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Sharpen Up: July 1, 2019

What you need to know at the start of the new league year

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

It's July 1. Happy Canada Day to our friends north of the border. And happy Free Agency Day to all hockey fans. We'll see what the Sabres do when the floodgates open at noon ET. 

Here's what you need to know.

 

Miller time

General manager Jason Botterill was active on Friday, trading for Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller. He swapped a second-round pick in 2021 (originally belonging to the Blues) and a fifth-round pick in 2022 for the right-shot D-man who led Vegas blue liners in assists and points over the past two seasons. 

Check out full reaction to the trade here. 

"In Vegas, I learned a lot of valuable things," Miller said during a conference call on Saturday. "We had a great team there and we learned a lot over two years about playoffs and what it took to win. Hopefully I can transition that over and try and be part of something here that's winning.

"I know it's been a little bit since there's been playoff hockey in Buffalo. They were right there last year so it will be a lot of fun trying to build something special here."

Video: DEVELOPMENT CAMP: Botterill

Botterill said his interest in Miller dates back to the defenseman's days in the AHL, when Miller's Manchester Monarchs squared off with Botterill's Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in postseason play. 

Miller continued to add playoff pedigree in the ensuing years, playing spring hockey in three of four NHL seasons with Boston and Vegas. 

"I have the utmost respect for what Vegas has done over the last couple years," Botterill said. "It's an amazing story for our league. We talked a lot about it with Brandon Montour coming into our group, the playoff experience he got in Anaheim. It's the same thing here with Colin.

"At every level, he's had an opportunity to play in playoffs. Especially the last two or three seasons, getting that much playoff experience, playing in those situations, the intensity, just having that understanding of what it takes to get to the playoffs and have success in the playoffs."

Video: DEVELOPMENT CAMP: Krueger

"His energy that he brings, the experiences he's had now with Vegas, a team that plays on its toes, that likes to have an aggressive defensive style, really suits us," head coach Ralph Krueger said. 

 

French Connection Tournament recap

Tage Thompson and Jacob Bryson's squad ended up winning the French Connection Tournament, the annual 3-on-3 event that closes out the organization's summer development camp. 

Catch the highlights here with Rick Jeanneret, Rob Ray and Brian Duff on the call that was live streamed on Sabres.com and our social media platforms:

Video: HIGHLIGHTS: French Connection Tournament

Thompson won the Craig Ramsay Leadership Award for both his on-ice and off-ice work ethic during the week. Here's assistant general manager Steve Greeley presenting it to him after the tournament:

Video: CRAIG RAMSAY AWARD

From our recap of Saturday's tournament

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. 

Video: 3-ON-3 TOURNEY: Thompson

Video: 3-ON-3 TOURNEY: Olofsson 

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.

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."

Video: 3-ON-3 TOURNEY: Cozens

Seventh-overall pick Dylan 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."

 

Stay tuned all week for any breaking news. Sharpen Up will return next week.
 

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