There are 26 players on the Buffalo Sabres roster for the 2019 Prospects Challenge this weekend in Buffalo and out of that group of players there are seven without contracts heading into the upcoming season. The contracts of the 26 players range from entry level NHL to American League deals.
Here’s the quick break down of contracts:
NHL entry level – Rasmus Asplund, Andrew Oglevie, Victor Olofsson, Artu Ruotsalainen, Henri Jokiharju, Jacob Bryson, Brandon Hickey, Will Borgen, Casey Fitzgerald, Jonas Johansson, Devante Stephens, Matej Pekar, Dylan Cozens.
Victor Olofsson has the best chance and is expected to make the Sabres opening night roster. Artu Ruotsalainen will be competing but if he doesn’t make the cut he’ll be returning to Finland. Matej Pekar is going back to Barrie of the OHL. 2019 first round pick Dylan Cozens will be making an impact but chances are he’ll return to juniors as well.
Everyone else besides Devante Stephens (Cincinnati) are expected in Rochester.
AHL contracts – Shaw Boomhower, John Wiitala, Pascal Aquin, Tobie Bisson, Justin Baudry, Kurt Gosselin.
Kurt Gosselin made an impression at the end of last season but with an abundance of defensemen he’ll likely join everyone else on the AHL list in Cincinnati.
Unsigned – Brett Murray, Stephen Harper, Bobby MacIntyre, Kyle Olson, Sebastian Vidmar, Matthew Welsh, Lukas rousek.
The player with the biggest opportunity this weekend to earn a deal is Brett Murray who was drafted by the Sabres in the fourth round (99th overall) in the 2016 NHL draft. Randy Sexton was on with The Instigators this morning where he said they clear with Murray telling him “you saved yourself” with a strong development camp. The invite to the Prospects Challenge is a chance to earn an invite to Amerks training camp to play for an American League contract.
Brett Murray stats from hockeyDB:
A player that was previously invited to Amerks camp after a strong Prospects Challenge was Colin Blackwell. He was invited to the 2017 Prospects Challenge, made an impression, earned an American League contract, and then the following season signed a two year NHL deal with Nashville. These mini weekend tournaments can open the doors for players.
Bobby MacIntyre is the only unsigned player in the Prospects Challenge that already has two seasons of pro experience. He played last season with San Antonio Rampage in the AHL and the previous season with Jacksonville Icemen in the ECHL. There’s still a need for forward depth and like Murray this is a tryout for an invite to Amerks training camp.
Bobby MacIntyre stats from hockeyDB:
Stephen Harper is a 24 year old forward that will have the chance to prove he can play at an American League level and turn pro after putting up points at Acadia University.
Stephen Harper stats from hockeyDB:
Kyle Olson was drafted by Anaheim in the 2017 draft (round 4 #122 overall) but is now a free agent. The Ducks had until June 1, 2019 to sign him to an entry level contract but passed. Putting up 70 points (21G+49A) is always impressive no matter what league you’re in but it doesn’t always convert into the next level. He can return to the Tri-City Americans for the 2019-2020 season as an overage player but has the chance to stay on Buffalo’s radar here and turn pro.
Kyle Olson stats from hockeyDB:
Sebastian Vidmar is an undrafted forward that turned pro last season and appeared in one game with Stockton Heat after college.
Sebastian Vidmar stats from hockeyDB:
Matthew Welsh is the only goalie on this list and there’s currently an opening for another goalie heading into the start of the season with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen starting on the injured list.
Matthew Welsh stats from hockeyDB:
Lukas Rousek is the only player (besides Dylan Cozens who already signed his entry level contract) that the Sabres currently hold the rights to after drafting him 160th overall in the 6th round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Lukas Rousek stats from hockeyDB: