Tropp pots hatty in d-camp finale

The Sabres 2011 Development Camp closed Sunday with Grey defeating White in a shootout, 5-4. Players gassed. Lots of guys to process. Let's go.

Corey Tropp paced the Greys with a hat trick. Luke Adam added a single for the winning side, while Riley Boychuk, Phil Varone, Brad Navin, and Steven Beyers struck for Team White.

1st period: no scoring

2nd period:
White: Boychuk edge of crease, pushes puck under Houser (1-0)
White: Varone knocks in rebound of Lagace shot (2-0)
Grey: Tropp takes Bailen feed, goes five hole (2-1)
Grey: Crawford shoots puck, hits Tropp in front and gets in net (2-2)
Grey: Adam takes deflected pass down wing and drills wrister (3-2)
White: Navin in front, finishes Beyers rebound (3-3)

3rd period:
White: Beyers converts rush off a turnover (4-3)
Grey: Tropp topples over Lagace to left of Knapp, buries hat trick

In the shootout, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (glove side), Adam (five hole), and Jokinen (glove-side wrister) scored for Grey while Boychuk (wrister through Eno's glove) and Marcus Foligno (low slapper) hit for White.


For the second straight day, Tropp played 'Sabres hockey' with his mixture of skill and toughness. The six-footer, who started the day with a hard take-out of Drew MacKenzie, pressured the puck and consistently battled around the net. When the pesky guy produces, he becomes a target. After notching all three goals from the low-slot area, he and Fienhage had a brief jousting match before being separated by Foligno - who of course gave an extra shove to Tropp. Fatigued in the third, Tropp showed good speed getting back after a neutral zone turnover, but couldn't D-up as Beyers finished the play.

Tropp can attest that Foligno again played "big" for Team White as the Sudbury product came across and wiped out the former Spartan with a solid open ice hit near center ice. Foligno was also a major net presence for the second straight day. He's going to be a beast with a couple years of seasoning, but that doesn't mean he won't see the NHL before Zack Kassian because right now it's anyone's ballgame.

Kassian didn't get a whole lot going Sunday in the lighter camp environment. This isn't to say that he had a poor outing or was too casual (he wasn't), but rather a suggestion that he'll be more inspired and motivated (and have more opportunities to become angry) when the live bullets fly this fall. If I'm the Sabres, I keep him down for as long as possible. See if he's ready to work for it. If he's properly motivated, he should be foaming at the mouth when he makes his NHL debut.

Steven Beyers was perhaps the greatest weekend revelation with his speed and finishing ability. When a White goal was scored, you seemed to be looking for his number on the ice. Beyers has very light feet, making the camp invite an excellent wheel always looking to get it and go. He consistently gained separation to get shots off (though on his best 2x1 chance he missed badly) and showed that he has an intelligent defensive stick as well. Very likable player who I'd fully be on board with the Sabres investigating further.

Jacob Lagace continued the year-over-year improvement that began after his month-long ECHL stint. He's skating harder in all three zones with quicker starts and better routes, and was more aggressive in taking the puck to the post. He was instrumental in White's second goal when he made a sharp cut without the puck, swatting a rebound of a Beyers shot before Varone potted the the third attempt. Lagace's surge scrambled the D, allowing Varone the opportunity to cash. Later in the third, Lagace again turned on the jets in the neutral zone, barking for the puck before shooting in alone down the right side for a solid scoring chance. If his intensity carries into winter, Lagace could easily ascend the next rankings.

An improved Justin Jokinen provided good jump to the Grey offense. He was regularly getting into scoring position while showed excellent speed and stickhandling skills in open ice. He looks ready entering his senior WCHA season.

No comments required for Adam and Ennis. They're AHL rookies of the year. We know what they can do...

As far as vet blueliners go, Grey's Alex Biega and White's T.J. Brennan kept a good pace as expected. Just like the Saturday scrimmage, both made good outlet passes and came out on top of most of their one-on-one battles.

Nick Crawford stayed within his usual two-way range as well. Nothing heavy on the checking side. Just good use of his stick and strong support up ice. He may have been the only Grey defender to not skate the puck deep in the 4x4 portion of the third period. He stepped into a point-blank slapper that was gloved by Cullen early, and later flipped the puck towards Tropp that resulted in Grey's second goal.

Alex Lepkowski may have executed with higher levels of confidence and physical play than Brayden McNabb did in his first d-camp back in 2009. His willingness to get involved offensively continued with an early chip-and-charge before stepping up for a give-and-go. He and Corey Fienhage felt pressure from the Grey forwards over the course of the weekend, but they acquitted themselves using their size and athleticism. Broad shouldered and mobile in his 6'4, 210+ pound frame, Lepkowski has the makings of becoming a dominant OHL blueliner.

Fienhage played his simple stay-at-home role. He could afford to keep working on his puck skills, but overall showed his rugged style while not shying away from going down on one knee to block a shot.

Kevin Sundher started well, winning a draw and nearly finishing a 2x1 with Foligno in the opening minute. Some Roy-ish elements in play here. He didn't factor into the scoring, but his play away from the puck has improved since the beginning last season. Victoria coach Marc Habscheid needs to keep riding him to come back hard (and maybe even shoot the puck more) in his final year of junior to make him a more complete two-way player.

Just as described pre-camp, Phil Varone was a calm, patient player with solid edgework and a propensity to dish the puck. I like his head for the game at both ends and think that with additional strength he could be an effective pivot to fill the gap in Rochester left by Paul Byron's departure to Calgary.

Varone's teammate last season in Erie, Shawn Szydlowski, is already slated for Rochester next year. Szydlowski looks ready to go, using his body to protect the puck while generating good momentum in the offensive zone. The line of he, Varone, and Boychuk combined for the game's first goal.

Riley Boychuk did what he does best, and that's use his huge frame to produce board-rattling hits and traffic near the paint. Early on he corralled a feed in stride and quickly made a drop pass between the dots to give Geordie Wudrick a quality opportunity. Boychuk, who looks ready to bring his physical style to the AHL, scored the game's first goal in true power-forward fashion by planting himself firmly as a screen and pushing the loose puck into the net.

Camp invite Wudrick held up alright among White's forward grouping. He kept his forecheck going as the up-and-down pace picked up in the third but didn't collect anything down low all weekend like he was accustomed to in the WHL this past season.

There's nothing enlightening to report about Brayden McNabb or Mark Pysyk that already hasn't been written in this space. No glaring errors for either. Both stayed back in classic defenseman mode until McNabb joined the late Grey 4x4 surge when he skated through a seam in the middle and clanged one off the pipe behind Knapp.

I'll stick with the Kris Letang ceiling (specifically the confident, defensively-sound Letang from the first half of 2010-11) when it comes to Jerome Gauthier-Leduc. He can leg it out of trouble, makes a clean first pass, and loves to shoot. He doesn't have the flow hanging off the back of his helmet, but his instincts in both ends put him on par with the Pens PP ace.

Canadian spectators were briefly treated to a MacKenzie-MacKenzie defensive pairing. Thankfully their shifts were less adventurous than Bob and Doug's at the Elsinore Brewery. The American, Drew, showed his offensive skills by looking to advance the puck through the neutral zone. Canadian Matt played safe at both ends, providing a couple shots on net while making a physical statement with a hard thump on Jokinen just inside the blueline.

Aside from Beyers, Navin was the only player to score in both scrimmages (both of Navin's goals were rebounds of Beyers shots right in front of the net). Solid frame with a good handle and decent gallop. He should be an excellent WCHA player in the sense that he's hard to knock off the puck.

Christian Isackson was sharp while taking turns between the various wing combos thrown at him. Heady player, good balance, looks more developed physically. Made some nice passes in the neutral zone to set Tropp and Ennis off early.

Camp invite Jonathan Parker is a competitor. He wasn't afraid to enter the middle to make plays, but he was challenged by thicker bodies and longer sticks that made it tough to get shots off in tight spaces. On one shift, he atoned for a neutral zone turnover that nearly resulted in a Justin Jokinen goal by pressuring the puck and getting to Foligno in front. Pretty responsible player and good puckhandler who would be more effective with an extra step.

Mark Adams was one of the Grey defenders who found Boychuk tough to handle from the corners in. Like most of the Grey blueliners, Adams became more aggressive offensively in the third period in an effort to get the win. One such occasion saw him put on the recovery afterburners to successfully break up a Beyers rush. Adams ended the season strong and should only improve as a young, progressive-mind Nate Leaman is set to take over the Friars bench.

John McCarron brought a power game and good defensive skills. The 6'4 wing knocked Pysyk off the puck early on as the first-rounder attempted to skate it out of his zone. McCarron, who gets around ok for a big guy, will produce at collegiate level by combining his big body with hard work.

After a giveaway on Foligno's goal Saturday, Nick Bailen was quick to flash his offensive talent by creating Grey's first scoring chance of the game with a fast pass down low to Jokinen. The RPI junior packs leverage in his sub-six-foot frame as evidenced by his Mike Weber-like hit on White's Navin as the future Badger carried the puck into the zone.

Steven Shipley looked a little slower than the pack, often finding himself behind the action on the backcheck. He began the day between Ennis and Tropp, and later floated out to wing with Isackson and Kassian. Shipley needed to stand out more for me to get on board heading into next season. Less watching, more engagement.

Cedrick Henley disappeared late. Nothing stood out to me as his lines struggled to get sustain any pressure early. I was looking for him in the third period, but don't recall seeing him get any shifts.

Matt Zarbo was efficient as a camp invite centering draft picks Tropp/Ennis and Henley/Jokinen. Nothing flashy, looked to get the puck deep. He'll definitely benefit from the camp experience when he returns to Clarkson for his sophomore year.

Real quick goalie cruise: Connor Knapp held up well as Grey applied lots of late heat. Still needs to get quicker but looked good while playing deeper in his crease....John Cullen was solid as the White starter, challenging shooters and making sure he saw the pucks coming in....Grey starter Michael Houser looked less overwhelmed than he did on Saturday. He made some tough stops in the first while dealing with traffic....Nick Eno relieved Houser. A couple juicy rebounds but nothing out of the ordinary from the ECHL-bound 'keeper.

Have a fantastic July. We'll see you in August for Canada's U20 Development Camp.
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