It seems the long summer was well spent by most - if not all - of the Sabres players. Tyler Ennis, Sam Reinhart, and Cody Franson are among the faces that have come to camp noticeably stronger than they were at the end of last season.
Another name you can add to that list is Brendan Guhle, who was pinpointed by fellow defenseman Jake McCabe on Friday as a player who looks entirely different than he did at camp a year ago.
"That's nice of him to say," Guhle, Buffalo's second-round pick in 2015, said. "I put on about eight pounds since last camp and my body fat is still the same, so it's pretty much all lean muscle. I feel stronger out there, more powerful with my strides. I think it's got to translate into the game though. That's the most important thing."
Size was just about the only thing Guhle was lacking at last year's camp, during which he made a compelling case to make an early jump from the junior ranks to pro hockey at age 18. However, that camp ended early thanks to an open-ice hit from Dion Phaneuf during a preseason game in Toronto. Once he recovered, he was assigned back to Prince Albert of the WHL, having left a major impression, nonetheless.
Guhle returns to camp in a position that McCabe knows well. He's a young defenseman looking to break into the NHL. McCabe faced a similar situation last fall before he established himself as a top-four defenseman for the Sabres during his rookie season. His advice to Guhle and other young players: Don't try to do too much.
McCabe said his camp was actually better two years ago, when he arrived with the expectation of playing in Rochester, versus last season when he knew he had a shot with the Sabres and was playing with the pressures of making their roster.
Guhle, so far, is heeding that advice.
"My mentality last year was just come in game-by-game and day-by-day and just do my best," Guhle said. "This year I've got the exact same mentality. I'm just taking it day-by-day and seeing what happens and not thinking about roster spots."
Guhle earned an assist in the scrimmage at practice on Saturday, grabbing the puck on the forecheck and passing it to the front of the net where Cole Schneider was waiting to deflect it in. His team won both of their scrimmages, 5-0 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday.
Video: Sabres in :90
He mentioned that while adding strength was a priority for him over the summer, he was careful not to add too much weight so that it wouldn't impede his greatest skill, which is his skating. The scrimmage on Saturday was a sign that he's headed in the right direction.
"You've seen him kind of progress over the last year but especially that weight," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I like to see the skating with knowing the fact that he's put on the weight. A couple times today in the scrimmage he bursts up the wing and joins the play and was a factor."
McCabe impresses in practice
Speaking of the second-year defenseman, Bylsma had great things to say about him after practice on Saturday.
"I think one of the things you hope from veteran guys - and I say that knowing Jake's really only going into his second year - but guys returning to our team is you want them to be leaders," Bylsma said. "You want them to stand out in how we work and how we practice and Jake has clearly done that in the first two days. He's been one of the best, he's been pushing it the hardest and really leading the way and I think it's quite evident if you're watching."
More from Schneider
After he scored three goals during the first scrimmage on Friday, Schneider posted two more points with a goal and an assist on Saturday. Three of his goals, including the one on Guhle's pass, have been deflections at the net-front.
Schneider also picked off a pass in the offensive zone to feed linemate Derek Grant for a goal. Grant and Schneider were previously teammates in Binghamton while members of the Ottawa Senators organization.
"We played probably on and off for two years," Grant said. "Probably not set linemates for too long, but I definitely played a number of games with him and probably developed a bit of chemistry."
Bylsma said that he thought both Grant and Schneider have been standouts in both scrimmages. They figure to be among those considered not only for the open 13th forward spot, but also to break into the regular NHL lineup.
"I think there are probably five or six guys you can put in that category, where if you're looking at 12 forward spots on our roster right now, they'd be competing for that spot," Bylsma said. "But I think there's more to that to compete for as well, it's not just the 13th forward. There are probably five or six guys who are looking at a chance to play in the top 12."
Grant, 26, recorded 45 points (27+18) with Stockton of the AHL last season and also played 15 NHL games for Calgary. You can watch his full interview with the media from Saturday below:
Video: GRANT: Training Camp
Alexander Nylander has wheels
Nylander showed the speed and skating ability that made him the No. 8 pick in the draft this summer on this play from Saturday's scrimmage. Take a look:
Bylsma said Saturday that he's been impressed with both of Nylander's two days at camp playing on the right wing with Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane, calling him one of the standouts of Saturday's scrimmage.
The Sabres are back at it on Sunday, with practice once again open to the public at HarborCenter and set to begin at 9 a.m. with a scrimmage to follow. Then it's time for preseason games, beginning against the Minnesota Wild on Monday at Penn State.