When J.T. Compher came to this year’s development camp, he did not expect his style of play to be particularly endearing to the other prospects.
Compher’s desire to win every battle and every puck helped guide the 19-year-old center to a successful freshman season at the University of Michigan.
“That’s my game, I like to play hard and compete at everything I do,” Compher said. “Sometimes it’s an agitating type of role and I just try to win whatever I’m playing.
“I don’t tend to make a lot of friends when I’m on the ice. Hopefully guys on my team consider me being one of their friends, but not usually on the other team.”
Buffalo selected Compher in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft (35th overall) and since then, he’s excelled.
His battling spirit led to Compher leading Michigan in scoring as a freshman. In addition to compiling 11 goals and 20 assists in 35 games, he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
When the Sabres are ready to offer Compher a spot as a professional, he will be eager for the opportunity. But for right now, he’s prepared to return to Michigan as a sophomore and help the Wolverines advance further in the collegiate postseason.
“I think that’s all up to management and the coaching staff. I’m committed to Michigan right now and my goal for next year is to win a national championship,” Compher said. “I’m not looking farther than next year. I want to have a good season [at Michigan] or a chance to come here in Buffalo and play. There’s no rush, and whatever management wants me to do I’m ready to do it.”
Compher stands just 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, so he recognizes the need to develop other skills in order to excel at the next level. Skating was a big point of emphasis for Compher last year at Michigan, in addition to making smarter decisions and being more confident with the puck.
After attending Sabres development camp last season, Compher was in a similar situation to all the prospects this year, getting to know a number of new faces in the organization.
“With new management coming in, it was nice to meet the general manager [Tim Murray] and some of the new guys, new coach [Ted Nolan],” Compher said. “It is the first time some of the bigger guys have seen me, but I’m sure the scouts have been out to see me during the year at Michigan and I think I’m playing the same game that I played there.”
The talent level of the prospects that Buffalo has assembled stood out to Compher through two days of development camp. Practicing with other Sabres draft picks such as Sam Reinhart, Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia and Eric Cornel, Compher knows the level of talent in this organization is increasing each year.
As his second development camp with the Sabres rolls on, Compher expects to be right at the forefront as the team builds for a successful future.
“I think it’s just excitement about the talent,” he said. “Obviously with the team struggling last year, we had some high picks – some good players coming in, some guys that I’ve played against, played with.
The camp has been really competitive and I think everyone thinks the team is going to go up and have a bright future.”