Home NHL Buffalo Sabres TONY’S TAKE: THREE THOUGHTS FROM SABRES ROOKIE DEVELOPMENT CAMP

TONY’S TAKE: THREE THOUGHTS FROM SABRES ROOKIE DEVELOPMENT CAMP

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Sabres players salute the crowd following the French Connection 3v3 tournament on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Tony Fiorello.

The Buffalo Sabres’ annual rookie development camp is upon us and we at From The 300 Level will be providing insight on it throughout the week.

Here are our thoughts from day four of the camp:

INTENSITY RUNNING HIGH AT TOURNAMENT

Saturday was an opportunity for the Sabres’ prospects to get away from practice drills and to play in the French Connection three-on-three tournament, and if an observer didn’t know any better you would have thought the games being played would have counted in the NHL standings.

The passion and intensity ran high throughout the morning and early afternoon, and saw a lot of players chirping at each other.

“It was fun,” Tage Thompson said. “It was a great week all around… we wanted to win pretty bad so we got pretty into it.”

Defenseman Brandon Hickey takes a shot on goal during the French Connection 3v3 tournament on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Tony Fiorello.

GAMES SHOWCASED PLAYERS’ SKILLSETS

When hockey is played at three-on-three, the extra space created on the ice provides a greater ability to create offense and display talent than at five-on-five.

That was certainly true on Saturday, as all three squads were able to make plays that one normally wouldn’t see at an NHL game unless it was being conducted in overtime. The passes and goals were exciting to watch for the fans in attendance and the championship game, which was decided in a shootout, was the high point of the outing.

“I think the talent level in this organization has been going up every year,” Victor Oloffson said. “There’s some really good young players coming in and it’s super fun to see. It’s exciting.”

Defenseman Ryan Johnson looks to complete a pass during a two-on-one at the French Connection 3v3 tournament on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Tony Fiorello.

KRUEGER AND BOTTERILL PLEASED WITH PLAYERS’ PERFORMANCE

Buffalo’s prospects seemed to make a lot of progress during the course of the week, and the Sabres’ brass – especially head coach Ralph Krueger and general manager Jason Botterill – came away from the event happy with what they had seen.

“We really try to evaluate these guys as people too, not just as hockey players,” Krueger said. “Our mental coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and hockey development have all spent time with them one-on-one… They all have a really strong skillset or else they wouldn’t have been drafted or signed by us. It’s up to them to grow in all these different areas of the game.

“It’s become so complex to build a professional career here. Some players might walk right into the National Hockey League but everyone else has to pay a price and work extremely hard. Most of the good players here put a couple years in down in the AHL, so they need to use the resources from the team to grow and develop. That’s what this week has really been all about – filling their tool kit, and in the end… we can only give them the tools to work with. We can teach them and educate them, but they’re in charge of themselves. If they can continue to look for growth, that’s the way they can be candidates for this roster. If they ever think they’re a finished product, that won’t work.”

Botterill agreed.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in our prospects,” Botterill said. “It just goes to show you that Chris Taylor and his group are doing the right things with them. You see it in the veterans of this camp like Oloffson and Will Borgen and the drills that they were working on out there, how they conduct themselves around the younger players and how they help them along the way.

“It’s a little intimidating for a younger player. You get drafted last week, you come to Buffalo right away as an 18-year old… having some of these veteran players at these camps has certainly helped them out.”

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