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Olofsson, Thompson embraced leadership roles at camp

Recapping the French Connection Tournament at Harborcenter

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Victor Olofsson skated toward the net on his shootout attempt, brought the puck between his legs and buried a backhand shot, a jaw-dropping move that drew the approval of the crowd inside Harborcenter for the annual French Connection Tournament on Saturday. 

On the very next attempt, Tage Thompson - competing against Olofsson's team in the championship game - went from his backhand to his forehand and buried his own shot, then went on to hoist the trophy after his team won the five-round shootout. 

The shootout goals made for memorable moments on the highlight reel, but it was Olofsson and Thompson's leadership throughout the week that stood out to Sabres management as development camp came to an end on Saturday. 

Video: CRAIG RAMSAY AWARD

Thompson was selected as the recipient of the Craig Ramsay Leadership Award, given annually to the player deemed as the hardest worker at development camp. Sabres brass noticed his productive offseason - he already put on eight pounds from training this summer - and told Thompson's fellow prospects to follow in his footsteps. 

Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley commended Thompson for his attitude as well, as the 21-year-old winger embraced the chance to lead his younger teammates despite coming into camp with 106 NHL games already on his resume. It's no accident that Thompson was selected to room with Dylan Cozens, the seventh-overall pick in this year's draft. 

Video: 3-ON-3 TOURNEY: Thompson

Olofsson, meanwhile, was the third-oldest player at this year's camp and one of just two members present from the team's 2014 draft class (along with goalie Jonas Johansson). He smiled when asked if he was glad about the likelihood of this being his last development camp.

"No, I like being here," he said. "It's awesome. It really helps me to skate in the summer, too. I haven't been skating up to this point, so it kind of helps me to come into it quick. But it's always fun being here."

Botterill lauded Olofsson for taking ownership when it came to helping younger teammates, something Olofsson said was a goal of his at the outset of camp. But he managed to impress on the ice, too, both with his patented release and his work ethic.

"It's been exciting to watch all of the kids here," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "Of course, Victor is somebody who is on the radar, he had an excellent season in Rochester last year and he also is impressing me with the way he's committed when he doesn't have the puck. 

"He works hard in both directions with equal speed and a scoring player who's young like that has to first of all be able to play without the puck to be able to break into this roster. He's definitely an exciting player for the future."

Video: 3-ON-3 TOURNEY: Olofsson

Thompson and Olofsson will be among a group of wingers competing for an NHL roster spot in camp this fall, along with Alexander Nylander and C.J. Smith. Botterill referred to the position as one of organizational strength thanks to that internal competition coming from Rochester. 

Though they are competing, they're helping each other, too.

"It's great to have those guys around," Olofsson said. "I feel like we push each other to be better every day."

 

Cozens feels OK after scare

Video: 3-ON-3 TOURNEY: Cozens

Cozens saw his tournament come to a premature end due to a thumb injury, but said he felt OK when talking to reporters following the championship game. Though he will see a specialist on Monday, he suggested the injury wasn't as bad as it looked on social media.

"It's good," he said. "I saw the videos and stuff. I think it looked a lot worse than it really was. I'm feeling good and I'm seeing a specialist Monday. But right when it happened, I wanted to get right back out there so I'm feeling good."
 
Despite the early ending, Cozens spoke highly of his experience at his first camp.

"It's been really good," he said. "The city's been awesome, and just getting to meet all the staff and everyone, they're all really good, really nice. It's crazy that I'm in the NHL right now at a development camp."
 

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