When Cason Hohmann scored his first goal in a Buffalo Sabres sweater – a deflection in the second period of Saturday night’s 6-2 Prospects Challenge victory over the New Jersey Devils – he didn’t have to listen hard to hear the excitement from his supporters.
His two biggest fans happened to be sitting right on the Sabres bench.
“Me and Jack [Eichel], when he scored actually, were probably the two loudest people in the building,” forward Evan Rodrigues said. “We were so happy for him.”
Hohmann became the third former Boston University Terrier to join the Sabres organization this offseason, joining his former college teammates Rodrigues and Eichel, when he signed an American Hockey League contract to play for Rochester.
Though he said he had other options as to where he could begin his pro career, the opportunity to join his friends made the decision easier.
“They’re two of my best friends,” Hohmann said. “Evan was my roommate for most of my college experience, and Eichel’s one of my best friends. When he came in last year, we bonded really well, we like to make fun of each other and go back and forth so he’s one of my really good friends too. It’s awesome being up here with these guys.”
The three players’ first experience on the ice together as Sabres couldn’t have gone much better – in addition to Hohmann’s goal, Rodrigues and Eichel combined for four points to fuel the Buffalo victory.
But to continue playing together, they’ll have to keep turning in strong performances –- Rodrigues and Hohmann, as undrafted free agents, have a lot to prove in particular.
For his part, Hohmann continued to impress Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth, who is leading the Sabres throughout the Prospects Challenge presented by Tops, Post Foods and Honey Bunches of Oats.
“I’ve liked him,” Cunneyworth said. “It’s funny. Personally, I think I compare him to David Desharnais in Montreal. They’re very similar in stature and obviously he’s a guy that can finish some plays.”
Hohmann, listed at 5-foot-9, describes himself as a “tenacious, hard-working” player. His favorite part of the game, he says, is going into the corner against much taller opponents and creating opportunities in front of the net.
Rodrigues, who knows Hohmann’s game as well as anyone, certainly didn’t dispute his friend’s self-analysis.
“He works hard every time he hits the ice,” Rodrigues said. “He seems to never stop.”
On Saturday, that hard work paid off on the score sheet when he perfectly redirected that point shot from Brycen Martin.
“It was awesome,” Hohmann said. “It was really exciting to come out here and, first time putting on a Sabres jersey in front of a lot of fans and first time out here in Buffalo, it really meant a lot to me and it was a really cool experience.”
|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert) |
CONTRACTS ON THE LINE
Much like Hohmann and Rodrigues, goaltender Keegan Asmundson and defenseman David Henley entered the Prospects Challenge as undrafted players.
But unlike Hohmann and Rodrigues, they have yet to sign professional contracts, making this weekend an especially important opportunity both to learn and to show their skills against other top-level talent.
Asmundson’s first opportunity to do that came against New Jersey, when he entered the game in relief of starting goaltender Andrey Makarov.
“It was good to get that first game of the season done with, kind of shake the cob webs off form summer hockey,” Asmundson said after practice Sunday morning at First Niagara Center.
“It was good to get in there, I have a lot of friends that were here to watch so it was cool for them to see and it was cool to wear the Sabres jersey, how many people get to do that? I got to do it once and hopefully I get to do it again.”
Wearing a Sabres jersey is particularly special for Asmundson given the fact that he’s spent the past four years playing Division-I hockey in Buffalo at Canisius College. Dave Smith, his coach with the Griffs, helped paved the way for him to come to camp.
Now, Asmundson is learning from differences between the college and the pro game in the city he calls his second home.
“It’s pretty special being from Canisius, getting the chance to represent my school and more importantly getting a chance to come to Buffalo for another year,” he said. “It’s kind of been part of the routine, coming back to Buffalo this time of year, so I’m glad I was able to get this opportunity and show what I got to the organization.”
Henley didn’t have a chance to play in the Sabres’ first game of the Prospects Challenge, but it is expected that he’ll see time in Monday’s contest against the Boston Bruins. As a tall, physical player, the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Henley believes his value will translate more in game action than in practice.
“I didn’t get drafted and to be here with all these players and get a chance to show what I can do is a good opportunity,” Henley said. “Tomorrow is a big game … I don’t know if I’m going to be in the lineup but if I am, I will show the team what I can do.”
What can Henley do? A good indication can be found in his performance for Charlottetown in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs. In Game 2 of their series with Quebec, Henley put his body on the line when he dove to block a shot in overtime – with his face.
“I’m that kind of guy, like Josh Gorges of the Buffalo Sabres,” Henley said. “He’s that kind of player, he’s a warrior, and when we were in the playoffs I blocked a shot with my face but if it was in the regular season I would do that same thing.”
Though he has a tough road ahead of him, Henley has a good source of guidance in his brother, Cedric, who went through a similar experience after being drafted by the Sabres in 2010.
“He told me to relax because I was really stressed about coming here,” Henley said. “My objective is to sign a contract and I don’t have a lot of time to show the Sabres my potential and he just told me to take it easy and play well. It’s nice to have a brother who came here to camp with the Sabres, I really enjoy it.”
71 Evan Rodrigues – 41 Jack Eichel – 73 Nicholas Baptiste
48 William Carrier – 23 Sam Reinhart – 56 Justin Bailey
74 Vaclav Karabacek – 58 Giorgio Estephan – 72 Jean Dupuy
51 Jack Nevins – 75 Colin Jacobs – 42 Justin Kea
64 Cason Hohmann – 43 Daniel Catenacci – 86 Eric Cornel/70 Matt Garbowsky
Defensemen: 29 Jake McCabe, 67 Brady Austin, 85 Josh Chapman, 62 David Henley, 45 Brendan Guhle, 54 Brycen Martin, 78 Matt Prapavessis, 81 Spiro Goulakos, 53 Devante Stephens
60 C.J. Motte
1 Andrey Makarov
33 Keegan Asmundson