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Camp Preview: What to watch at the Prospects Challenge

Victor Olofsson, Jack Hughes among marquee names

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

When it comes to seeing top-flight NHL prospects in an intimate setting, it's tough to beat the Prospects Challenge inside Harborcenter. 

When Jack Hughes laces up for the New Jersey Devils against the Sabres on Friday night, it will mark the third straight year the No. 1 overall pick has made their team debut on Harborcenter ice. Rasmus Dahlin participated last year, while Nico Hischier played for the Devils in 2017. 

That said, there will be plenty more to watch other than the top pick. Here's what you need to know before heading to this year's event.

 

Who's representing the Sabres? 

Buffalo's roster is headlined by a group of players that will look to use the Prospects Challenge as a springboard into main camp with their sights set on obtaining an NHL roster spot. That group includes Arttu Ruotsalainen, Henri Jokiharju, Rasmus Asplund, Victor Olofsson, and William Borgen. 

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Our 2019 Prospects Challenge roster. 🙌Get streaming info, ticket prices and more: https://t.co/5LVxAviOMw pic.twitter.com/ty3yF85Bm8

Ruotsalainen joined the Sabres as a free agent this summer after leading his Liiga team in goals last season. Jokiharju excelled in a 38-game stint with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. Asplund, Olofsson, and Borgen are all coming off promising rookie seasons in Rochester. 

The roster also includes a pair of defensemen set to begin their first pro seasons following strong collegiate careers in Jacob Bryson and Casey Fitzgerald, a fan favorite at past rookie camps in Matej Pekar, and a member of this year's draft class in sixth-round pick Lukas Rousek. 


Who are the players to watch on opposing teams?

Boston Bruins - Urho Vaakanainen, D (Round 1, 2017) 

A concussion limited Vaakanainen to 32 games - two with Boston and 30 with AHL Providence - during his first North American season, but the 20-year-old defenseman impressed on the world stage. He skated a team-high 25:08 in Finland's World Junior victory over Team USA, where he won gold alongside Sabres prospects Jokiharju, Oskari Laaksonen, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. 

More names to watch: Jack Studnicka, F (Round 2, 2017); Jakub Lauko, F (Round 3, 2018); Kyle Keyser, G (undrafted)


New Jersey Devils - Jack Hughes, F (Round 1, 2019)

Hughes set program records for assists (154) and points (228) during his two seasons with the US National Team Development Program. Now, he's looking to become the first player to go straight from the NTDP (which also produced Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews) to the NHL. 

The 18-year-old centerman already got a taste of NHL competition at the World Championship in May, where he was teammates with Eichel for the United States. 

More names to watch: Ty Smith, D (Round 1, 2018); Jesper Boqvist, F (Round 2, 2017); Michael McCleod, F (Round 1, 2016)


Pittsburgh Penguins - Calen Addison, D (Round 2, 2018) 

Addison made his pro debut with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2018-19 following a strong season with Lethbridge. He ranked sixth among WHL defensemen with 65 points (11+54), posting identical numbers to his 2017-18 campaign. The 19-year-old was rewarded with an entry-level contract in April. 

More names to watch: Sam Poulin, F (Round 1, 2019); Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D (Round 1, 2017); Nathan Legare, F (Round 3, 2019) 

 

More info 

Here's the full schedule for the Prospects Challenge, with each team playing three games in a round-robin format:
  
Friday, Sept. 6
• Pittsburgh vs. Boston, 3:30 p.m.
• Buffalo vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 7
• New Jersey vs. Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m.
• Buffalo vs. Boston, 7 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 9
• Boston vs. New Jersey, 9:30 a.m.
• Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh, 12:30 p.m.

Tickets for the games are $10 and are available for purchase at the KeyBank Center Box Office, by phone at 1-888-223-6000 or online here
 

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