Showing posts with label 2011 development camp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2011 development camp. Show all posts

Monday, July 11, 2011

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.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

White takes opening d-camp scrimmage

One would think that a team scrimmaging with a line of Luke Adam, Tyler Ennis, and Zack Kassian would have a distinct advantage over their opponent, but such wasn't the case Saturday as Team White cruised to a 5-2 win over Team Blue in the first of two weekend shinnies at the Sabres d-camp.

Team White, who iced 11 forwards to Blue's nine, matched the other side's NHL experience with the camp's top netminder, Connor Knapp. A veteran of his fifth d-camp, Nick Eno got the start for Blue. Each team had three defensive pairs.

After a scoreless first period, camp invite Steven Beyers of the Barrie Colts broke the seal at 7:40 of the middle frame by beating Blue keeper Nick Eno off an excellent cross-ice feed from Marcus Foligno.

The team's switched goalies at that point, with John Cullen relieving Knapp and Michael Houser of the London Knights taking over for Eno. 

Nearly two minutes later, a darting Ennis converted off a rush similar to the Beyers' tally to knot the game at a goal apiece. Alex Biega sent the puck up the left wing to Kassian, who entered the zone and calmly zipped a pass for Ennis to bury.

White would take a 2-1 lead when Brad Navin quickly tapped in a rebound of a Beyers slapper. The goal, which would stand up as the game winner, started with an excellent board-pass all the way down the right side that sprung Beyers for a clear shot on net.

Cullen was later stepped up with a glove save on a Corey Tropp penalty shot to keep it a 2-1 score into the second intermission.

The physical pace, which began a minute into the game when Beyers collided with RPI's Nick Bailen, started the pick up in the third. Alex Lepkowski and Adam came together for a nice bump just inside the blueline while Riley Boychuk put a good lick on Nick Crawford along the boards. Kassian showed some competitive juice and perhaps a touch of scoreboard frustration with an extra shove to White wing Jonathan Parker.

While the hits kept coming, White kept scoring as Foligno scored a "typical Marcus Foligno goal" by entering the crease to jam the puck under Houser to give White a 3-1 lead.

White kept going in a four-on-four as Brennan corralled a rebound and picked a corner to make it 4-1. The play began when Phil Varone made a nice backhand feed from the right wing back to Matt MacKenzie at the blueline. MacKenzie's wrister hit a defender in front of Houser, but an alert Brennan came down from the left point to finish the play.

White hung one last goal with :16 seconds to play when Drew MacKenzie's centering pass from the left corner made it's way into the Blue cage. Teammate Matt Zarbo was battling Brayden McNabb at the top of the crease as the puck trickled past Houser.

Blue's John McCarron was credited with a goal with one second left on the clock when he beat Cullen from a tough angle.

Dan Catenacci and Colin Jacobs did not play, while Drew Schiestel, Gregg Sutch, and Nathan Lieuwen also sat out to avoid contact while continuing to recover from recent surgeries.


The most exciting play of the game happened before there were any goals. Early in the second period, Alex Lepkowski made a soft dump into the Blue zone. A chasing Kevin Sundher was tripped by Mark Adams on the way in, causing the center to collide with Eno behind the net before the goalie got up and shot back to the net to make a diving stop to the delight of the packed bleachers.

Usual scrimmage line juggling was in place, and the permutations seemed endless for Sundher. The six footer, who showed hints of creativity with his various sets of wings, centered combinations of Beyers/Lagace, Foligno/Beyers, Foligno/Parker.....Other White lines of note were Varone between Foligno and Parker, Varone with Szydlowski and Boychuk, Navin between Beyers and Lagace, and Navin with Beyers and Geordie Wudrick. Wudrick and Matt Zarbo also saw time with to complete the d-camp speed dating seminar...

Corey Tropp played well skating on Blue's "second line" with Steven Shipley and Cedrick Henley. As a whole the unit would have liked to have produced more offensively, but Tropp made some nice, hard take-outs on the wall and looked good getting up and down the ice in a two-way manner....

The Blue attack was rounded out with Christian Isackson, who missed a first period penalty shot, with McCarron and Justin Jokinen. McCarron, who played well but is probably a cut below Varone and Beyers among the invites, looks like a big-bodied two-way guy who should do well in the ECAC.

Lepkowski showed his all-around tools and range throughout. We know he can pass the puck well and likes to hit, but he has aggressive offensive traits as well as evidenced by his first period bull-rush to the edge of Eno's crease. Lepkowski and partner Corey Fienhage were on the for the only goal let in by White.

T.J. Brennan, who made one of the simpler yet most effective defensive plays of the scrimmage by using his stick to break-up a 2x1, played like a veteran throughout while paired with 2009 third-rounder Matt MacKenzie....Mark Pysyk was comfortable and in command on the White blueline alongside Drew MacKenzie. Much has been said about his skating, but his first two-steps with the puck look even quicker than they did at the mid-way point of 2010-11.

Pysyk's teammate in the upcoming Canada U20 camp, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc looked stronger and more composed while manning Blue's #2 pair with McNabb. Defending a first-period 2x1 in textbook form, the 18-year old held firm before taking away the pass and leaving Eno one-on-one with the shooter....The pair of Alex Biega and Nick Crawford spent the majority of their time with the Ennis-Adam-Kassian trio for Team Blue....Bailen and Mark Adams comprised their #3 pair.

Riley Boychuk's physical game is AHL-ready. As per all previous reports, he was strong on the boards, able to get to the front of the net, and aware defensively.....Fellow 6'5 draft-mate Henley looked a little slower out of the gates. Perhaps his conditioning is still coming around after missing most of last season due to injury.

The game ended with a five-round shootout. Ennis razzled and dazzled with a nice goal against Cullen, while Foligno and Biega also scored...Kassian missed on his trademark wide forward to backhand deke.

More in-depth player analysis to come after scrimmage #2.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Local product Cullen to camp with Sabres

John Cullen, a veteran OHL goaltender and native of Hamburg, NY, has been invited to participate in the Sabres 2011 Summer Development Camp.

Cullen, 20, recently completed his third season of major-junior play as a member of the Windsor Spitfires. Arriving in a deadline deal from Sarnia to serve as back-up to Dallas prospect Jack Campbell, the 5'11, 175-pounder posted a 2.17 goals-against-average and a .924 save% through his 11 starts for the most dominating run of his junior career. In total, Cullen has collected 30 wins while managing a 3.35 GAA and .901 save% in a three-year Ontario League career that has included 90 starts and four different sweaters.

Lacking the larger frame of the modern butterfly goalie, Cullen relies less on the technical side of things by employing an unorthodox "stop the puck at all costs" approach. He's aggressive when challenging shooters and quite vocal when directing traffic in front of him.

Along with time spent playing for St. Francis High School, Cullen played with Maksymum Jr. B (Rochester) of the Empire League as a 16-year old in 2007-08 while earning a spot in the 2008 Bowman Cup at HSBC Arena. With his name surfacing through U.S selection camps, Cullen was named to the U.S. U18 squad that skated in the 2008 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka in Slovakia. The following season, Cullen gave up his NCAA eligibility by winning a job with the Niagara IceDogs where he played 30 games with Sabres 2008 draft pick Drew Schiestel before getting traded to Kingston.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wudrick earns camp invite

Former Kelowna Rockets forward Geordie Wudrick has earned an invitation from the Buffalo Sabres to attend this week's Summer Development Camp.

Standing 6'4, 208 pounds, the soft-handed Wudrick is coming off an overage year that saw him finish ninth among WHL scorers with 43 goals, including 15 tallies on the power play and eight game winners. Wudrick added just 16 assists to his stat line to finish with 59 points before adding another 4+4 in the Rockets' 10-game postseason.

The 21-year old, who was originally a 2008 third-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Kings, was taken with the hopes that he could develop into a legit power forward talent. Despite cashing 35 goals in 2008-09, Wudrick's all-around game didn't stand out among similarly built yet more upwardly trending assets in the Kings' pipeline (Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford), so the two parties parted ways last spring. Wudrick went through the draft unclaimed and later skated in Phoenix Coyotes training camp before returning to the WHL.

A native of Abbotsford, BC, Wudrick will want to use the camp invite to prove that he's an agile skater who can play physical and finish plays around the net. If scouts think they can get a consistent, two-way effort out of the big frame on a nightly basis, it's fair to think he could end up pushing fringe forwards for AHL playing time come fall.

Sabres take a look at Varone

The Buffalo Sabres have invited former OHL standout Phil Varone to participate in this week's summer development camp. A heady player with excellent hands and vision, the 20-year old Varone is in the job market after not being offered a contract by the San Jose Sharks, who had previously selected him in the fifth round of the 2009 draft.

Varone, a 5'10, 180-pound center, scored 34 goals and 82 points (t21st in OHL) this past season with Erie before leading the club with three goals and 10 assists in the Otters' first round loss to the Windsor Spitfires. The spralkling post-season performance came two years removed from his initial playoff revelation when he potted 10 goals and 19 points in 14 games for a loaded London Knights club that included John Tavares, Nazem Kadri, John Carlson, and Michael Del Zotto.

After mid-season shoulder surgery limited his 2009-10 campaign to just 31 games (9+22), London shipped the overage Varone to Erie last October for a pair of draft picks. His productive tenure with the Otters kept him on the pro radar, but it seems that his below-average size and perhaps injury concerns made the Sharks apprehensive about using a contract on the talented center. Varone re-entered the 2011 draft but was not picked.

Varone, the Otters 2010-11 MVP, has the key components for an organizational depth role. He is an excellent leader, a good distributor, and a clutch shooter. He's not ultra aggressive but he's tough, and has a history of elevating the play of his linemates.

The Sabres could use an offensive spark on the farm after trading Paul Byron to Calgary so perhaps they see Varone as hard-working creator that can step right in while awaiting the development of their current CHL crop. Two of last year's AHL centers, Matt Ellis and Brian Roloff, are currently free agents while a third, Travis Turnbull, was recently tendered a qualifying offer to continue his work in Rochester for the 2011-12 season.