The Prospects Challenge is now behind us, but the time to be excited about prospects is only just beginning. While the Sabres lost their game against the Penguins on Monday night, there was plenty to like as we move forward into training camp.
Namely, Brendan Guhle produced another three-point night (it could have been four, had his potential game-tying slap shot not rung the post in the third period), Justin Bailey scored a highlight-reel goal and Cliff Pu notched a point for the third-straight game.
What had Jason Botterill and Chris Taylor so excited after the game, however, was the simple fact that the prospects had bought into what new management had asked of them. They took the systems to heart and competed hard for all three games.
"I'm very happy with the guys," Taylor said. "They committed to do what we asked them to do. They made an impression on everybody. It was the right step for the organization."
Video: POSTGAME: Taylor
The players given letters - Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste and Hudson Fasching - took their leadership roles seriously, evident not only by their comments throughout the weekend but by their play and their practice habits as well.
"I thought our leadership group here did an outstanding job this weekend," Botterill said. "I think this is sometimes a difficult tournament for players who've been through pro and played NHL games. Expectations are high, they try to do almost too much with the puck.
"But I thought you saw guys like Bailey, [Nicholas] Baptiste, [Hudson] Fasching play hard throughout the entire time. They really tried to implement what we were trying to do from a system standpoint."
Video: INTERVIEW: BOTTERILL
Now comes the fun part. Botterill reiterated on Monday that young players will have a chance to carve out a roster spot, and the veterans among the prospects certainly didn't hurt those chances this weekend. Guhle and C.J. Smith led all Sabres with six points apiece, Justin Bailey stood out for his skating, and Hudson Fasching got better at the weekend went on.
You can find more on all of those players and more in our recap from last night, including why Bailey feels mentally stronger this season and an injury update on Alexander Nylander. Go ahead, read it.
Botterill updates on Jack Eichel's contract
While there is no deal yet, Botterill said the sentiment in discussions between the Sabres and Jack Eichel's agents remains positive and that he expects a deal to get done in the future. Eichel has one year remaining on his entry-level contract, after which he would become a restricted free agent.
"Both parties would really like to get a deal done," Botterill said. "Do we have a deal done? No, not yet. But we continue to be very cordial in our discussions. It has to be a situation where both groups are very comfortable with where the numbers are at, where the terms are at, and both groups are excited about continuing this relationship moving forward.
"… Jack is focused on the season," he continued. "He's focused coming into training camp. All of our interactions with him, it's been a lot of fun and were really looking forward to getting on the ice with him. Our relationship with his agents continues to be very positive and we're hoping to get a deal done shortly."
Amerks sign Paetsch
The Rochester Americans added to their defensive depth on Tuesday morning, bringing Nathan Paetsch back into the organization on a one-year deal. Paetsch has appeared in 215 games with the Amerks during two prior stints in addition to 157 games for the Sabres.
Paetsch has spent the past five seasons playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he helped lead the team to a pair of Calder Cup championships.
"We're excited to welcome Nathan back to the organization as he brings a wealth of playing experience at the American Hockey League level," Amerks general manager Randy Sexton said in a press release. "Nathan is also a man of great character who is the consummate pro and we're very confident he will play a leading role in creating a successful, winning culture for our young prospects here in Rochester."
You can read the release in its entirety here.
Camp opens Thursday
We'll have coverage of media day on Thursday here at Sabres.com. On-ice sessions, which are open to the public, begin Friday at 9:45 a.m. at HarborCenter.