Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier announced today the team has returned the following nine players to their respective junior clubs: forwards Riley Boychuk (Portland, WHL), Cedrick Henley (Val d’Or, QMJHL), Steven Shipley (Niagara, OHL), Kevin Sundher (Chilliwack, WHL), Gregg Sutch (Mississauga, OHL); defensemen Corey Fienhage (Kamloops, WHL), Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL), Matt MacKenzie (Calgary, WHL) and Mark Pysyk (Edmonton, WHL).
No real surprises on the list with eight of the nine being 2010 draft picks, while the other, defenseman Corey Fienhage, is set for his first season of juniors after two years of inconsistent WCHA reps.
The cut down leaves three CHL prospects, Windsor's Zack Kassian, Kootenay's Brayden McNabb, and Sudbury's Marcus Foligno, with the Sabres for an extended look.
Kassian and McNabb suited up in Friday's 3-1 win over Toronto, with the big Windsor forward garnering positive mainstream media vibes for his physical play, including a strong forecheck that lead to a late Rob Niedermayer goal, and a solid offensive performance highlighted by an assist on a Tyler Ennis tally. The effort was consistent with Kassian's training camp performance to date, and appears to be the trigger that has re-opened contract talks between the Sabres and their 6'3 banger. Kassian is expected to be in the Sabres lineup Monday when they travel up the QEW for another pre-season meeting with the Leafs.
For McNabb and Foligno, the extended stay is opportunity to be exposed to be as much game-speed as possible with the hope of setting up dominating starts to their junior seasons. Sticking around should be considered a well-earned reward for the hard-working Foligno after the budding leader spent quite a bit of the offseason in WNY. Thje 6'3 forward has taken great year-over-strides since his drafting, and the extra pro reps are a continuation towards building out a two-way grind game. For McNabb it's all about raising his level of competition to in-turn elevate his stature among Canadian hopefuls for the 2011 World Junior Championships. At this point, Kassian and McNabb represent the Sabres best chances at having a prospect skate in the tourney. You have to think that every little bit of camp helps those chances.