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Sharpen Up: May 15, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

Last week was pretty busy. And things will be picking up in the near future.

Here's what you need to know.

The Buffalo Sabres have a new general manager. Jason Botterill was hired as team's new GM and was in Buffalo for his introductory press conference that afternoon. 

An 11-year veteran of NHL front offices, Botterill joins the Sabres after spending the last 10 seasons as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, where he played an integral role in building the roster of two Stanley Cup Champion teams (2008-09 and 2015-16). In his most recent post as Associate General Manager, Botterill was involved in scouting, player development, contract negotiations and salary cap management.

And you may remember Botterill from his playing days. He played in the Sabres organization during his final three professional seasons, posting eight points (3+5) in 36 games for the Sabres and 100 points (59+41) in 118 games for the Rochester Americans (AHL) from 2002-05.

Video: Jason Botterill 1-on-1 with Brian Duff

From the recap of his session with the media:

When Terry Pegula set out to find a new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, he mentioned three characteristics he'd look for in a candidate to instill into the organization: discipline, structure and communication. 

Pegula believes he's found those qualities in Jason Botterill, who was introduced as the eighth GM in franchise history on Thursday. 

"One of the main reasons why I accepted this role and wanted to take on this job is that I truly understand from my time as a player here in Western New York, both in Rochester and Buffalo, how passionate and loyal the fans in this region are towards the game of hockey," Botterill said.

"I know that they deserve success, and my job will be to try to bring them an organization that provides that to them. During my time in the organization here, I learned the importance of what the logo means to our fans. From my standpoint, my job will make sure that every player and every staff member understands the significance of wearing the Sabres logo and wearing the Rochester Americans logo."

Botterill certainly thinks highly of Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly, saying at one point that other teams "are craving for centermen" like them. He'll look for those two to facilitate an up-tempo, simple style of play. 

"What I like about the group right now is this is a league that thrives on centermen," he said. "The fortunate thing here is that we have a couple of amazing, high-end centermen. I also like the fact that we have some young defensemen that can handle some big minutes up there. 

"The type of team that I would like to create here, and it will be in conjunction with the head coach that we bring in, is a team that plays high temp. A lot of time people think 'high tempo, dump and chase.' No. It's a high-tempo, puck-possession game. I think we tried to, whether it's in Pittsburgh or whether it's in Wilkes-Barre where you have less skill, you can still have a high-intensity game. But I think some of the success in Pittsburgh is from the standpoint of simplicity, a north-south game."

If you missed the full press conference, here it is:

Video: Jason Botterill Introductory Press Conference

And click here for a graphic highlighting Botterill's impressive resume. Did you know he's the only Canadian to win three World Junior Championships as a player? 

Here are some other things you may not have known about him. 

Lauren Hall caught up with him for a special edition of 20 Questions.

Video: 20 Questions with Jason Botterill

During the press conference big emphasis was placed on development. Botterill was the general manager of the AHL's Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, who made the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of the eight seasons under his watch.

Drafting well is a big part of building a strong organization and Botterill said that the hockey department will be begin holding its scouting meetings this week as they prepare for the 2017 NHL Draft. That will be held in Chicago on June 23 and 24. 

And speaking of Rochester…

The Amerks will open their 62nd season in the American Hockey League at home on Friday, Oct. 6 at The Blue Cross Arena. In addition, the Amerks announced they will face off against 14 of the AHL's 30 teams during the upcoming 76-game season (38 home games, 38 road games).  

While the opponents for the dates below are yet to be determined, guaranteed home dates on the Amerks' 2017-18 schedule, in addition to the Home Opener, include the following:

• Friday, Nov. 3
• Friday, Nov. 24
• Saturday, Dec. 30
• Saturday, Jan. 12
• Friday, Mar. 9

The Amerks will remain in the seven-team North Division and for the second straight year will play only teams within the Eastern Conference. Joining Rochester in the North Division are three new franchises set to make their AHL debuts in 2017-18, including the Belleville Senators, Binghamton Devils and Laval Rocket, in addition to the Syracuse Crunch, Toronto Marlies and Utica Comets. 

Rochester will face Binghamton, the newest affiliate of the NHL's New Jersey Devils, Syracuse and Utica 10 times apiece (five home, five road) and will play Belleville, top developmental team of the Ottawa Senators, Laval, which will serve as the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto eight times each (four home, four road).

The complete American Hockey League schedule for the 2017-18 regular season will be announced at a later date.

And speaking of Sabres prospects…

Tweet from @SabresProspects: Sabres prospects season officially ends as D Austin Osmanski and Mississauga fall 4-3 in OT to Erie in Game 5 of OHL Final.

On to draft coverage. The NHL Scouting Combine begins May 29 at HarborCenter. 


The great outdoors

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm6: Commissioner Bettman on Winter Classic

On Tuesday, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Sabres and New York Rangers will have the honor of playing in the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day. The 10th Winter Classic will be held at Citi Field. 

Buffalo hosted that very first Winter Classic back in 2008 at what is now New Era Field. It conjured up some warm memories from our equipment staff when we asked them about that game.

Assistant equipment manager George Babcock said that the players felt honored to be a part of that event. 

"They thought, 'How awesome is this that we get to play in this?' They felt privileged, actually, because every kid played hockey on ice outside for a little while, when they learned to skate or whatever, imagining playing in the NHL," Babcock said.

"Here they are in the NHL, outside, in front of freaking 70,000 fans plus being on TV coast-to-coast. I mean, it's absolutely amazing."

Video: Rangers and Sabres to meet up in 2018 Winter Classic

Additional details on the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, including ticket information and other events surrounding the game, will be announced in the coming months. Updates also will be available at


World Championship updates

The tournament wraps up this week and members of the Sabres organization are in a good spot when it comes to competing for the top prize. Jack Eichel and Team USA sit atop Group A while Ryan O'Reilly and Team Canada are in first place in Group B. 

Zemgus Girgensons and Latvia have a chance to advance to the Quarterfinals as well. They're currently in fourth place in Group A with Germany knocking on the door. The top four teams in each pool move on. 

The Quarterfinal Round begins on Thursday. We'll have updates here at all week long. 


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