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Portillo ready for jump to North America after strong season in Sweden

Murray pleased with development; Davidsson expecting larger role

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Erik Portillo spent the weeks leading up to development camp skating in Sweden, where he was accompanied by a fellow Frölunda product who could one day be his teammate in Buffalo.

The 18-year-old goaltender laughed when asked if he made had made any good saves practicing with Rasmus Dahlin. 

"Yeah," he said, "but he got a couple good goals too."

The Sabres selected Portillo in the third round of the draft last weekend, adding to the organization's depth at goaltender behind NHL regulars Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark, highly touted prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and third-year pro Jonas Johansson. 

Portillo was passed over in the draft a year ago, then spent last season dominating with Frölunda in Sweden's J20 circuit. He led the SuperElit league in goals-against average (1.99) and save percentage (.931), and his improvement was enough to catch the eyes of Buffalo's regional scout.

"Being a big guy and being a little bit of a late bloomer physically, he had to catch up to himself," Sabres director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski said at the draft. 

"The way he played for his club team down the stretch and in the playoffs and the steps that he took as a goaltender, we see a future there for him and that's what we like about him."

Portillo credits his success to the arrival of Frölunda goalie coach Peter Andersson, who took on a mentor role and helped transform his game. 

"He's an amazing guy," Portillo said. "He really came into the team and both me and the defense work good together. I would give him a lot of credit for that. He's my mentor right now, I would say. He's the big difference from years before."

Video: DEVELOPMENT CAMP: Portillo

Though he stands 6-feet-6-inches tall, Portillo says he doesn't play like a typical large goalie. He lists Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nashville's Pekka Rinne and Dallas' Ben Bishop as NHL goaltenders he tries to model his game after. 

"I'm more of a hybrid goaltender," he said. "I like to play with the puck on my stick."

Portillo's next step will be adjusting to North America, beginning when he joins Dubuque of the USHL next season. He'll look to continue to develop his English and adjust to the North American ice surface in preparation for his freshman campaign at the University of Michigan in 2020-21. 

Why Michigan? He believes it's the best place to prepare him for the next step.

"I felt it was a really great place," he said. "It felt safe when I came there. They have everything, like the resources to get to the NHL, I think. They have everything and I feel like I can really focus on the hockey there." 

Now, more notes from Day 2 of development camp at Harborcenter.


Murray focused on camp

Video: DEVELOPMENT CAMP: Murray

Brett Murray has his eyes set on the next two days of development camp, his fourth as a member of the Sabres organization. His next destination is less clear. 

Murray (fourth round, 2016) left Penn State following his sophomore season in 2017-18, when he tallied six points (1+5) in 21 games. He spent last season dominating the USHL with Youngstown, where he scored a league-high 41 goals and 76 points in 62 games. 

He's no longer eligible to play in the USHL, however, with his 21st birthday coming up later this month. He's also no longer committed to the University of Miami (Ohio), so his next stop is admittedly up in the air. 

"I've got some time," Murray said Thursday. "Right now, I'm just focused on competing at this development camp. Next week's a whole different thing."

Though his future is uncertain, Murray said he's pleased with his development. The 6-foot-4-inch said he loved Penn State - he still communicates with his former teammates - but left in search of a new path where he could get on track. He found that in Youngstown, earning a spot on the USHL's First All-Star Team.

Murray describes himself as a skilled power forward who can get in on the forecheck, disrupt the defense and find scoring areas.

"I've got the size, but I don't rely solely on just my size to create offense," he said. "I like to think I have a pretty good hockey IQ. But I use my size to create space for myself and my linemates and then I can use that hockey IQ to make plays and get to the net."


Davidsson will return to Sweden

Video: DEVELOPMENT CAMP: Davidsson

Marcus Davidsson (second round, 2017) will follow in the footsteps of fellow Sabres prospects Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund when he returns to Sweden for a fourth full SHL season in 2019-20.

Davidsson signed a one-year contract to play with Växjö, where he hopes to take on a top-line role before making the jump to North America.

"I checked with a lot of Swedish players, how they feel, and I don't see anything bad with staying another year at home where you feel comfortable," Davidsson said. 

Davidsson already showed growth last season with Djurgårdens, where he took on a leadership role and scored a career-high 27 points (10+17) in 52 games. His mental development was just as significant as his performance on the ice. 

"I learned that it's pretty easy to bounce back," he said. "If you have a couple of keys to think about, it's pretty easy to bounce back to those. If you have a bad game, you can always think about what you need to do on the ice and the next game will be good."


Up next

Session 1 at Harborcenter on Friday runs from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. Session 2 goes from 12 to 1 p.m. Both practices are free and open to the public.
 

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