BUFFALO, N.Y. — Though Buffalo Sabres 2016 Development Camp has not quite come to an end, the team held their annual Blue and Gold Scrimmage on Saturday, July 9. From a fan perspective, this was the best opportunity to get a closer look at some of the players they may not know much about in game situations.
While many of the names on the camp’s roster are unfamiliar, there were also several familiar faces on the ice for the scrimmage. AHL forwards Justin Bailey, Evan Rodrigues, as well as former Michigan star Hudson Fasching saw time with the NHL affiliate last season, and have stood out from the crowd at the camp sessions that took place earlier in the week.
In addition to these three players, who sit on the cusp of full-time NHL roster spots, defenseman Brendan Guhle has also established himself as ahead of the curve. The young defenseman has been a leader at camp and as a left-handed defenseman, may have performed his way onto the Sabres bench.
Nicolas Baptiste had perhaps flown under the radar of those who followed camp. Drafted in 2013, Baptiste is best known for his successful stint with the Erie Otters, where he frequently played with Connor McDavid. After a somewhat disappointing AHL debut in 2015-16, scoring only 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 62 games, the right wing had a huge first period in the scrimmage, scoring two points in the game’s first ten minutes.
Many fans were excited to get their first look at eighth overall pick Alexander Nylander. Nylander had a fantastic season in juniors with the Mississauga Steelheads, however, he was fairly quiet for much of the informal game.
Nylander’s speed and vision were on full display – especially in the second period, where good, heads-up plays almost resulted in goals for Team Gold, however, it wasn’t until he converted a penalty shot that he was able to score a goal. Nylander finished the game with two goals, both on penalty shots.
Jonas Johansson had a disappointing showing in net, allowing four goals on just 15 shots in his period-and-a-half. Team Blue netminders Cal Peterson and Antioine Samuel each played very well, with Samuel making several good reactionary saves in outnumbered situations.
Left wing William Carrier was perhaps the most impressive player for the gold team. Though expectations were higher for Fasching and Nylander, it was Carrier who found himself in the thick of things nearly each time he was on the ice. He was defensively responsible, and was the most physical player on the ice. Carrier had several scoring chances, but could not beat the superior Blue goaltenders.
Players will have two more days to make an impression at development camp — a double-session on Monday and the French Connection three-on-three tournament on Tuesday. Though most of the players who took part are still a few years away from seeing time with the Sabres, a handful of prospects, such as Bailey, Baptiste, and Peterson, have been impressive and may be NHL ready. Roster decisions are a few months away, but if their performances are any indication, both Rochester and Buffalo will have a bevy of young talent in their ranks.