The Prospects Challenge was a show. A show put on mainly by Jack Eichel. While he did not put up gaudy numbers, he was dominate in both games against the Devils and Bruins. Eichel carried the puck into the offensive zone every time he had it in the neutral zone. He made crisp passes setting up his wingers with ample scoring chances. He would not give the puck up when he had it. You just couldn't take it from him. Eichel also finally put the puck in the back of the net. Eichel roared past the defender, and ripped a shot top corner. A perfect play, for a near perfect prospect.
Eichel wasn't the only player at the prospects challenge however.
Sam Reinhart had a great game against the Devils. He made smart plays, won battles on the boards, and scored a nice goal after busting through the middle. Against Boston, I thought Reinhart had some trouble. He was crushed with an open ice hit by Jakub Zboril, and looked timid going over the middle thereafter. Zboril is a 1st round pick, but not as crushing a hitter as there are in the NHL right now. Reinhart needs to be able to stay confident wherever he goes on the ice. Once moved to Eichel's line, Reinhart looked much more comfortable.
Jake McCabe was a scratch vs the Devils, but against the Bruins he was the best defenseman in the game. McCabe moved the puck swiftly, created offensive chances, and delivered crushing hits. An all around great game, for a player I believe will play around 40 games in the NHL this season. McCabe has the potential to be a top four defenseman next season with the Sabres.
William Carrier played great against the Bruins. He made "wow" moves that made the crowd notice him. He looks really mature as a two way player, and never made a bad decision with the puck. If Carrier can put up some offensive numbers in the AHL this season, look for him to be a call up.
Nick Baptiste proved he can score on every level so far. That did not change in the prospects challenge. His shot is just flat out great. Baptiste was hard to play against in the challenge. He was maybe the hardest forechecker on the ice, and finished every hit he had the opportunity to.
Justin Bailey played alright in the challenge. Just alright. He scored a great goal in the first game, he created offensive chances a lot, but he looked soft on the puck, and lost at times. Especially on the power play Bailey looked unconfident on what he should do when he had the puck. He'll need more seasoning than Baptiste in the AHL in my opinion.
Brendan Guhle and Brycen Martin are the next best defenseman in the Sabres prospect system after Jake McCabe. Guhle, a second round pick, and Martin, a third round pick, both made impacts. Guhle was efficient moving the puck, and played great on the team's first power play unit. He also played great in his own end, consistently pushing forwards to the outside and then taking the puck off their sticks. Martin was on the team's second pairing, and his impact was felt on the offensive end. He had multiple chances, but buried a shot after a great pass by Jack Eichel to tie the Bruins with five minutes left. Martin put the puck right over the goalies pad on a perfectly placed shot.
All in all the Sabres prospects proved why they are ranked near the top of the league all the time. They overwhelmed the Devils. It was the New York Yankees vs a bar league soft ball team. The Bruins posed a bigger challenge, but Eichel refused to let the Sabres lose, and he was successful.