The Buffalo Sabres have recently added a large number of prospects with size to the organization. This change has taken place at every position, helping to increase the physicality throughout this week’s development camp.
Defenseman Anthony Florentino and center Justin Kea were two players largely responsible for setting the tone Tuesday night during the Blue & White scrimmage. Kea (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and Florentino (6-for-1, 212 pounds) each made their presence felt throughout the night, but fans took notice at two moments where these heavyweights collided.
Three minutes into the scrimmage, Florentino delivered the first big hit of the night. Kea chipped a pass forward to begin the forecheck for Team White, and Florentino caught the larger Kea off-balance, dropping him to the ice.
Kea took the hit in stride and said it was part of being a gritty hockey player.
“It’s not always a bad thing taking a big hit in the first shift,” he said. “Usually I like to give the first big hit, but taking it isn’t bad because it gets me into the game.”
With about six minutes remaining in the second period, Kea got even. Florentino was looking for a fight and engaged Kea. After each party landed a couple of punches, Kea tackled Florentino to the ice.
“I asked him, it wasn’t out of dislike because he’s a real good kid,” Florentino said of the fight. “I ate breakfast with him the day of the game initially. Our team went down another goal and the last shift before, [Kea] said ‘Next shift?’ so I said, ‘All right.’
“I’m just trying to earn my spot out there. Whatever it takes, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve got three older brothers, so I’m used to getting hit in the face plenty of times. I thought it was my time to step in and do what I could.”
Coach Chadd Cassidy saw the scrum as two guys leaving it all out on the ice.
“Everybody’s got their niche in the game and they’ve got to find their way to get noticed,” he said. “If there’s one thing we’ve preached to the guys, it’s play your game and play it like you would if it’s the middle of February. Florentino and Kea saw an opportunity there and it’s a good thing, I think. That’s what we need in this organization.”
Fresh off his first season at Providence College, Florentino was accustomed to the speed he has seen at Sabres development camp, but this week has proven to be challenging for different reasons.
“The speed was similar to college; what was different was the strength of guys,” Florentino said. “The guys I’m playing against in college are a lot older, but at the pro level guys have to be stronger than ever because everyone’s a man in [the NHL].”
Thursday, development camp attendees worked with skating coach Dawn Braid. Kea has been working with her for the last month. He thinks Improving his skating and technique could help him gain more time with the Rochester Americans after playing one game there last season.
“I’m just working hard this summer to get better, skating with Dawn, and I’ve got a skills guy I’m working with,” Kea said. “I’m trying to do anything I can to be in the lineup in Rochester next year.”
Florentino and Kea will each get one more chance to impress the fans, coaches, and front office. The Sabres prospects will break into seven teams for a 3-on-3 tournament that starts Friday morning at 10:30 a.m.