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Rasmus Asplund out to prove Sabres made right move

Buffalo jumped five spots in second round of 2016 Draft to select center

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- One player who is getting a little extra attention at Buffalo Sabres development camp is center Rasmus Asplund, the No. 33 pick at the 2016 NHL Draft.

Asplund was the No. 4 European skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings and a projected first-round pick. When the Sabres saw the 18-year-old Swede remained on the board to begin Day Two of the draft, they moved up five spots in the second round to get him, sending defenseman Mark Pysyk and the No. 38 pick to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and the 33rd choice.

With the excitement of the draft behind him, Asplund has his sights set on making a strong impression on the Sabres to show they were right to move up to pick him.

"It's been awesome," Asplund said Thursday of his start to the July 6-12 camp. "I finally got started yesterday and to come here and be around the organization and show who I am as a player. So yeah, it's been really exciting and it's really fun to be here now."

Video: Asplund and Glotov at Development Camp

Asplund had four goals and eight assists in 46 games for Farjestad in the Swedish Hockey League last season and played for Sweden at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships, when he skated on a line with Buffalo's 2016 first-round pick, Alexander Nylander.

It's the first time at an NHL development camp for Nylander and Asplund, but there are a few other Sabres prospects from Sweden there to show them the ropes.

"To have a couple Swedes here helps you, especially when they've been here for two years now," Asplund said. "[Victor] Olofsson and then Jonas [Johansson] have been here for a couple camps, so they help you get in here right away. You don't have to think much about what you're supposed to do. They tell you right away in Swedish, so you pretty much know everything right away what you're supposed to do."

Asplund spent the better part of drills Thursday paired with another Swede, Daniel Muzito-Bagenda, 20, who is in camp after signing last week with the Sabres' American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester. Muzito-Bagenda and Asplund faced each other in Sweden when Muzito-Bagenda played for Modo.

"He's a skilled player," Muzito-Bagenda said. "He has good vision and a good hockey IQ. I like his speed too. He's a perfect center to play with. … [When defending him] he's difficult with his speed and his skill, so you've got to be sharp against him."

Video: Meet Sabres' second-round pick Rasmus Asplund

During the Sabres development camp scrimmage July 9, Asplund scored a goal and helped Team Blue defeat Team Gold 5-3. Asplund took a wrist shot after a cross-ice pass from Evan Rodrigues that got past Johansson.

"Whenever you're coaching you always seem to notice your players a little more and he, I thought, was solid," Rochester Americans coach Dan Lambert said. "He was real good on faceoffs. He's a 200-foot player. He's extremely smart. I thought he played a solid game for us and certainly made some plays. He was trying to implement some of the things as well. That's what you want."

The Sabres' selection of Asplund at the 2016 draft, along with Nylander, right wing Cliff Pu (No. 69) from London of the Ontario Hockey League, left wing Brandon Hagel (No. 159) from Red Deer of the Western Hockey League and Russian center Vasily Glotov (No. 190), showed they are looking to replenish the organization with quick, skilled players.

Although skill is one part of the equation, development camp is about preparing the prospects for what's to come in their careers.

"I think I need one more year in Sweden to really get a bigger role and to grow and get stronger and have the ice time to have the opportunity to play the power play and penalty kill, because that's the type of player I want to be on the ice," Asplund said. "To stay in Sweden one more year would not be bad for me, but we'll see what happens after the camp now. My goal now is to get in for the main camp (in September) and then compete for a spot."

For Asplund and others at camp for the first time, it's an opportunity to learn from older players like Rodrigues and Justin Bailey about what it takes to make it to the NHL. Rodrigues, 22, and Bailey, 21, each made his NHL debut last season.

"They have been through this and they have been to the NHL and AHL for a couple times now," Asplund said. "I really try to watch them and do the same things they do and work hard and work harder than them to develop my game and my off-ice training. So yeah, they're a huge help for me when I'm here now to watch them and keep following what they're doing."

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