With a fresh sheet of ice laid out at First Niagara Center, 39 Buffalo Sabres prospects took the ice to get the week-long development camp underway.
Rochester Americans coach Chadd Cassidy led the players through a number of situational drills to give players a chance to show off their varied skill sets. After an hour and a half, the ice was resurfaced, and fans were treated to a preview of the teams that will be competing during Friday’s 3-on-3 tournament.
Throughout the whole practice, Cassidy was not afraid to pull players aside or stop a drill to get the players to focus or pick up the intensity. The players certainly responded positively, and the first day of practice set the tone for what is sure to be a productive week.
“It was good,” Cassidy said. “We did get the guys on the ice a little [Sunday] for some skill stuff, but this was the first official day of camp. A lot of energy, a lot of excitement out there.
“I think you had a lot of nervous guys out there the first time that they’re making an impression to the organization and some of the fans here in Buffalo. It was a little bit nerve-wracking for the guys, but a lot of energy and I thought we had a great pace today.”
While there were a handful of familiar faces to the many Sabres fans in attendance, a large number of the prospects skating today were skating for the first time in Buffalo. Today was the first chance for Buffalo to see forwards William Carrier and Hudson Fasching, acquired in trades during last season, as well as seven of the nine players selected by Buffalo in the 2014 NHL Draft.
It was a little bit nerve-wracking for the guys, but a lot of energy and I thought we had a great pace today. - Chadd Cassidy
One of the Sabres’ most recent acquisitions, forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas, is the oldest player in attendance at camp and set a strong example with his work ethic and attitude.
“It’s your job. I’ve tried to treat it like my job as much as I could in my four years in college,” Samuels-Thomas said. “[Now] I don’t have school anymore, I don’t have classes, this is my full-time job. It’s not just when I show up at the rink, it’s taking care of my body off the ice, how I carry myself in the community.
“All that stuff is important because obviously people are going to be looking at me, and I’ve got to do my best to represent this organization and myself.”
The talent level on display this year is as good as it gets. The Sabres have drafted nine players in the first and second rounds of the draft in the last two years, and with all but two of them on the ice today, the skill level presented a challenge for every prospect to improve each day of camp.
“This is an up-and-coming organization for sure,” Hudson Fasching said. “I come out here, and there’s so much skill. Another thing I feel like is there’s so many hard-working kids out there too; that’s really encouraging to see.
“A lot of times you see guys who get drafted in the first round [who may think] ‘Oh, I got drafted in the first round, I don’t have to work,’ but there’s first- and second-rounders that are working hard, and that’s really important.”
Practices continue tomorrow with team skates open to the public Tuesday morning from 10:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The day will conclude with the Blue and Gold intra-squad scrimmage, which starts at 7 p.m.