It’s finally here! Nothing says summer in Buffalo quite like the Sabres Development Camp at Harborcenter. The camp kicks off on Wednesday, June 26 and will conclude with the 3v3 French Connection Tournament on Saturday, June 29. Wednesday through Friday will consist of two on-ice practice sessions as the prospects will be divided into groups. The full schedule of events can be found here. Attendance is free, however, tickets for the 3v3 tournament are limited to Sabres’ season ticket holders.
The camp will consist of 40 prospects: 18 forwards, 16 defensemen, and 6 goalies. 27 of these prospects are property of the Sabres while the other 13 are camp invites. The full roster for this year’s camp can be seen here.
This event is fantastic for Sabres fans because they get the opportunity to see all of the team’s young talent on the same ice. Once the 2019-20 season begins they will all be going their separate ways, whether it be to Iowa or Prague.
Since some of these prospects may be unknown to Sabres fans, I will give fans a quick little introduction to this year’s attendees.
*Click on players’ names below to open stats page*
Rasmus Asplund is a veteran of this event as he is attending his 4th camp after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 Draft. He came over to North America last season to play for Rochester after a few seasons in the SHL. It took a while for his production to come along, but heated up as the season progressed. He had a respectable 41 points in 75 games his AHL rookie season. Asplund is not the flashiest player, but he is a high IQ, two-way player who can provide some scoring depth.
Will Borgen saw some time up with the big club last season and is yet another veteran of Development Camp. Everything about him says NHL defenseman: his skating ability, his physical play, his strong defensive game, good puck skills. Last season was his first full season as a pro as he spent the majority of the season in Rochester. I think it’s only a matter of time before he is a full-time NHL defenseman.
Jacob Bryson may be one of the most intriguing players at this camp. He is a 5’9” defenseman who was drafted in his 2nd year of eligibility by Jason Botterill in the 2017 NHL Draft. He may be small, but he was considered to be one of the best defensemen in college hockey last season and has received comparisons to Bruins blueliners’ Torey Krug and Matt Grzlecyk. Bryson also helped lead his Providence College team to the 2019 Frozen Four. He possesses great skating ability and is fantastic at leading a breakout. Bryson has been underrated his whole career, in fact, I think he may be the most underrated prospect in the Sabres system. He’s certainly a player to keep an eye on at development camp and throughout this season as he looks to continue to grow his game down in Rochester.
Filip Cederqvist is a Swedish forward who was selected by the Sabres in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL Draft. He had a productive season on the top line for the Växjö U20 and also saw 33 games in the SHL where he had 8 points. He’s a powerful skater with soft hands and good puck skills.
Dylan Cozens is going to be the main focus of this year’s development camp after the Sabres took him with the 7th overall pick this past week. He’s a big and skilled dual-threat forward who can play down the middle or on the wing. I think fans at this year’s camp will be very impressed by his skating ability, especially at his size. Another thing to look out for during camp is his shot, Cozens gets great velocity behind all of his shots and has an absolute cannon of a slapshot.
Linus Cronholm returns to the Sabres’ development camp after being selected in the 4th round of the 2018 Draft. He spent the majority of the season in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s 2nd pro league, but also saw some time up in the SHL. He is a simple player who plays a very sound defensive game.
Marcus Davidsson was the Sabres 2nd round pick in the 2017 Draft and is returning for his 3rd development camp. He had a productive post-draft year on Djurgårdens of the SHL with 21 points in 39 games, but his production did not improve with 27 points in 52 games in 2018-19. Davidsson is a great skater who is known for his two-way play. He certainly has NHL potential, the only question is if he has the offense to be used in more than a bottom six role at the next level.
Casey Fitzgerald was a 2016 draft pick who recently signed with the Sabres after a solid four-year career at Boston College. He was the captain of BC for the past two seasons. He saw 4 games with Rochester to end the 2018-19 season where he recorded a goal and 2 assists. He’s a two-way defenseman who can skate well and move the puck. The 22 year-old will be playing his first full professional season for Rochester this year.
Brandon Hickey is a defenseman who was acquired from the Coyotes in the Hudson Fasching trade. He had a solid four-year career at Boston University where he got a chance to play with Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues. He put up 9 points in 38 games during his first pro season in Rochester. He is more of a stay-at-home defenseman who is not expected to put up big numbers in the pros.
Aaron Huglen will be at camp, but he may not participate on-ice due to a workout injury. If he does participate on-ice, I expect him to quickly become one of the favorite prospects of Sabres fans. He is a very raw prospect but he is a highly skilled player. Cory Pronman called him “one of the most purely skilled players that will be picked outside of the 1st round.” He spent most of the season playing high school hockey in Roseau, Minnesota but also saw 28 games with Fargo of the USHL where he had 14 points. Huglen also represented Team USA at the Hlinka where he scored his amazing “lacrosse” goal vs. Canada. He will return to the USHL next season and will be attending the University of Minnesota in 2020-21. In my opinion, Huglen is the biggest “sleeper” in the Sabres’ prospect pool due to his raw talent.
Jonas Johansson was the Sabres 3rd round pick back in the 2014 NHL Draft. He’s played the majority of the past two seasons with Cincinnati in the ECHL, but has seen some time with Rochester. He appeared in 5 games for Rochester last season and had a solid .926 SV%. He has good size at 6’5”, but he will likely remain a minor league depth goalie for the foreseeable future.
Ryan Johnson may not have been the name that Sabres fans were hoping to hear called with the 31st pick on Friday, but he’s a great prospect. At only 17 years-old, there is still a lot of room for his game to grow. Johnson will be very noticeable during camp as he is one of the best skaters of his draft class. He has fantastic hockey sense that allows him to be very sound defensively without having to be overly physical. Everything about him screams modern defenseman and I think Sabres fans will warm up to the pick as he continues to develop. He will be continuing his hockey career at the University of Minnesota this fall.
Miska Kukkonen is a Finnish defenseman who will be attending his 2nd development camp after being drafted by the Sabres in the 5th round of the 2018 Draft. He spent the 2018-19 season bouncing between teams but got to see some Liiga action with Tappara and Lukko. He is a mobile defenseman who plays a steady and physical defensive game. He will continue to develop in Finland for the next couple of seasons.
Oskari Laaksonen was a shocking selection after Botterill took him in the 3rd round of the 2017 NHL Draft. There was very little info on the Finnish junior defenseman who was not ranked by most scouting agencies. The lanky 17 year-old Laaksonen looked completely overwhelmed at his first development camp back in 2017. Just two seasons later, Laaksonen is coming in with a full season of pro hockey under his belt where he had an impressive 24 points in 46 games in the Liiga with Ilves. He also has a gold medal he won at the 2019 World Juniors. Today, Laaksonen is considered by many to be a top 10 prospect in the Sabres system. He is a very smooth skater with fantastic offensive instincts and is not afraid to join the rush. Laaksonen is a very intriguing prospect and it will be exciting to see how much his game can continue to grow.
Brett Murray is a 6’4” left winger who was selected by the Sabres in the 4th round of the 2016 NHL Draft. After two seasons of struggling to produce at Penn State, Murray returned to the USHL last season where he recorded 41 goals and 35 assists in 62 games. He will return to the NCAA next season, but it is uncertain where his next destination will be. He is a big two-way forward who possesses some offensive skill. His next season in the NCAA will be huge in determining if he is a legitimate NHL prospect.
Philip Nyberg is a Swedish defenseman the Sabres selected in the 5th round of the 2016 NHL Draft. He played three seasons at UConn and is returning to Sweden to play for Mora IK of the Allsvenskan next season. He’s another defender in the Sabres system who is a good skater and defender, but does not produce much offense.
Andrew Oglevie is a winger who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Sabres last season after an impressive three-career at Notre Dame. His final two seasons he produced at greater than a point per game clip for the Fighting Irish. Unfortunately, Oglevie’s suffered two concussions during his first pro season and he only appeared in 28 games for Rochester where he recorded 10 points. He is a small but speedy two-way forward who can play up and down the lineup. He will be a player to keep an eye on during camp as he may see some time with the big club if he remains healthy.
Victor Olofsson is a Swedish winger who some have penciled into the Sabres top six next season. He lead the SHL in goals in 2017-18 and followed up that season with a 30-goal 2018-19 campaign in Rochester. Olofsson saw 6 games with the Sabres top line to end the year and he put up 2 goals and 2 assists. He is small, but has an elite release and is a pure goal scorer. He combines his fantastic shooting ability with great skating and playmaking, allowing him to be a constant offensive threat. If placed in the proper situations, Olofsson can be a 30 goal guy in the NHL.
Matej Pekar is a Czech center who was selected in the 4th round of the 2018 NHL Draft. He had a productive OHL rookie season with Barrie, putting up 36 points in 33 games. Unfortunately, his great season was cut short by injury. Pekar made a name for himself at the last development camp during the 3v3 tourney. He tried his hardest to get into Casey Mittelstadt’s head and caused trouble throughout the scrimmages. He also pulled a vicious between the legs deke on Rasmus Dahlin and finished it off with a goal. Pekar is a pest who has some sneakily good offensive skill. He is a fun guy to watch at camp because he always plays with energy and is very physical despite not being the biggest player on the ice.
Lawrence Pilut signed a contract with the Sabres and made the trek to North America after winning the 2017-18 SHL Defenseman of the Year. He put up an impressive 26 points in 30 games for Rochester and also saw 33 games with the Sabres where he recorded 6 points. Pilut is a skilled puck moving defenseman who is pretty solid defensively despite his small size. He should be in the NHL full-time next season and hopefully his puck moving ability can spark some more 5v5 offense in Buffalo. Unfortunately, Pilut will not be participating during the on-ice portion of this event as he is still recovering from his shoulder surgery.
Erik Portillo is a goalie that the Sabres’ scouting staff covets as they appeared to be very excited after selecting him 67th overall last Saturday. He is a big goalie at 6’6” and put up a fantastic .931 SV% for the Frolunda U20 team last season. Portillo plays a very calm game and has continued to show improvement in his technique after being passed over in the 2018 Draft. He will continue his development for Dubuque of the USHL in 2018-19 and will play for the University of Michigan in 2019-20. Portillo is also in competition for a spot on Sweden’s World Juniors squad.
Lukas Rousek is a 20 year-old Czech forward the Sabres selected in the 6th round of this year’s draft. He had 9 points in 34 games for HC Sparta Praha in the Extraliga, but really turned up his game in the playoffs where he led his team with 5 points in 4 games. I think Rousek will be very noticeable during camp because he is a speedy skater, plays with great energy, and is a hound on the forecheck. You can read more about Rousek in a recent article I wrote about him here.
Arttu Ruotsalainen is a 21 year-old Finnish forward who the Sabres signed as an undrafted free agent this spring. He played in the Liiga for Ilves and had a very productive season that saw him lead his team in points with 42 in 59 games. He may only be 5’8”, but he was the best forward on Ilves last season and was used by them in all situations. Ruotsalainen may be a bit of a long shot to make the Sabres out of camp next season, but he does appear to be a guy with NHL potential.
Mattias Samuelsson is a 6’4” defenseman the Sabres took with their 2nd round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. He has a high floor, but does not have a very high offensive ceiling. He put up 12 points in 35 games for Western Michigan his freshman season. Samuelsson plays a very simple and cerebral game. He’s great at using his large frame when defending forwards and is definitely not afraid to deliver some bone-crushing hits. While he may not have been the sexiest draft pick, any team can certainly use a minute-eating, physical defenseman like Samuelsson.
Devante Stephens was selected by the Sabres out of Kelowna back in 2015. He is a two-year pro who has spent the majority of his time with Cincinnati in the ECHL. He is a more of a defensive defenseman and has great skating ability.
Tage Thompson is a name all Sabres fans are familiar with as he spent the full season up with the Sabres. His poor usage led to him only getting 12 points in 65 NHL games. Thompson is a big forward at 6’5” who plays more of skill game rather than a power forward game. He can pull of some impressive dangles and can get some great velocity behind his shot due to his large frame. He can also use his long stick to disrupt plays on defense. I expect the former 1st round pick to be one of the better forwards at development camp this year.
William Worge Kreu is a big 6’6” defenseman who the Sabres drafted with their 7th round pick in 2018. Worge-Kreu appeared in 24 games and had 3 points for the Linkoping U20 team. He is definitely a defense-first guy who plays a simple, yet physical game.
Justin Baudry is a 22 year-old defenseman who put together a great senior season for Bemidji State with 9 goals and 22 assists in 38 games. He was also named to the WCHA Second All-Star Team last season. Baudry was a complete defenseman for the Beavers as he contributed on both the power play and the penalty kill. He recently signed a one-year deal with the Rochester Americans.
Tobie Bisson is a 22 year-old defenseman who was an attendee of last year’s development camp. He is currently under contract with the Rochester Americans and played most of last season for the Sabres’ ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones. Bisson played four seasons in the QMJHL and was named the 2017/18 QMJHL Best Defensive Defenseman.
Eric Cooley is a 21 year-old forward for the Niagara Purple Eagles. He was 3rd in scoring on his team last season, recording 27 points in 41 games. He is a smaller forward, but he uses his speed to make himself an effective player. He was invited to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ development camp last summer.
Dawson DiPietro is a 23 year-old left winger who just completed his junior season at Western Michigan. He had a very strong sophomore campaign where he put up 35 points in 36 games and was named an Honorable Mention to the NCHC All-Star team. He saw a slight downtick in production this season after recording 23 points in 35 games. He is one of WMU’s key offensive players and was invited to the Vegas Golden Knights’ camp last summer.
Darion Hanson is a 22 year-old goalie who started 28 games for Union College last season, putting up a solid 2.33 GAA and .919 SV%.
Stephen Harper is not the former Prime Minister of Canada. He was a prospect who was considered a late round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, but was never drafted. He played 5 seasons in the OHL for 4 different teams then went on to play college hockey in Canada for Acadia University. The 24 year-old forward is one of the oldest players at the Sabres development camp.
Michael Lackey is a 22 year-old goalie for Harvard who put together the best performance of his NCAA career last year with a .918 SV% and 2.34 GAA in 26 games. His emergence last season was certainly a welcome sign after failing to capture the starting job his first few seasons. Lackey is also a former goalie for the US National Team Development Program and is a former teammate of Sabres’ prospects Tage Thompson and Casey Fitzgerald.
Caleb Moretz is a 20 year-old forward who played for the Flin Flon Bombers of the SJHL last season. You may know Flin Flon as the hometown of Hockey Hall of Famer, Bobby Clarke. Moretz was discovered by Sabres’ scout Randy Hansch when he was scouting an SJHL game. He is committed to play hockey at RIT next season.
Kyle Olson is a 20 year-old forward who was selected 122nd overall by the Ducks in the 2017 NHL Draft. He did not sign a contract with the Ducks and was eligible to re-selected in the 2019 NHL Draft, but was passed on. Olson put up 70 points in 62 games for Tri-City this past season. He plays a 200-foot game and is not afraid to go into the dirty areas to score goals.
Josh Passolt is yet another Western Michigan player attending the Sabres’ development camp. The 22 year-old had a breakout sophomore season where he had 16 goals (T-1st on team) and 18 assists in 36 games. He was a star high school player in Minnesota for Maple Grove and he actually played a game against Eden Prairie, Casey Mittelstadt’s high school team. Maple Grove lost that game 8-3, with Passolt putting up 3 points and Mittelstadt putting up 4.
Adam Scheel is yet another US National Team Development Program goalie alum at the Sabres development camp. The 20 year-old appeared in 26 games for University of North Dakota where he had a 2.07 GAA and .910 SV% and was named to the 2018-19 NCHC All-Rookie Team. He is very efficient in his crease, plays great in big situations, and has good puck skills. He may have the most potential out of the four goalie invites.
Matthew Welsh is a 19 year-old goaltender for the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL. He has gotten a bulk of their starts for the past couple seasons and had a 2.90 GAA and .902 SV% in 56 GP last season. He was named Team MVP at the Charlottetown Fans’ Choice awards.
Bryan Yoon is a 21 year-old defenseman who just completed his freshman season at Colorado College, where he put up 26 points in 41 games and was named to the NCHC All-Rookie team. Jaccob Slavin was the only other Colorado College defenseman to ever be named to the NCHC All-Rookie team. Yoon is a calm, responsible two-way defenseman who is known for slowing the game down and making smart decisions with the puck.