|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)
As we checked in on members of the Sabres' 2015 Draft class throughout Day 2 of development camp at HARBORCENTER, we got coaches' opinions on Brendan Guhle's development, a first-person account of Will Borgen's big year and a feature from Brian Duff on Giorgio Estephan.
That leaves us with a pair of defensemen who are looking to prove themselves at this year's camp: fifth-round pick Devante Stephens and seventh-round pick Ivan Chukarov.
Stephens concluded his second season with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League having scored 11 points (2+9) in 72 games. One year after helping the Rockets to a WHL championship, he played 18 playoffs games as Kelowna advanced to the league semifinals.
"He's a nice big body and moves pretty well for a big body," said Sabres assistant coach Bob Woods, who coaches in the WHL for the past two seasons. "Probably just working on his passing and his puck skills as most young guys do and once he gets that ironed out I think he has a chance to be a real good player."
Chukarov, meanwhile, concluded his first season at the University of Massachusetts after spending the prior two seasons in the North American Hockey League. He played in all 36 games for UMASS and said that the step up in competition had him better prepared for the rigorous practices at development camp.
"Going from the North American League to Hockey East is a big jump, but I feel like playing in every game allowed me to really improve my game a lot and develop my high-speed intensity and feel a lot more comfortable," he said. "I'm able to keep up pretty good."
As a late-round pick, Chukarov says he's placed an added emphasis on taking complete advantage of the opportunities in front of him this week.
"I feel like I'm kind of in the shadows here so I feel like by coming here and making a big impact maybe I can jump out a little bit and show what I can do," he said. "I'm just here to learn, try to soak in as much as I can and improve as much as I can as well."