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NCAA PREVIEW

by Kris Baker / Buffalo Sabres

Practices have begun on college campuses nationwide, and once again the Buffalo Sabres will have no fewer than 10 student athletes that have been drafted by the team skating at the NCAA level when action kicks off in October.

CLICK HERE FOR KRIS' SHL RECAP/CHL PREVIEW

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BIG TEN (B1G)
Budding power forward Hudson Fasching enters his third season at the University of Minnesota, where he’ll be relied upon as top line scorer, two-way worker and regular net-front presence.

Fasching, who scored 12 goals and 26 points in 38 games last season, will serve as one of the team’s three alternate captains for the 2014-15 campaign. He underwent a successful off-season procedure to remove bone chips from his knee, setting the stage for what many think will be a big year for the kid dubbed “Thor” by his teammates.

While the Sabres likely tossed around the idea of luring Fasching to the pro ranks, the 6-foot-2, 207-pound winger remains on course to complete an academic program that will see him earn his bachelor’s degree in three years, perhaps allowing him to forego his final year of NCAA eligibility if the opportunity presents itself.

For now, though, the mission is to win a national title. Fasching will undoubtedly play a major role in all situations as a puck possession workhorse if the Gophers are to achieve their goals.


HOCKEY EAST
Anthony Florentino (2013, fifth round) heads back to Providence College following an excellent sophomore campaign that ended with the Friars capturing the 2015 NCAA Championship, and him being named to the 2015 Frozen Four All-Tournament Team.

A mobile, hard-hitting rearguard, Florentino captured a career-best 15 points (3+12) last season. He is set to enjoy top-pair minutes for the defending champions while using his big shot on the first unit power play. Florentino has always envisioned himself as a “four-year player,” meaning it’s quite possible that the Sabres will need to wait until 2017 before officially adding him to the fold.

Sophomore Cal Petersen (2013, fifth round) is expected to maintain his position as Notre Dame’s leading backstop when the puck drops for the regular season opener October 16 at Penn State. The Waterloo Blackhawks product quickly adapted to his settings as a freshman last season, posting a 13-16-3 record, including four shutouts, a 2.51 goals-against average and .919 save percentage en route to earning a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.

In March, Petersen set an NCAA record with 87 saves in 4-3 five overtime loss to Massachusetts in the first round of the playoffs. The game lasted 151:42 to go down as the longest game ever played in NCAA hockey history.

Notre Dame centerman Connor Hurley (2013, second round) will look to put his vision and playmaking instincts to good use towards a successful sophomore campaign in South Bend. Hurley’s freshman year saw him endure a bit of a learning curve as he collected four goals and 14 points in 41 games for a young Fighting Irish team.

With added strength and confidence, Hurley is targeting a role this season as a top-six forward who will take the puck hard to the net more often while adding a spark to the power play.

Christopher Brown (2014, sixth round) carries on a family tradition as he settles in for his freshman season at Boston College. Son of a pair of Boston College graduates and nephew of current assistant coach Greg, Brown will skate for the club that was captained by his brother Patrick in 2013-14.

A prolific scorer at the Michigan high school level, Brown amassed 32 points (13+19) last season with Green Bay and Tri-City of the United States Hockey League, but projects to be a hard-working, two-way forward as he eases his way into his collegiate career.

Hard-shooting defenseman Ivan Chukarov (2015, seventh round) will immediately step into a key role as a 20-year-old freshman this season with the University of Massachusetts. Chukarov was lights out with the North American Hockey League champion Minnesota Wildnerness in 2014-15, collecting 43 points (12+31) to earn a spot on the All-NAHL Team.

UMass has been picked by many to finish at the bottom of the Hockey East standings, but expectations will be high with the big, puck-moving defenseman being one of just three NHL draft picks on the Minutemen roster.


(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

EASTERN COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (ECAC)
Fully healed from an offseason surgical procedure that kept him off the ice at Development Camp, Harvard University forward Sean Malone (2013, sixth round) has the potential to emerge as one of college hockey’s most complete forwards entering his third season in Cambridge.

The West Seneca, N.Y. native was dogged by injury early in his sophomore campaign, but quickly emerged as an energetic force who could fill the net and make the most of his linemates to finish the year with eight goals and 18 points in just 21 appearances. Harvard is the early-season favorite to take the ECAC regular season title. Malone’s no-quit attitude will be a key to making the prognostications become reality.

Maxwell Willman (2014, fifth round) enters his sophomore year at Brown University with an eye on making a significant impact following a year of adjusting to the pace and physicality at the collegiate level.

Willman kicked off his freshman year by appearing on the team’s top forward unit, scoring Brown’s first goal in their seasoning opening contest versus Army, but was unable to find the net the rest of the way to finish with three points in 30 appearances. Willman, who also served as a defenseman midway through the season, looked sharp at the Sabres Development Camp in July, making him one to watch for this season despite the paltry production in year one.

Acquired from Winnipeg last season via trade, Jason Kasdorf enters the year once again sitting atop the Rensselaer goaltending depth chart. Kasdorf, 23, considered leaving school last spring after posting an 11-19-2 record, 2.97 goals-against average and .902 save percentage, but opted to return for another year in pursuit of an NCAA title.

RPI may lack the offensive firepower to emerge as a top contender, but no one should discount Kasdorf’s ability to steal a few games for the Engineers. He looked very poised in an all-around excellent Development Camp performance, leaving many to believe that a return to his 2012-13 form – when he was one of the top goaltender’s in all of college hockey – is right around the corner.


NATIONAL COLLEGIATE HOCKEY CONFERENCE (NCHC)
A season removed from being named a Mr. Hockey finalist as one of top high school players in the state of Minnesota, defenseman William Borgen (2015, fourth round) will be expected to leverage his fluid puck rushing skills out of the gate as a true freshman when St. Cloud State kicks off their regular season schedule October 9 at Alaska-Fairbanks.

Borgen will serve as the youngest defenseman on the Huskies roster, but will get every opportunity to contribute early for a squad returning seven of their top 10 scorers from a season ago.

Sophomore forward Judd Peterson (2012, seventh round) returns to St. Cloud State a year removed from a four-goal, seven-point effort in 2014-15. Peterson, who like his teammate Borgen was a Mr. Hockey finalist in 2012, scored the game winning goal in overtime in St. Cloud’s 3-2 win over Michigan Tech in the NCAA West Region semifinal.

The Huskies coaching staff is hoping that the star performance springboards the gritty shooter into second-year success for a team picked to finish sixth in the NCHC preseason poll.


For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.

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