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Sabres prospects focused on finishing strong at Summer Showcase

by Ryan J. Harr @WJCinBUF /

PLYMOUTH, Mich. - With the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase taking its final scheduled off day before concluding on Saturday, Marcus Davidsson, Casey Mittelstadt, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Cliff Pu are making a point of trying not to focus too much on the 2018 World Junior Championship.

Pu, (2016, third round) who's recorded three shots and tallied a goal in each of his first two contests, said the focus for now remains on finishing the week out strong.

"It can be little tough playing games in the summer as we're still learning how each other plays and reacts to certain situations," Pu said. "That's what this week is about. We have been building chemistry on the ice and off it and thus far it has been a fun experience."

The Canadian forward is, however, liking the possibility of representing his country in the same city he hopes to one day represent professionally. 

"It would be a huge honor to play in Buffalo for the World Juniors," Pu said. "During the Sabres development camp practices, it was sold out and that was great to see. Buffalo is such a great hockey city and has some really passionate fans, so to play there would be really special."

Luukkonen, (2017, second round) has made 35 saves through two games, and while Finland is winless thus far at 0-2-0-1, he too is making strides toward appearing in Buffalo this winter. 

"I am trying to prove myself that can I be a reliable guy in the net this week to the coaches," said Luukkonen. "However, at the end day, the coaches are ones who make the call so I am worrying about the things I can control and letting the other things take care of themselves."

Mittelstadt, Buffalo's first-round selection this past June, was cut from Team USA prior to World Juniors a year ago. He's made a strong case to make this year's team with his performance this week, leading all players with eight points (3+5) in four games. 

"My goal this week has been to come in and play my best and not really worry about what happened last year since I was cut," he said. "The main reason not to worry about what happened last year is this is a new team, there are new guys in the room and some new staff."

" … I still have to play well on my fall and winter teams as I'm sure I'll be watched, then we'll see what happens in terms of making the roster or not."

Davidsson (2017, second round), meanwhile, is using the week to adjust to North American rinks, which are smaller than the ones he is accustomed to playing on in Sweden.

"Back home, we have the bigger rinks," Davidsson said. "So, this week is the only opportunity we will get to experience the smaller rinks until the World Junior Championships. With that said, this week is a big learning experience."

In addition to adapting to the rinks, both Sweden (plus-6) and Finland (plus-7) have had to adjust to the change in time zones.

"We got here to the U.S. several days before the games began for the showcase," Davidsson said. "It took the first few days to get used to the time difference but once I was able to get my sleep schedule back to normal, I was good."

All four teams return to the ice on Friday. Canada will play Sweden at 1 p.m. followed by Finland against the U.S. at 4 p.m. Both games will be televised live on NHL Network. 



This is the second consecutive year that USA Hockey Arena hosts the World Junior Summer Showcase, which features some of the top players under the age of 20 from four nations - the U.S., Canada, Finland and Sweden - auditioning for a spot to represent their country in the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, which will take place Dec. 26, 2017 - Jan. 5, 2018, in Buffalo, New York. In total, the week-long event will include 12 international competitions between the U.S., Canada, Finland and Sweden

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