The future is bright on the Buffalo Sabres’ blueline.
Prospects Michael Funk and Andrej Sekera
are on the rise, and looking to make an impression this week at rookie camp.
"[I have] just been training pretty much every day and on the weekends running sprints, whatever you can kind of do," Funk said of his offseason workouts.
The six-foot-four, 199-pound defenseman was taken 43rd overall by the Sabres in the 2004 NHL Draft.
Wrapping up his first season of AHL play with the Rochester Americans, Funk wants to work on a few things in order to get to the NHL.
“I'm a defensive defenseman so blocking a lot of shots and playing the position to the fullest of my capabilities, improving with every game and being consistent,” he said.
Funk had a taste of the NHL, playing five games with the Sabres last November when Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder were out of the lineup. Funk was called up from the Amerks only 12 games removed from juniors in the Western Hockey League.
“You learn a lot from the guys that are here,” Funk said. “It was a good experience.”
In his time with Buffalo he had two assists before returning to Rochester.
Before playing his first season with the Amerks in 2006-07, Funk was a promising player in the WHL. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2002-03 and finished eighth in scoring among WHL defensemen in 2005-06 with 47 points (11+ 36) for the Portland Winter Hawks.
Sekera had a similar experience in his final year of play in the Ontario Hockey League.
The Slovak Republic native had 55 points in 51 games for the Owen Sound Attack in 2005-06 and won the Max Kaminsky Trophy for most outstanding defenseman.
He also captained the Slovakian team in the 2006 World Junior Championship, playing alongside another Sabres prospect, Marek Zagrapan.
Drafted 71st overall by the Sabres in 2004, he finished with 19 points in 54 games in his first season in Rochester last year, adding that he had support from his new teammates.
“Every single guy helped me in different ways,” he said. “We are like one big family. Everybody is helping everybody so it was pretty good for me.”
That atmosphere led to a brief call-up with the Sabres in December, playing two games for the injured Teppo Numminen.
Those games, in addition to play in the AHL, made Sekera realize he had to make some adjustments to his game.
“The game is quicker and faster and harder so I did not have time to think very much. I had to pass it and make simple plays.
“I have to keep playing a simple game and use my strength,” he said.
Sekera’s strength may lie in his determination.
”My personal goal is to make the team, make the roster,” he said. “We will see how it goes and hopefully things will go my way and I will stay in Buffalo. But if not, life goes on and you have to learn and learn and learn. You learn your whole life.”