift skater down the wing, he used speed to beat Jhonas Enroth with a low wrister, and later deked him on a breakway. I didn't pay much attention to Enroth today, but he was giving up a few goals late in the session. He looked a little tired, but I spent the bulk of the time on the other side. For the second day in a row, I didn't look too deep at local invitee Vincent Scarsella. He seems to have solid hands and a creative side, but the eyes and pen have been busy elsewhere. By the way, I don't recall seeing Drew Stafford today. Mike Funk and Matt Generous were on the handout yesterday, but I've yet to see either on the ice. Rej Sekera was on the 2nd rink today, and is all set for top-6 action with Buffalo. I'm pretty much done worrying about him in this space. Same with Pat Kaleta. We'll report on who he tries to line up in the scrimmages, but that's about it. If I think of more, I'll add it to the comments. Overall, it's a really strong crop of prospects this summer. The revised Top 20 is sure to be a dandy.
Next Post »