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Sharpen Up: Week of July 15, 2019

All the Sabres news you need to know this week

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

A trade, a signing, a schedule release and some optimism from the players for the new season.

Here's what you need to know. 


Welcome to Buffalo, Henri Jokiharju 

The Sabres acquired defenseman Henri Jokiharju (joh-kee-HARH-yoo) from the Chicago Blackhawks last Tuesday in exchange for forward Alexander Nylander.

Jokiharju made his NHL debut in 2018-19, posting 12 assists in 38 games for the Blackhawks. The 20-year-old blue liner also recorded 17 points (2+15) in 30 AHL games for the Rockford IceHogs and his .57 points per game ranked eighth among rookie AHL defensemen with more than 20 games played. 

A native of Oulu, Finland, Jokiharju made two appearances in international tournaments for Finland in 2018-19, winning a gold medal at both the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship and the 2019 IIHF World Championship. His five points (2+3) and plus-6 rating in seven games both ranked third among World Juniors defensemen. He also played for Team Finland at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and won a gold medal with Finland at the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championship.

"Henri is a young, mobile defenseman who has shown he can compete at the NHL level," Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said. "His international success last season only furthered his development and we are excited to add him to our current group of defensemen."

"I just realized it's a good opportunity for me, coming to a great organization like the Buffalo Sabres," Jokiharju said during a conference call on Wednesday. "I'm pumped to play for the Sabres."

Read more of his reaction to the trade here.

Johansson on signing with Buffalo

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Mojo's got a nose for the net. 🚨

Marcus Johansson and the Sabres agreed to a two-year contract last weekend. He spoke with the Buffalo media last Monday on a conference call. Here's some of what he had to say…

Positive conversations with coach Ralph Krueger and excitement regarding the Sabres' young players were factors that helped bring Marcus Johansson to Buffalo, the forward said during a conference call with the media on Monday. 

Johansson signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Sabres on Saturday, the latest move by general manager Jason Botterill geared toward upgrading the team's depth at forward. 

"I think talking to Ralph and Jason, I like what Buffalo's got going," Johansson said. "Talking to Ralph, he's got some really good ideas on how to play, and it's a really young and exciting team. I'm looking forward to it and once it came down to it, I was really happy I ended up going to Buffalo."

Prior to signing Johansson, the Sabres addressed their forward group by re-signing Jeff Skinner to an eight-year contract and adding Jimmy Vesey in a trade with the Rangers. Curtis Lazar and Jean-Sebastien Dea were added on July 1 to bolster internal competition and organizational depth. 

Botterill said after acquiring Vesey that he'd like to give Krueger as many options as possible when it comes to crafting his lineup, placing an emphasis on players with positional versatility. Though Johansson has primarily played left wing in recent seasons, he entered the league as a center and said he's willing to revisit the position if needed. 

"I think wherever I can help and play I'm here for it and whatever they need me to do," he said. "I've played both. I've played mostly left wing over the last however many years, but whatever they need me to do I'm up for it. 

"That's why everyone comes to play, you want to help the team win. That's my main focus. If it's at center, it is, and if it's at left wing I'm happy to do both."

You can read more here.


Mittelstadt looking forward to upcoming season

Casey Mittelstadt is playing in the Da Beauty summer hockey league and caught up with him in Minnesota last week…  

"I think it all started with getting (Jeff Skinner) back," Mittelstadt, a 20-year-old forward who had 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 77 games. "That's huge for me, especially since he's taught me so much and kind of has taken me under his wing.

"We kept a lot of the foundation we had from last year, and the new faces are guys who have been in the playoffs before, so hopefully they can help get us to the next level.

Mittelstadt acknowledged the highs and lows of last season, which included a 10-game winning streak before a sixth-place finish in the Atlantic Division, but one the Sabres can build off this season. 

"The start and the winning streak gave us high hopes," he said. "I think everyone knew you're not going to win 10 games in a row many times, but we hoped we'd hang on for a few games. We lost a lot of one-goal games, a lot of overtime games, and it came back to haunt us.

"Playoffs were the goal last year and they obviously are the goal again this year. I think with consistency, a lot of good changes, a lot of good veteran guys and a lot of new voices should help us out."

The full article can be found here.

Larsson returns

Restricted free agent Johan Larsson signed a one-year contract with Buffalo on Friday.

Larsson recently completed his seventh NHL season and recorded 14 points (6+8) in 73 games. Larsson, who played one game for the Minnesota Wild before being traded to the Sabres in April 2013, has recorded 79 points (32+47) in 331 career NHL games.

Seven of his 32 career goals have been game-winners and the Sabres are 20-7-4 all-time when Larsson scores.


Amerks schedule released

The Rochester Americans announced their schedule for the 2019-20 American Hockey League regular season on Wednesday, presented exclusively by Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino. 

The Amerks will open their 64th AHL season - and 38th as the affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres - on Friday, Oct. 4 at 7:05 p.m. against Syracuse Crunch at The Blue Cross Arena.

The Amerks, who remain in the North Division of the Eastern Conference, will again play a 76-game regular-season schedule (38 home games and 38 road games) against 15 of the AHL's 31 teams. 

Third-year head coach Chris Taylor and the Amerks will play 26 of their 38 home games on weekends, with 21 Friday home games, four Saturday home dates and only one Sunday home outing. The team will also host 12 games on Wednesdays, one more than last season.

For the fourth straight year, the Amerks will play all 76 of their games solely against Eastern Conference opponents this season, with 54 coming against their North Division rivals and 22 versus teams from the Atlantic Division. 

The North Division will remain at eight teams for the 2019-20 season and will again feature the Cleveland Monsters, the top developmental team of the Columbus Blue Jackets who shifted to the North prior to last season, as well as the Belleville Senators, Binghamton Devils, Laval Rocket, Syracuse Crunch, Toronto Marlies and Utica Comets.

Go to for all the details.  

Sharpen Up will return next week. 

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