5 Things to Watch: Prospects Challenge

On Tuesday the Sabres announced their roster for the upcoming Prospects Challenge taking place from September 7th – 10th at Harborcenter.

Four teams will be participating, with Pittsburgh, Boston and New Jersey joining Buffalo once again.

The Sabres are bringing a very talented team to the ice this weekend, including top two prospects Casey Mittelstadt and 2018 1st overall pick Rasmus Dahlin.

There will be a lot of things to watch this weekend, below I highlight the top five things for Sabres fans to watch.

Rasmus Dahlin

This one goes without saying, Dahlin has been the talk of the town since the Sabres won the Draft Lottery back in April.

Dahlin will be lacing up for his first game action in a Sabres uniform when the Sabres prospects face the Devils prospects on Friday. This will be the first chance to see what the 18-year-old defenceman can do.

It is justifiable to expect Dahlin to dominate this weekend, he was touted as the best defensive prospect to enter the draft in years. He dominated development camp, and should be the best player on the ice this weekend.

A big factor for Dahlin playing this weekend for me is allowing him to adapt to the North American ice surface. We all know how dynamic he is, but this weekend is a perfect opportunity to get Dahlin some game action on a smaller ice surface against weaker competition.

If Dahlin electrifies the crowd the way he has his entire life this weekend will be a massive success for the Sabres, and the Harborcenter will be full of aniticipation every time #26 steps on the ice.

Sabres Defensive Depth

Aside from Dahlin, the Sabres top-4 defenceman also include Lawrence Pilut, Brendan Guhle and Will Borgen.

The group is extremely talented and likely the best group out of the entire tournament. Fans should look to see the Sabres defensive prospects jumping into the rush and generating a lot of offence.

Guhle is entering his second full season in the organization, and coming off an impressive 2017-18 this tournament should be a coming out party of sorts. He should be miles ahead of the competition (maybe aside from Dahlin) because of his ability, age, and North American Professional experience.

Borgen will get a good opportunity to show how steady he is, he is a different defender than the other three but his skillset should allow whoever his partner is to roam the ice freely and help push the play in favor of the Sabres.

Pilut is coming off a great development camp, his skating is absolutely ridiculous. He has the offensive capabilities that the Sabres are looking for in a defenceman, and like Dahlin he will get valuable game experience on a smaller ice surface before training camp opens.

Not to mention the Sabres are also using Brandon Hickey and Oskari Laaksonen on the roster this weekend. Hickey was acquired from the Coyotes, and Laaksonen has gone from a virtual unknown to one of the most interesting defensive propsects the Sabres have in their organization.

Matej Pekar

Pekar looks to be the next Vasily Glotov (who is also participating). Even with Dahlin and Mittelstadt grabbing all the headlines Pekar was able to endear himself to the Sabres fanbase and the media.

He had some highlight reel plays like this:

He got obliterated by Dahlin:

 

And he also got into it with Mittelstadt, then compared himself to Brad Marchand:

 

Pekar also just made news by joining the Barrie Colts instead of going the NCAA route, so this will be a good opportunity for Sabres fans to see him in action before the OHL season kicks off.

Alex Nylander & Casey Mittelstadt

The top two forwards in the Sabres prospect pool will garner a lot of attention this weekend and for different reasons.

Mittelstadt already looks to be penciled in as the Sabres #2 Center, and fans will likely be watching to see if he can dominate his age group the way he did in the NCAA and 2018 WJC in Buffalo.

He looks to have added muscle to his frame since development camp, and his success this season will go a long way to helping Buffalo finally compete for a playoff spot.

Nylander on the other hand, will be gaining a lot of attention because many fans are looking to see if he has what it takes to be a regular NHLer. He had a decent 2018 WJC but he didn’t dominate like he did in the OHL or in 2017.

Nylander has all of the ability to be top-6 winger, but sometimes his desire and his game off the puck prevent him from reaching his full potential.

If he is anything but the Sabres best winger at this tournament it can be seen as a big disappointment heading into training camp.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Luukkonen is leaving Finland to join the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, and will get a lot of action against some of the best junior competition that North America has to offer.

After a shaky World Juniors in Buffalo, the prospects challenge will allow Luukkonen to once again face quality competition and show that this kid is a gamer.

He could potentially be a number 1 goalie in the NHL, he is big and super athletic, once he learns how to use his body properly and cut down angles a little better he will be a quality goaltender at the next level.

This weekend could give fans a glimpse into the future, and Luukkonen needs to be up to the task.

A full schedule of the Prospects Challenge can be found here.

With training camp fast approaching be sure to follow @TheChargingBUF and our team (including myself @austin_broad) for all things Sabres.

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