Final: BUF 6 NJD 4
Shots: BUF 32 NJD 34
Power Play: BUF 0/5 NJD 1/7
BUF: Cole Coskey (1) assisted by Matej Pekar
NJD: Brett Seney (1) PPG (unassisted)
BUF: Victor Olofsson (1) assisted by Rasmus Asplund and Eric Cornel
NJD: Nathan Bastian (1) (unassisted)
BUF: Alex Nylander (1) SHG assisted by Rasmus Asplund
BUF: Rasmus Dahlin (1) assisted by Matej Pekar
NJD: Colton White (1) (unassisted)
NJD: Fabian Zetterlund (1) assisted by Brett Seney
BUF: Rasmus Dahlin (2) assisted by Myles Powell
BUF: Tage Thompson (1) SHG assisted by Rasmus Dahlin
The Sabres started the 2018 Prospects Challenge with a 6-4 win over the New Jersey Devils. On paper, Buffalo is the best team out of the four participating in the tournament. With several high end prospects such as Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt, Brendan Guhle, and Alex Nylander participating, Sabres fans have reason to be excited for the tournament this weekend.
Of course, the main reason for excitement is none other than Buffalo’s 2018 first overall selection in Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin spent little time dazzling the crowd as he made a rush up the ice and received the puck as if he were a fourth forward and got a shot off. This rush came under a minute into the game and got the crowd fired up early. Now Dahlin didn’t score on this play but it reminded me of when Jack Eichel scored a goal quickly in the first game of the challenge in 2015. You could just feel the pure joy that this exceptional player is on our team, and he isn’t going anywhere for a very, very long time.
One player that was under the microscope tonight was Alex Nylander. I said it on Thursday’s episode of the podcast that I really needed to see complete and utter domination out of Nylander. We didn’t get domination at all tonight but I thought that he played fairly well. He wasn’t good at all in the first half of the first period. He was getting pushed around a lot and I counted that he was knocked to the ice three times. And I was watching carefully to see his backchecking and effort as well and that didn’t see to be there at the beginning of the game. But Nylander improved throughout the game and I was pleased with his game overall. I want to see more from him, I hope to see a big time performance against the Bruins tomorrow.
Back to Dahlin, I think it goes without saying that he had a great game. He was as advertised, and as this was my first time watching him in person, I was actually blown away by how good he was. He made a huge hit that fired up the fans even more and that’s probably one of the more underrated aspects of his game. He can get pretty physical sometimes and for a player with his skill set and talent to have that physical dimension to his game is a huge plus.
Dahlin really likes to get up into the play and help create offense and he did that a handful of times tonight. He even scored a goal by doing so. What really stood out to me was his skating, stick handling, and passing. I could watch Dahlin carry the puck up the ice all day long, it was just a joy to watch. And to have a player like Dahlin that can make pretty much any pass and distribute the puck to a player like Jack Eichel just brings a smile to my face.
Remember the name Andrew Oglevie. He had a decent game but he made a few plays that really stood out to me tonight and I really like his skating. I also really liked him at the French Connection tournament as well. Something tells me that he’ll get a cup of coffee in Buffalo at some point this season. Call me crazy, but I get that feeling about Oglevie.
Will Borgen was quietly really good tonight. He’s a physical defenseman that is good defensively and can also chip in offensively too. He was really physical tonight and laid out several hits. Borgen also fit well on a pair with Dahlin. I’m not saying that Borgen will be Dahlin’s long term D partner in Buffalo but I think that someone who plays a similar style to Borgen would make for a great partner for Dahlin. Someone who is reliable and could sit back while Rasmus joins the rush. Borgen will be a name to watch in Rochester this season.
The mystery man himself, Oskari Laaksonen surprisingly is playing in this tournament considering that players on European clubs don’t really come to prospect camp in the fall but it was nice to see Laaksonen play. He had a quiet game which can be a good thing for a defenseman. He didn’t make many mistakes at all and that’s great to see. He still needs some work on that point shot but he was making good passes and even dangled someone and made a rush up the ice for a scoring chance.
Cole Coskey who is a camp invitee from Saginaw of the OHL got the Sabres on the scoresheet. It was a nice goal and I thought Coskey had a nice game for himself tonight. He was one of the better invitees in my opinion.
The common theme tonight was that the Buffalo had a really hard time holding onto a lead. All four of New Jersey’s goals came very shortly after Buffalo scored.
Victor Olofsson’s shot was as advertised tonight. Olofsson has the best shot in the Sabres organization and he ripped a one timer past Mackenzie Blackwood to put Buffalo back in the lead 2-1. Olofsson needs a little bit of seasoning in Rochester but I think Buffalo has a real player here.
Alex Nylander had a very nice goal short handed to put Buffalo up 3-2. Rasmus Asplund, Nylander’s fellow 2016 Sabres draft pick, showed great hustle to get up the ice and get the puck to Nylander. Alex made a nice move and was able to get the puck past the goaltender. And who doesn’t love Alex’s goal celebrations?
Asplund is really a potential darkhorse to make the Sabres out of camp. Is it likely? No, but I can envision him beating out the likes of Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons for the fourth line center job. In an ideal world, I imagine that the Sabres front office wants him in Rochester to start but keep in mind, he’s been playing in the Swedish elite league since he was 16 years old. He has a lot of experience playing against men.
Rasmus Dahlin chipped in with a pair of goals tonight. One was a shot that deflected off of a New Jersey defender and the other was a nice one time finish where he jumped into the rush. I think that I’ve gushed enough about Dahlin for today so I’ll just leave you with these GIFs…
Tage Thompson had a strong game for himself tonight. He was kind of quiet early on but in the second half of the game, he was really good. For a player his size, he moves really, really well. He has a long stride and he showed that on his short handed goal that he scored. Thompson beat the Devils defenseman to the puck and beat the goalie. And just take a guess who got the puck to Thompson, none other than Rasmus Dahlin!
I would like to see him throw his body around a little more but he’s going to bring speed and scoring into the lineup and you’d take that over toughness. But if he can add more of a physical dimension to his game, look out. There was a play in particular where Thompson picked the puck up and nearly scored again on a breakaway but this time he tried flipping the puck in but it was just a near miss. Shortly after, Thompson did a toe drag around a defenseman, got the puck to Mittelstadt who just missed.
I would’ve liked to see more out of Casey Mittelstadt in this game. He really wasn’t all that noticeable but he did show off his hands on a few occasions and his passing on the power play was nice as well. I hope to see a better performance against the Bruins tomorrow.
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