By Kyle Gunn-Taylor:
The Buffalo Sabres wrapped up the 2012 Prospect Development Camp with an open scrimmage featuring two teams stacked with prospects from top picks to undrafted invitees, Thursday.
While the 5,073 fans who attended the game saw the team donning navy blues defeat the sportier looking gold squad 7-3, the most intriguing observation that came from the night was size.
The Sabres have assembled a stable of thoroughbreds in their farm system. The development camp roster listed only 5 of its 40 players in attendance below 6-feet tall.
Sabres 2012 1st round draft picks Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons were raved about throughout the draft process for their size and upside, but the two looked merely average in height when put shoulder to shoulder with the other prospects on the ice.
The goalies in particular are especially tall, with both Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen standing at 6-feet 5-inches, while puny Linus Ullmark and Mark Guggenberger are each a mere 6-feet 3-inches tall.
All of the prospects were visibly exhausted from a week of enduring pre-dawn training with Navy Seals on the beach and afternoon skates, but that didn't stop them from putting on an offensive display for the fans.
The offensive output was boosted by the fact that all penalties didn't actually result in a 2-minute power play, but a penalty shot was awarded to the player who was most closely related to each infraction.
Luke Adam opened the scoring for the Gold team potting the only goal of the first period on a 2-on-2 rush, Adam slung a pass to the front of the net intended for Corey Tropp, but the puck deflected off a Blue defenseman and past a surprised Connor Knapp. "Last day of camp, safe to say won't be awake this early again for a while #needshutzies #legslikejello," @LukeJAdam tweeted this morning.
The second period opened up a more offensive output as the players stepped up the intensity in order to prove to the fans and organization alike that they want to be a part of the big club as soon as possible.
Girgensons opened the scoring for the Blue team, on a connection with last year's first round pick, Joel Armia. Girgensons showed his reach and creativity by cutting across the front of the crease before stopping and pulling the puck back to his forehand for a tap-in past a frozen Lieuwen.
Jamie Wise pushed the Blue team up two by cashing the first goal of his hat trick, on a pretty penalty shot goal. Wise wound up for a slap shot, but faked and pulled the puck from backhand to forehand on a move that created a hole just big enough to slide the puck past Lieuwen's blocker side.
The three most impressive players on the ice for the Gold squad contributed to the next goal as Daniel Catenacci buried a feed from Logan Nelson and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc.
Catenacci, who notched 72-points for the Owen Sound in the OHL last season, is one of the few prospects under the Sabres new 6-foot requirement at the development camp. He has a lot of Tyler Ennis to his game; filthy hands and an explosive burst make him an exciting player to watch.
The only player on the ice who showed more flash than Catenacci was Gauthier-Leduc, a defenseman who often joined the rush and occasionally led it. The 6-foot 2-inch, 194-pound Quebec City native is a smooth skater and is so offensive-minded he may be better suited as a winger. Gauthier-Leduc tallied 28-goals and 74-points in 62-games for Rimouski of the QMJHL last year.
Rogers, Minnesota native Logan Nelson is listed on the development camp roster as a center, but he skated on the wing throughout the scrimmage and was constantly in the mix for the Gold team.
If he wasn't throwing every pound of his 6-foot 1-inch 178-pound frame into his opponents, he was making heads up plays all over the ice. From setting up prime scoring opportunities to smart defensive plays, the 18-year old who put up 62-points for Victoria in the WHL last season really used the venue as an opportunity to showcase his overall game.
Despite Jamie Wise stealing the show for the fans with a 3-goal performance, the Blue team had a few high fliers when it came to game time performance.
Leading the way for the Blue squad was Frederick Roy, son of legendary goaltender Patrick Roy, who had 2-assists on the night. He also was an absolute spark plug the entire game.
Showing off an uncanny ability to find teammates in high traffic areas, out grinding guys twice his size in the corners for loose pucks and crashing the net hard off the rush, Roy certainly made the most of his opportunity to attend the camp as an undrafted invitee.
A line mate of Grigorenko's for the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL, Roy posted 92-points in 64-games last season, which is seven more than the Sabres 1st round pick who notched 85-points in 59-games.
Despite only notching an assist on Wise's second goal, Marcus Foligno was a physical presence on the ice. He skated and hit like a man amongst boys for most of the game, but failed to even put a shot on goal in the postgame shootout.
Another player on the Blue team that stood out as a high energy, bottom-6 role player, was Phil Varone. The Vaughn, Ontario native had 52-points for the Amerks last season and performed with the kind of heart and passion the Sabres lineup needs a serious infusion of.
The Sabres will conclude their Prospect Development Camp on Friday and send the players' home tested mentally and physically. If anything was taken from the game, it's that the Sabres are serious about fostering a team mentality and they are striving to improve their young player's level of effort on a daily basis.