After playing nine games with the Buffalo Sabres in the fall, Sam Reinhart
, the second-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, was loaned back to junior for a bit more seasoning.
He helped lead Team Canada to a gold-medal finish at the IIHF World Junior Championship and finished his junior career in Kootenay with 65 points in 40 games. He then came into this week's Development Camp at First Niagara Center stronger and more experienced – and it showed.
Reinhart earned the Craig Ramsay Trophy, presented to the hardest working player at Development Camp.
The 19-year-old center, who scored twice and added an assist during the Blue & Gold Scrimmage, impressed Sabres general manager Tim Murray with his performance throughout the week.
“I thought he was outstanding. I thought he was one of the best players on the ice,” Murray said. “His team won the game and his line was a big part of it. I expected that.
“I expected him to come in here and say – without saying it – to us, to [the media], to the fans, ‘Don’t forget about me. I’m a big part of this organization going forward.’ And I think that’s what he did.”
'I CALL BUFFALO THE 8TH CANADIAN MARKET'
Seeing over 17,000 fans packing First Niagara Center on Friday for the Blue & Gold Scrimmage and roughly 1,000 fans every other day for Development Camp practices didn’t necessarily surprise Murray.
But as someone who prepares for pretty much every possible scenario that could be thrown his way, few things tend to catch him off guard.
“I’ve said all along… it’s an unbelievable hockey market,” Murray said Sunday after the 3-on-3 tournament that wrapped up camp. “I call it the eighth Canadian market and I think we’ve surpassed a lot of Canadian markets when it comes to this type of thing.
“The response from the public and the press and everything has been outstanding. Our players notice that obviously, but the most important thing is what we get done here in a week.”
The camp, which brings in the organization’s freshly drafted players, those on entry-level contracts, those in the college ranks and a few invitees, is designed to teach the young athletes what it takes to make it at the professional level through on-ice and off-ice teaching sessions.
A Development Camp-record crowd of 17,115 watched the prospects take part in an intra-squad scrimmage Friday night and Murray believes that is a big part of the learning experience as well.
“I think it’s important that the players see as they’re coming in here, the type of market we’re in,” he said. “We want the players want to be Buffalo Sabres, so [you do] as much as you can do – and the fan experience is a big part of that.”
WEIGHING ALL OF THEIR OPTIONS
A left-shot defenseman was one position Murray has said that he’d like to fill via free agency. The team signed Carlo Colaiacovo on July 3 but is still open to other options. Murray said that they’re exploring possibilities through trades, free agency and waivers. Two-time Stanley Cup champion Johnny Oduya remains on his radar as well, but he’s in no rush to make an addition at this time.
COACHING SEARCH CONTINUES
Murray is still looking for a coach for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League and he knows a decision has to be made relatively soon.
“Still working on that,” he said. “I’ve gone through a thousand different scenarios, but it’s starting to get to the point where I have to quit experimenting with ideas and different scenarios and just get to it.”
He said he believes they’ve signed good players that can play big roles in Rochester and provide good depth for the Sabres when needed and expects the Amerks to be a competitive team in the fall.