The familiar crisp icy air felt good on my face. It had been far too long since I had seen the resemblance of hockey. What a perfect opportunity to see the prospects, and the young up-and-comers the Sabres organization had to offer. The opportune remedy to a hockey obsession, in much need of a fix.
The Buffalo Sabres held their Rookie Conditioning Camp from July 6th-11th at the Amherst Pepsi Center and HSBC Arena. The players had off-ice training in the mornings at HSBC arena, followed by on-ice workouts from 5-7 p.m. at the Amherst Pepsi Center.
I had the pleasure of making it out to the camp from the 8th-11th. This is my perspective on the players you can expect to see in the coming years.
I’ll start with the Goalies.
Adam Dennis – Buffalo’s sixth round pick in the 2005 entry draft. Before coming to Rochester last season, he played for the London Knights which were the OHL and Memorial Cup Champions in 2005. He seems to be more mindful when guarding the net, getting the pads much tighter. He is looking great, seems to have stepped his game up. When asked if he thought he would be starting in Rochester this season he said he hopes. He was talking with the other goalies about his new glove, one would be quick to notice that he seems to have acquired a quicker hand to go with it. It’s encouraging how much Dennis’ glove side has improved in just a few short months. Hopefully, what his biggest weaknees was, just may now become a well needed asset. Even the young stud Drew Stafford couldn’t break through.
Jhonas Enroth – Buffalo’s second round pick in the 2006 entry draft. He is currently playing for SK in the Swedish Elitserien. He tends to drop down a little quickly which gives the shooter an easy and open shot on the top shelf. This is something that should be easy to remedy. Enroth has a tendancy to let the rebounds come off of him, but has very fast hands, and can cover up the puck quickly when he needs to.
Bradley Eidsness – Buffalo’s fifth round choice in the 2007 entry draft. Eidsness is the 5th ranked North American goalie by CSS. He currently plays in the AJHL for the Okotoks Oilers. He seemed a little slow in a few of the drills, or could have been shell shocked when presented in front of all this talent. Immediately when he went in the net, the drills on the opposite side of the ice had ended. Lindy Ruff came over to watch, and Randy Cunneyworth decided to take a few shots on Eidsness. I can see how that would affect someone in such a manner.
There were was so much young talent to scout, I didn’t get a chance to completely analyze such a vast talent pool. But, I made sure to check out a few of my favorites.
Mark Mancari looks even bigger than when I last saw him play a few months ago. His defensive ability looks like it is increasing even more. Standing next to the new guys, he looks like a giant. I can see him being a stand out star player this season in Rochester. His ability to play both sides of the ice makes him an asset to any team.
Patrick Kaleta was leading the practice with the younger kids. He looked very tall standing next to a lot of the new draft picks which makes me nervous for the years to come because size isn’t a standout characteristic for Pat. He was showing the younger players what to expect when they reach the next level, the gritty beast that is the NHL. He made easy work of one player, laying rim right out into the benches, another he put through a panel of glass. Seems Kaleta hasn’t lost any of that grit, that passion he is knows for to Sabres fans. He seems to have found his footing a little more and looks very comfortable leading the group of younger guys. One should not shut out that he could possibly be a future Captain or Alternate Captain for the Sabres one day.
Mike Funk and Marek Zagrapan look like they have been bulking up in the off season. Marek’s frame is filling out nicely without losing any speed. During the scrimmage on Wednesday, he was dumping the puck in, and getting to it before the defensemen could even realize what had happened. Funk looks like he is going for a leadership role, which is a welcome addition. He was talking more on the ice than any other player, giving the younger kids directions and helping out.
Byron looks so tiny out on the ice with the “big guys,” but his skills make up for it. He looked great. Clean passes, good back checking, quick on his feet, he looks like with a little more time, he can be of great use to the Sabres.
Brennan and Mackenzie are big kids who aren’t afraid to lay someone out. Both were doing great, and with some conditioning and practice, they will add yet a whole other element that the Sabres could defiantly prosper from.
Weber is very big, is great in the corners and always seems to come up with the puck when battling along the boards. He isn’t afraid to get on the ice and hit the veterans, never backing down from anyone. I would be surprised if doesn’t end up in Rochester this year to take the place of defensemen lost, due to call-ups and trades.
All in all, the camp was a great place to get to check out the prospects you don’t usually get to see. All the players were more than happy to sign things and take pictures with people. I would recommend going in the coming years. I know I’l be there.