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Grier excited to return to Buffalo for prospects game

by Mike G. Morreale

BUFFALO -- Mike Grier wasn't happy when informed that opposing coach Ed Olcyzk was seen spying on his practice in preparation for the third annual CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at First Niagara Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHL Network).

For Grier, it's a homecoming of sorts since he played three-plus seasons as a right wing for the Buffalo Sabres. He's not only excited to have an opportunity to coach 21 of the top American-born prospects eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, but to be back behind the Sabres bench.

"[Olcyzk] has got to ask for permission to come out and scout things," Grier said with a big smile.

One player Olcyzk won't need a scouting report on is Boston University freshman Jack Eichel, who will certainly be in the spotlight for Team Grier. This isn't the first time Eichel has met Grier, who also played collegiately at Boston University and helped then coach Jack Parker win the NCAA Frozen Four national championship in 1994-95.

Grier had nothing but praise for Eichel.

"First off he's a real humble, down to earth kid," Grier said. "I spent a lot of time with him in Boston and around BU, and he's got a lot of things thrown on his plate early but he handles everything with ease because it would be easy for him to have a big head which he doesn't and that's the most impressive thing.

"He's got a very unique skill set, long reach and great hands, sees the ice very well but at the same time can snap the puck and score goals."

Then there's this:

"As everyone will see [Thursday night], he has one of the most unique strides you'll ever see," Grier said. "He can get through the neutral zone in a heartbeat when he really opens it up. It's effortless but believe me, he's flying. He's going to be a special player."

Grier spent 14 seasons in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks and Sabres. He played in 1,060 career games and finished with 162 goals and 383 points. He currently serves as a pro scout with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"[Grier] is always around at BU and we were messing around out there [on the ice]," Eichel said. "We have a good relationship and it's always great to hear what he has to say."

Eichel will likely center a line with left wing Kyle Connor of the Youngstown Phantoms in the United States Hockey League and right wing Jeremy Bracco of the Under-18 United States National Team Development Program.

"This is a great event put on by USA Hockey, and I was thrilled when they asked me to be a part of it and being here in Buffalo is kind of the cherry on top," Grier said. "It's a special place for me and a lot of great memories; it's great to come back home and see some old friends and catch up."

What impresses him most about the players?

"It's amazing how big and athletic the kids are," he said. "All of them are big, can move and can snap the puck so it's an impressive group. It should be a fun game."

Team Grier line combinations:

Kyle Connor - Jack Eichel - Jeremy Bracco

Jordan Greenway - Jack Roslovic - Connor Moynihan

Brent Gates - Cameron Askew - Taggart Corriveau

Karch Bachman - Alec Baer - Ryan Smith

Tory Dello - Zach Werenski

Brandon Carlo - Caleb Jones

Doug Blaisdell - Christian Evers

Casey Fitzgerald

Luke Opilka

Ryan Bednard


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