A new era has begun in Buffalo. An atmosphere as exciting and ecstatic as the one that surrounded the First Niagara Center has not been around since the 2006-2007 season. Over 17,000 people filled up the First Niagara Center, a record breaking crowd for the prospects scrimmage. There is hope in the building. There is promise, and most of all there is talent. Here are 10 takeaways SabreStop took from the Blue and Gold scrimmage which featured Jack Eichel vs Sam Reinhart in an exciting battle of prospects.
1.Sam Reinhart was dominant, ready to make the NHL leap: All eyes were on Jack Eichel Friday night but the true star of the game was Sam Reinhart. His speed was a pleasant surprise and he had a physicality to him that was not seen last season. Reinhart finished with 2 goals and 1 assist as well as an incredible goal in the post game shoot out. His aggressiveness in front of the net resulted in both of his goals, his assist was on a shot he missed a wide open net but was redirected in by William Carrier. The vision and hockey IQ Reinhart carries with him is unique and is going to help in making Reinhart a star for this team.
2. Justin Bailey found his aggressive side: The 6'3 hometown forward had a very impressive night. Starting off the bat Bailey was throwing his body around with some big hits. He was relentless. His hands need to get softer in Rochester this season as he struggled to control a lot of his moves when crashing the net. Bailey however scored the goal of the night when in the first period he tripped behind the net, only to bury the puck to shelf on his knees. He may have caught Cal Petersen napping but the effort and pure skill with his hands shows that the Sabres have a gem in the former second round pick.
3. Jonas Johansson took a big step ahead of Cal Petersen in the Sabres prospect pool: The 19 year old goalie has had a impressive developmental camp this year: He carried that performance over to the scrimmage where he only allowed two goals. One of the goals was off a penalty shot so in reality he let in one "real" goal. The highlight of the night for Johansson was his athletic pad save on Jack Eichel during a penalty shot in the second round. At 6'4 Johansson has the leverage to cover all sides of the crease even when someone with as fast of hands as Eichel does puts on multiple moves. His vision of the puck was clear and he didn't give many holes for the gold team to work with. This is the second scrimmage in a row where Johansson has been arguably the best goaltender. Give this guy a season or two and he will be competing with Ullmark and Lehner for the highly coveted starting job on the Sabres roster. As for Cal Petersen, he looked lost. Both goals were a result of Petersen's attention focused on the other side of the ice. You could see the athletic ability in Petersen when he made a great pad save but there is a lot of work to be done for the sophomore Fighting Irish goalie.
4. If the Sabres are making roster moves based on talent, Jake McCabe will make the roster: If there was one guy that was too good to be in this scrimmage, it was McCabe. He was always one step ahead of the opposing forward. McCabe might be the biggest hitter on the team with an exception of possibly Zach Bogosian. He finished with 2 assists. McCabe showed the ability to fore check and really make a difference on the offensive side. With the Sabres lack of offensive skill on defense, McCabe may become a very important piece to the roster as soon as this season. Unless Murray wants to continue to groom McCabe in the AHL, I fully expect McCabe to beat out Mike Weber or newly acquired Matt Donovan for a roster spot.
5. Don't overreact to Jack Eichel not scoring a goal: It was Eichel's coming out party as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. Over 17,000 people came to see the second overall pick put on a show. If you are looking at the box score than you will be disappointing in Eichel's performance. However there were a lot of positive things Eichel did in Friday Night's scrimmage. He showed the explosiveness that makes him such a great player. His passes were on point and came with a deadly speed and accuracy that will wreck havoc on opposing NHL teams. Eichel also showed his defensive side as well when he ran up to the front of the net to block a wrist shot from Sam Reinhart. Then of course there was the penalty shot where Eichel pulled off probably around 10 moves in under 3 seconds. He couldn't get the puck past Johansson's pad but you can tell with NHL talent around him, Eichel is going to make an instant impact with Buffalo.
It was a great night for the Buffalo Sabres and their fans. Being able to celebrate like they did Friday night is well deserved after what has been 2 rough seasons of suffering. Yet look what it has brought us! Eichel and Reinhart are the cornerstones for the Sabres to achieve the main goal. To win a Stanley Cup. This week of Sabres development camp was the first step of that goal. I will tell you first hand that it was the greatest atmosphere in the First Niagara Center since Chris Drury scored the tying goal in the second round of the 2007 playoffs against the New York Rangers.
Sunday brings an exciting 3 on 3 tournament that is open to the public at the FN center. That will be our last look at Eichel until training camp.
Thanks for stopping in.
Goaltender Jonas Johansson had an impressive scrimmage. Looks to build on strong summer in the SHL (Sweden)