2017-18 Sabres prospects Canadian Hockey League preview

Training camps are up and running. The glass is dotted with fresh puck marks. Jeans and hoody weather is just around the corner.

Hockey season has arrived.

The Sabres will have just five players in Canadian junior leagues this season. Let's take a look at what's to come.

OHL

Cliff Pu will be back in a leadership role with the always-competitive London lineup that will also see the return of forwards Robert Thomas (STL) and Alex Formenton (OTT) along with defensemen Victor Mete (MTL), Brandon Crawley (NYR) and an underrated Jacob Golden (MIN).

The Knights will also benefit from the addition of intriguing import Jesper Bratt (NJD), who showed off his speed and power play acumen for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase, and will become even more potent if forward Max Jones (ANA) and defenseman Olli Juolevi (VAN) make their way to London from their NHL camps.

The highly-skilled Pu paced the Knights a season ago with 86 points (35+51) in 63 games, producing 14 more points than the next closest scorer, while winning 60 per cent of his faceoffs. His versatility was leveraged after the trade deadline and especially in the playoffs as the Knights' staff used him in a match-up capacity against the opposition's top line.

Embed from Getty Images


Pu's personal mission for the year would include getting off the bubble to skate for Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo and signing his NHL entry-level contract.

Perhaps a softer goal for Pu this season would be achieving 50 goals and 100 points, a feat that at least one OHL player accomplishes each season.

For Pu, getting off to another hot start could help him accomplish all three goals, especially the latter since he'd be missing a dozen-ish of London's games if he does indeed make Team Canada.
.
Pu blazed out of the blocks last season, notching 39 points in his first 20 games, which included an 18-game point streak. He immediately vaulted to the top of the OHL scoring list, where he hovered all year en route to finishing 8th among all league scorers.

While the 50/100 mission is doable, the Sabres likely don't care if he pulls it off. They just want Pu to be the best player he can as he readies himself for the jump to the AHL in 2018-19.

The ideal outcome of Pu's second post-draft season from the Sabres perspective is continued development into a strong, mature two-way force that grows all facets of his game. Use his excellent shooting skills more. Dominate even-strength play with his speed. Lock down his checks away from the puck. Help the Knights win the OHL title and get back to the Memorial Cup.

Pu is capable of all of the above.

Eclipsing his previous year's statistics if always preferred, but falling shy of 50/100 is perfectly acceptable as blowing by those arbitrary benchmarks would be a mere bonus.

Mississauga defenseman Austin Osmanski is set for his third-year in the OHL as one of the Steelheads' four returning defensemen from last year's Eastern Conference Champion.

A seventh-round underdog, Osmanski's mission is simple. We know he can play big, but now it's time to show the scouts that he can skate at a high level. Even better, prove to those watching that you're capable of carrying the puck with poise and confidence while exhibiting pinpoint passing skills and high-level hockey sense that can contribute to positive possession metrics.

Osmanski hasn't been a major point producer since making the leap to major-junior with four goals and 18 points in 120 career contests, but he'll need to take a step this season as the Sabres look to develop a fleet of rearguards that drive the flow of the game.

Osmanski will be relied upon to be a locker-room leader for the Steelheads, but it's the on-ice results that are going to tell his story if he is to transfer into the professional ranks with the Sabres/Amerks.



WHL

A scrappy sparkplug who can fill the net, Brandon Hagel heads back to Red Deer as the team's top returning scorer following a 31-goal, 71-point cruise in 2016-17.

The biggest question for Hagel is whether or not he can maintain the hot hand to begin 2017-18 after a frenetic closing pace last spring that saw him cash 16 goals in his final 13 games (including the playoffs) as he rode shotgun to Czech standout Michael Spacek (WPG) all season long on the Rebels' top line.

With Spacek off the pro ranks and the bar set high, Hagel is looking to reproduce the rhythm in camp with a new Czech centerman as Kristian Reichel, son former NHLer and IIHF Hall of Famer Robert, arrives on the scene for his inaugural North American season. Through early practices, the duo have been paired with Lane Zabocki (DET), who is right behind Hagel on the list of returning scorers from last year's Rebels squad.

This season will tell a clear story about Hagel's future projection in his contract year. We know he battles hard every shift with a greasy net-front mentality, so scouts will want to see him build on his core skills, smooth out his passing game, and continue to not only attack the zone with speed, but continue to finish plays at a high rate from close range.

It's going to be difficult for Hagel to soar past his 2016-17 goal and point totals, but the expectation is that he will do so.

Coming off a solid Development Camp effort, Prince Albert defenseman Vojtech Budik looks poised for a big year on the Raiders blueline that should see him eat up top-pair minutes in all situations, play a big role for the Czech Republic's World Junior entry and make a strong push for an entry-level contract.

Budik took his game up a notch last season, finishing second on the team with 25 assists, including 12 of those helpers in the final 14 games as the Raiders' young group trended upward with signs of future encouragement.

With a booming point shot in his arsenal, Budik, who is one of three NHL-drafted Raiders, could be a 35-40 point scorer this season if continues to leverage his skating ability to spread his wings on the rush.

QMJHL

Vasily Glotov found himself in a bit of pickle this summer.

Being a "double whammy" 20-year-old European import, his 2016-17 club, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, would have had to burn one of two Import spots along with one of three overage spots in order to keep Glotov for the 2017-18 season.

With two younger and very talented Import Draft picks, 2000-born forward Yegor Sokolov and second-year defenseman Leon Gawanke (WPG), set to eat up the maximum two spaces, Glotov was informed that the Screaming Eagles were moving on, leaving him without a clear path to a roster spot until an August 14 trade for a fifth-round pick landed him in Shawinigan.

Glotov was a 15-goal, 50-point scorer a season ago, and should get a good chance to challenge the point-per-game benchmark this season. He's a bigger, quicker kid, and the top line minutes aided by a mobile Cataractes defensive core led by Samuel Girard (NSH) should be just what the doctor ordered.

And frankly, let's be real. He's a 20-year-old in the QMJHL. He better produce a lot of points.

It appears he's on a good track as Glotov has poured in three goals and an assist in his first two preseason games with the Cataractes.


Previous
Next Post »