It was with high expectations that Alex Kile entered his season at the University of Michigan a year ago. Not only was he coming off of a junior campaign in which he scored a career-best 34 points and helped lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten championship, he'd also been selected to captain the team as a senior.
What he didn't know was how much of a whirlwind the year would end up being. Both he and the team struggled early, and when he finally did find his rhythm he sustained an ankle injury that affected him for the rest of the season. All told, he scored just 14 points in 28 games.
"It was really tough," Kile said. "I feel like the first half of the year I was struggling a little bit and then I finally started to get hot and I got that ankle injury. I missed about six weeks of the season, I came back a little bit early and I kind of re-hurt it. It definitely affected my senior season a lot."
The Wolverines lost to Penn State in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament, and just like that Kile's career at Michigan was over. It was a difficult time, but he had to put it behind him quickly. Rochester signed Kile to a one-year contract for 2017-18 on March 20, four days after his collegiate career ended.
"I was pretty upset," he said. "I loved playing at Michigan and to see it come to an end like that was tough. But I was ready to move on and go to the next level. Rochester seemed like a good fit for me, they had a lot of injuries at the time and they were lower in the standings so I knew I had an opportunity to play. Being an undrafted free agent, all you want is an opportunity to play."
Kile scored three points in 11 games on an amateur tryout with the Amerks to end last season, including a goal in his second game. Tonight, he'll look to continue to make an impression as he makes his Prospects Challenge debut for the Sabres against the Boston Bruins.
With all new eyes on him, it'll be a welcomed fresh start.
"They don't care about what you've done in the past or what your status might be, who you are," Kile said. "They want to see you compete, compete in those three-foot battles, go to the net front and win your battles. They know the puck touches might be a little sloppy and the timing might be a little off."
The Bruins earned a 3-2 overtime win in their Prospects Challenge opener against Pittsburgh on Friday despite playing without defenseman Charlie McAvoy and forwards Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk. Jack Studnicka, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jesse Gabrielle all tallied goals for Boston.
The Sabres are 0-1 following a 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey, in which camp invite Colin Blackwell tallied a pair of goals and Cliff Pu contributed a marker on the power play. If you missed it, you can find a complete recap of the game here.
Jake McGrath, a camp invite who played for Sudbury of the OHL last season, is expected to make his debut in net for the Sabres.
Puck drop between the Sabres and Bruins is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tickets are still available, or you can stream the game live on Sabres.com.