Buffalo Sabres fans got possibly their best look yet at the prospects in the pipeline Tuesday night during the Blue & White Scrimmage. While the intensity and high pace of the contest may have been the biggest storyline, Team White emerged victorious by a score of 5-1 at First Niagara Center.
Rochester Americans coach Chadd Cassidy has been running this week’s development camp and his message to the young players has been to elevate their level of competition.
“We were really impressed with the pace out there tonight,” Cassidy said. “For having five defense on both sides, I thought the guys held up really well and it was a physical game. In my experience here, it was probably the fastest scrimmage we’ve had at development camp, especially with how we’ve worked them the last couple days. We’re real happy with that.”
Whether watching 2014 second-round pick Brendan Lemieux throw his body around and get under the skin of some players on the ice or seeing a fight between two players looking to prove their worth in the organization, the prospects went out to prove that they have a role in an organization looking to redefine its identity.
“The message has been ‘Everything is a competition,’ and the most important habit that we need to have is our compete level right now,” Cassidy said. “Whether you’re a skill player or you’re a player that’s going to be a fourth-line left wing, we expect you to compete every shift.”
While the players took a while to get their legs moving tonight, the announced crowd of 8,725 really simulated a home-game environment to help these players get a taste of the NHL.
“It’s great, the crowd was great,” defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen said. “It was fun to play there, and hopefully the fans enjoyed. Let’s hope that we can bring something more that they can cheer when the season starts.”
PLEASANT SURPRISES: Forward Drake Caggiula, an invitee to the camp, has been among the most noteworthy players through the first two days of development camp, as his speed and pressure in the offensive zone have created many opportunities for himself and others.
Caggiula, who recorded 11 goals and 13 assists at North Dakota this season, posted two goals in this game, including an empty-net goal to seal the victory for Team White. His play throughout camp and tonight has really impressed Cassidy.
“He’s been really good. Real good skill level, nice release, and certainly knows what to do with the puck around the net,” Cassidy said. “This is the first viewing that I’ve ever gotten of him, but I’ve been really impressed with him.
“I think he makes plays at speed and he’s one of the few smaller players that we brought in, but he plays at a really good pace and he’s made players around him better all week. He’s made a good impression on us.”
Swedish goaltender Linus Ullmark came into game after a year with MODO in the Swedish Elite League in which he was named the league’s best goaltender. Ullmark was the only goaltender to not give up a goal in the scrimmage and he looked extremely poised in net.
Even after a shot from Daniel Catenacci rang off the inside of the post and did not go in to the net, Ullmark remained unfazed and played a solid all-around game.
“Well, a shutout is always a shutout. I had some luck there in the second period when it the post,” he said. “I had some lucky bounces and it was a day. As we say, some days you don’t have the bounces with you. I’m happy with the results.”
LIVIN' ON A TRYOUT: The second period of tonight’s scrimmage provided an opportunity to shine for some of the players invited to development camp for a tryout.
Team White’s second and third goals came courtesy of Patrick Russell and Caggiula, respectively. Russell, a Danish forward who spent last season with Waterloo of the USHL, put a wobbly shot past Cal Petersen off a feed from 2014 fifth-round pick Maxwell Willman. Caggiula buried a rebound against Andrey Makarov after the initial shot came from Tim Schaller.
Jonathon Martin, a teammate of Reinhart’s from the Kootenay Ice, scored the first Team Blue goal on a three-on-one. Camp invite Liam Pecararo, a teammate of Russell’s in Waterloo, registered an assist on the goal.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Sabres prospects will have a day off from the ice Wednesday before practicing again Thursday. On Friday, camp will conclude with a 3-on-3 tournament that should give players one last chance to impress fans, coaches, and management.
“Everything is about competition right now,” Cassidy said. “Where are you going to put yourself in the pecking order? We’ve pushed them really hard these first couple of days.”
“We give them a day tomorrow to recover a little bit and have a little bit of fun. And it’s back on the ice for some technical work and then we end with some really hard competition."