While his college season ended on the highest note possible, Anthony Florentino learned a lot about taking advantage of second chances.
When his Providence College Friars were eliminated from the Hockey East Quarterfinals, there was no guarantee that their season would continue. However, they were extended an invitation to the NCAA tournament and made the most of the opportunity, running the table and winning the national championship.
He felt that Providence team really came together following big wins over Miami (OH) and Denver in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament to reach the Frozen Four.
“Confidence allowed us to be comfortable. We knew we deserved to be there and guys definitely bought in with that mentality of being confident. It helped us play our game.”
Now entering his third Development Camp with the Buffalo Sabres, the 2013 fifth-round pick is trying to impart some of that wisdom on his teammates this week at First Niagara Center.
“It was a big building experience for everybody on the team, as a player and being a man because there were times during the year, we were really frustrated with ourselves and one another,” he said. “It was tough bouncing up and down.”
That championship win came against Boston University and Buffalo’s top draft pick in 2015, Hobey Baker-winner Jack Eichel, no less.
Both Eichel and his BU teammate Evan Rodrigues – who signed a pro contract with the Sabres in April – are attending this week’s Development Camp and are set to be on Florentino’s squad for Friday night’s Blue & Gold Scrimmage.
While that game hasn’t come up in conversation, Florentino is happy to have them on his side this week, where he won’t have to defend either of them.
“BU was lucky to have them this year because they were a huge part of that team and Buffalo is lucky to have both of them now because they’re two impact players,” he said. “They’re both great guys and great teammates.”
Florentino was named to the NCAA Frozen All-Tournament Team and will be back for his junior season to defend the title.
But in the meantime, what is he looking forward to most at Development Camp?
“Just learning. Learning what I have to do better, what I need to do best, what I need to do,” he said. “Also work on being a better leader because this being my third camp, guys coming in – the new draft picks or free agents that are at camp – I need to just do my best to help them out both on and off the ice. Then come Friday, just play my game.”
While Florentino faced off against Eichel in that NCAA national championship game, Hudson Fasching played with him at the World Junior Championships back in December. Fasching was acquired by the Sabres in a trade at the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline and will return to Minnesota for his junior year this fall.
He will seek to become a role model to the freshmen and other younger players in the program which is something he’s really looking forward to taking on.
“College hockey still has stuff to offer me. Being an older guy – I’ve never really been an older player on any team I’ve ever been on,” Fasching said. “Growing up, I was always the youngest kid on the team and I fit into that role. I never really grew to understand leadership or how to really fulfill that.
“For me, this year is about growing – not only as a player, but also as a person and a leader.”
During Fasching’s freshman campaign, Minnesota made it to the NCAA title game, but fell to Union College. After what he called a “tricky” season last year, he hopes he can help the Golden Gophers to another championship.
“That’s something I want to go back in my junior year here and be able to turn the page,” he said. “Just have a fresh start and really make sure we’re getting back to the basics of making sure our team’s working hard, we’re progressing.”
Max Willman is another player at Development Camp that is going through the college ranks. He played 30 games in his first year at Brown, recording a goal and two assists.
“It was definitely a bigger transition than I thought,” he said. “I’ll be ready for it next year and take those steps that I need to take to improve.”
A fifth-round pick of the Sabres in last year’s draft, Willman enters second Development Camp with a lot of confidence, especially since he knows what’s expected of him. He has his sights set on Sunday’s 3-on-3 tournament.
“The scrimmage [Friday night] will be exciting, but I like the 3-on-3 the best,” Willman said. “I think that’s where I do the best, I have the most fun out there – open ice – get to show off some of my creative abilities.”
Development Camp is also a time when several players who haven’t gotten drafted having the opportunity to leave an impression on the organization. Williamsville, N.Y. native Andrew Poturalski was invited to the camp following his freshman year at the University of New Hampshire.
He’s taking the week to learn what it takes to become a professional and eventually make it in the NHL.
“I grew up a Sabres fan, came to games as a kid and to be on the ice and have a chance to compete with these guys is a really good experience for me,” he said. “I’m pretty excited to be here.”