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by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres


10:30 a.m. – Noon

         Nikita Zadorov

All eyes were on the defense during the first session of the day at First Niagara Center.

The early group featured 2013 first-round picks Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, as well as 2012 second-round selection Jake McCabe and 2010 first-rounder Mark Pysyk, who made his NHL debut last season, playing 19 games for the Sabres.

For the approximately 500 fans in attendance, it was their first chance to see Ristolainen and Zadorov skating with a Sabres logo on their chests.

Adding the two defensemen to the organization on draft day not only gave the Sabres more depth on the blue line, but more size, too. Ristolainen is 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds while Zadorov is 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds. Just don’t tell Zadorov that he’s young in the face.

“I’m big and I play a physical game. I didn’t know before that I’m young in the face, but maybe [I am] a little bit,” Zadorov said with a laugh. “But [if] I play hard, it doesn’t matter what my face [looks like]. I just play hockey and do my job.”


Zadorov was visibly excited to be taking the next step toward fulfilling his dream of playing in the NHL.

“It’s amazing. It’s my first practice and I feel great right now,” he said.

The coaching staff started the practice with about 30 minutes worth of skating tests. After the ice crew resurfaced the rink, the players came back out with the goaltenders for one-on-one drills that focused on passing and shooting. The players then took to one side of the ice, turned the nets around and ran a rotating, two-on-two scrimmage with both goaltenders.

After practice, the group had lunch and prepared for an afternoon meeting, followed by some off-ice training.

Eric Locke – Zemgus GirgensonsJonathan Parker
Kevin Sundher
– Phil Varone – Logan Nelson
Gustav Possler – Justin Kea – Nick Baptiste
Alex Iafallo – Andrew Black

Nikita Zadorov – Mark Pysyk
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Brady Austin – Matt MacKenzie

Connor Knapp
Cal Petersen

3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

The second session featured more skating drills, this time highlighted by Brayden McNabb, Chad Ruhwedel, Mikhail Grigorenko and Daniel Catenacci.

Grigorenko has worked a lot in the offseason to improve his skating.

“I think it’s better. It’s more powerful,” he said after practice. “I have more balance and I think I got faster.”

Brayden McNabb

For McNabb, just being back on the ice is a thrill. He injured his knee in March and has been rehabbing ever since.
“This camp, I’m just trying to get back on my feet,” he said. “I haven’t skated since the injury really, so this is good for me to get back on my feet and continue to get better each day.”

During practice, the Rochester Americans, Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate announced that they had signed defenseman Alex Lepkowski and forwards Frederick Roy and Michael Zigomanis to AHL contracts. When the news came down, Lepowkski was on the ice.

He was drafted by the Sabres in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft (No. 137), but was not offered a contract. The West Seneca, N.Y. native signed the deal with Rochester earlier in the week.

“It’s great to be a part of this organization still and to be part of the Amerks,” Lepkowski said. “I’m really excited for the season to come.”

Daniel Catenacci – Mikhail Grigorenko – Colin Jacobs
Connor Hurley – J.T. Compher  - Justin Bailey
Brad Navin – Sean Malone – Christian Isackson
Tyler Gjurich – Judd Peterson

Brayden McNabb – Chad Ruhwedel
Alex Lepkowski – Jerone Gauther-Leduc
Kevin Czuczman – Anthony Florentino

Nathan Lieuwen
Andrey Makarov
Linus Ullmark

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