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  1. Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Some players stood out, while others.... well, did not. The Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils wrapped up their weekend-long Prospects Challenge on Sunday afternoon, with each team finishing with a 1-1 record. While I was largely focused on watching the Sabres prospects in action, there were players from each team that stood out on the ice this weekend, whether offensively, defensively, or in net. It won’t be a name many Sabres fans will know, but I liked what I saw from forward Riley Fiddler-Schultz this weekend, particularly in Friday’s win against the Devils. The 19-year-old was an invite after spending last season with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. He played a physical game and wasn’t afraid to throw himself into the plays, and I can respect that he wanted to make sure his presence was noted. It’s no surprise that Linus Weissbach made a big impact this weekend. He had multiple phenomenal chances in Friday night’s game, including a breakaway and another opportunity off a pass from Arttu Ruotsalainen. Weissbach was also a component of the Sabres’ top power-play unit, and what a talented unit that was. Brett Murray was another standout, and there’s no surprise in that. As I wrote previously, Murray said he came into Friday’s game wanting to be the best player out there, and you can argue that he was. He played a strong offensive game but also got physically involved, and he didn’t look like he belonged in a prospects tournament. (That’s a compliment, if you didn’t catch that.) Defensively, Peter Tischke was another standout. I’ll have more about him in a separate piece tomorrow, but the future Rochester Americans blueliner showed up with a pep in his step that was hard to miss. Matej Pekar was incredibly quiet on Friday night; I hardly noticed him. That changed in Saturday’s game, when he was more vocal and more involved. Nearly every time there was a scrum on the ice, he was in it, one way or another. It’s the kind of player Sabres fans know him to be - that pest-type - and that’s what he showcased on Saturday afternoon. Who didn’t stand out? Jack Quinn. He only played in one game and was held out of Saturday’s game due to what coach Appert called “load management,” but I was underwhelmed by his performance on Friday evening. With regards to the Devils, I was particularly impressed by Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz. Mercer is skilled and knows where to put himself on the ice to find opportunities. There’s a reason he’s averaged over a point-per-game in each of his last QMJHL seasons. Holtz’s talent is evident to anyone who watches him, and he had an impressive weekend. Just look at this bottle-popping rocket of a shot: HOLTZ! They say this kid has a good shot. What do you think? pic.twitter.com/vc64q7Yer6 — New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) September 19, 2021 Also, shoutout to Joe Masonius. It isn’t too often you go from playing in the SPHL to attending an NHL prospects camp, and he made his presence known early on Sunday, dropping the gloves with Ian McKinnon. For the Bruins, the obvious standouts were Jesper Froden and Fabian Lysell. At 26, Froden was one of the oldest players on the ice this weekend but it was his first chance to show off in a Bruins jersey after being signed by the team in June. He had four goals in two games, so I’d say that looks like a good signing for Boston early on. Jesper Froden on potting two goals in the Bruins' 5-2 win over Buffalo at the Prospects Challenge: "It was a nice experience. A different type of game...but I felt pretty good out there." pic.twitter.com/q3hdLrM5n1 — Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 19, 2021 Lysell also looked sharp, and it was hard not to watch him every time he was on the ice. He impressed Don Sweeney, too, and is set to play this year with Vancouver in the WHL. With the Prospects Challenge in the books, the focus now shifts to main training camp and the NHL season that lies ahead. Stay tuned! View the full article
  2. Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images Luukkonen, others showcase skill ahead of main camp As the Buffalo Sabres prospects hit the ice this weekend, it quickly became clear which players were simply at another level. There were a few players who rose above and felt like true NHLers — and for good reason. Arttu Ruotsalainen. Brett Murray. J-J Peterka. Mattias Samuelsson. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. It was only two games, but these five players looked NHL ready. To use a cliche, they looked like men among boys. They easily stood out on the ice, but there’s still something to be gained for each of them in participating in a prospects tournament, especially after the odd season last year due to COVID-19. For all five, taking part in the prospects challenge allows them to hit the ice ahead of full training camp and start to get back into the swing of things. It also gives them another opportunity to skate in front of Sabres brass and show what they’ve got, and how hard they’re willing to fight to get a spot in the NHL. It also affords them the opportunity to step into leadership roles and provide mentorship to some of the younger players. Ruotsalainen, 23, hasn’t had a full regular season playing pro hockey in North America. He split last season between Buffalo and Rochester but also spent some time playing with Ilves Tampere. Peterka looked fantastic, but since he was drafted in the midst of the pandemic in 2020, this is his first chance to hit the ice in Buffalo. Murray, as I wrote a few days ago, had his first crack at the NHL last season, but it was only a pair of games. His size makes him stand out regardless, but even moreso among a group of younger players. The same is true for Samuelsson and his skill. Both certainly capitalized on the opportunity to shine at the Prospects Challenge, which puts them in a good position heading into main camp. And then there’s Luukkonen. He only played in Friday’s game and got a well-deserved rest on Saturday, but it was undoubtedly good to get back on the ice, particularly after injury. When he spoke after Friday’s game, he said as much: “It’s the same like any summer, when you come back here, you never know how the first game is going to feel like. I think the pace helps... it’s easier to adapt to it,” he said. He also noted that the team put some structure in the game, which made it easier for him to get back into the rhythm of things. “I’m happy that the first one is out of the way for the season,” he added. For all five players, hitting the ice ahead of main training camp gives them a leg up after an odd year and a half. It also gives them the opportunity to shake off the doldrums and have some fun - remember fun? - before things get more serious. Now, with the Prospects Challenge behind them, they can shift their focus to the upcoming main training camp, where they’ll fight for NHL roster spots. View the full article
  3. Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images After his first taste of pro hockey, Samuelsson poised for more The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 485 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 10, 2021. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player. After his first pro season, defenseman Mattias Samuelsson is “very close to” cracking an NHL roster full-time; that’s what Rochester Americans head coach Seth Appert said of the 21-year-old back in May, and it rings true today as Samuelsson is in Buffalo for the Sabres Prospects Challenge. Following two years at Western Michigan, Samuelsson signed a three-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres in March 2020. Last season, he appeared in 23 games with the Amerks and recorded 13 points. He also made his NHL debut, appearing in 12 games with the Sabres and playing mostly in a pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen. Mattias Samuelsson just hit double-digit points to pull the Amerks within one. @M_samuelsson23 @mpekar10 @CaseyFitz97 #UnitedWeROC pic.twitter.com/XxGqRJ5CHe — Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) April 17, 2021 The 2018 draft pick is one of the Sabres’ top defensive prospects at this point, and it’s only a matter of time before he makes the jump to the NHL. Of course, part of that is also having a spot for him on the roster; he’s currently one of seven left D in the organization. Here’s to hoping the Amerks “Rookie of the Year” never plays an AHL game again. With such a small sample size of pro North American hockey, I’m eager to get a better look at Samuelsson with a full, regular-length season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s significantly higher on this list next time around. P.S. Samuelsson has switched to jersey number #23 for this season. View the full article
  4. Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images 23-year-old shows up, meets expectations Brett Murray only has two games of NHL experience under his belt, but at 23 years old, he’s considered one of the more experienced veterans at this weekend’s Buffalo Sabres Prospects Challenge. Murray was a steady presence in Friday evening’s game against the New Jersey Devils, showcasing his offensive prowess and providing leadership for his young teammates. On the ice, it’s easy to spot Murray; at 6’5” and 228 pounds, he is quite literally a presence you can’t miss. He's a big body even in an NHL lineup, much less among players who are as much as six inches shorter than he is. He was also named an alternate captain for Friday’s squad. Whether he likes it or not, he stands out. Off-ice, the soft-spoken Murray said after Friday night’s game that he “wanted to be the best player out there.” It’s only one game - and a prospects game, at that - but with a goal and an assist, but it’s safe to say that he lived up to his own expectations in Friday night’s 3-0 win. His goal came on the rebound after a point shot from Oskari Laaksonen. “I had to work hard for that goal, and I was lucky enough for it to bounce in,” he said. “I thought I could’ve had a few more in front of the net, too.” .@brettmurrayy with the first goal of the night! #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/iVo0D0JU11 — Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) September 17, 2021 Later in the game, Murray aligned himself with J-J Peterka on Buffalo’s second goal after working hard to create a 3-on-1 opportunity for his team. “J-J made a great play,” he said. “Good system work... I was lucky enough to take it right off the skate and transition and he made an unbelievable finish there. It worked out well.” .@brettmurrayy ➡️ @jj_peterka 2-0, us after the second! #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/9aClzUrEDa — Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) September 18, 2021 Not only did Murray meet his own expectations; he met those of coach Seth Appert, too. “I was really happy with his performance,” Appert said. “Right from the start, first shift, had a real hard finish check. I thought he stuck up for his teammates; I loved how we stuck up for each other tonight on some dirty hits. I love to see Murray go after guys, love to see [Arttu] Ruotsalainen go in there and stick up for teammates.” “That’s what you want to have,” he added. “You pull that jersey over your shoulders, you’ve got pride in playing for this organization, in playing for this city. I thought our guys did that, particularly with Murray.” “It was a real statement that he made tonight, that this kid’s gonna keep coming,” Appert added. Between his two years at Penn State, a year and a half with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms and two seasons with the AHL’s Rochester Americans, Murray has experienced a little bit of everything along the way to the NHL as he develops into an impressive prospect. After appearing in two games last season with the Sabres, it’s clear that he wants more. If he continues to show up both on and off the ice like he has, he might just get it. View the full article
  5. Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images Where do the Lightning go from here? Over the next few weeks, Die By The Blade staffers will take an in-depth look at each of the other teams in the Atlantic Division as the Buffalo Sabres prepare for the 2021-22 season. Next up: the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last Season’s Results: 36-17-3, 75 points (109 points over an 82 game season, 3rd in Central Division, won the Stanley Cup) Key Offseason Acquisitions: Brian Elliot, Zach Bogosian, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Brent Seabrook’s LTIR status Key Offseason Losses: Yanni Gourde (Kraken), Tyler Johnson (Hawks) , Blake Coleman (Devils), Barclay Goodrow (Rangers), David Savard (Habs), Kucherov’s LTIR status (Lightning) NHL Contracts Signed: Forwards: Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, Ross Colton, Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Alex Barre-Boulet, Gemel Smith, Mathieu Joseph Defensemen: Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Jan Rutta, Zach Bogosian, Cal Foote Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Brian Elliot Season Outlook: Couldn’t have gone much better for Tampa, just a little back to back Stanley Cup Championships... Where do they go from here? Let’s start with the easy part, the defense and the goalies. Lightning kept Vasilevskiy and all of the defenseman they started the season, while adding old friend Zach Bogosian to a very team friendly contract. Stability? They got it. For the forwards, the top 6 is still lookin’ pretty good in west Florida. Stud centerman Brayden Point extended 8 more seasons with a solid 9.5 milion dollar cap hit. That gives the Lightning at least 6 more seasons of Point & Kucherov, with a couple more with Cirelli, Stamkos and Killorn. Palat is the odd man out, with this being his last season of his current contract. On the bottom 6, Lightning got some solid value signings from the free agent pool while giving opportunity for that never ending farm system to keep sending talent up. Perry and Bellemare left Montreal and Colorado to join the champs. For the rest of it, the Lightning are looking at the rest of their farm to see who’s next man up. Using Raw Charge’s TOP 25 under 25 List from before last season, Mitchell Stephens, Mathieu Joseph, Taylor Raddysh, Alex Barre-Boulet, Boris Katchouk and Ross Colton look to have the highest pedigree. Colton had some playoff heroism and that earned him a 2 year contract extension, with Joseph entering his fourth season in the pro’s and Stephens his 3rd. This is the kind of transition that supposedly hampers a team in the playoffs. Tampa kept their skill, but lost their “grit”, or are trying to replace it. Looks like Vegas odds have the Lightning at 108 points for the upcoming season; I’ll have fun and say they’ll be around 105 points and have a second round exit. Games vs. Buffalo: Home: 25 October (7 PM EST), 11 January (7 PM EST), Away: 10 April (5 PM EST) View the full article
  6. Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports Johnson, 20, looks ready to make the big leap to professional hockey. The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 485 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 10, 2021. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player. The “Buffalo Sabres Top 25 Under 25” continues today with one of the organization’s top defensive prospects, Ryan Johnson. Ever since the moment Ryan Johnson was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres with the 31st overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, expectations have been sky-high. For most prospects, this is a truly unfair situation to walk into but Johnson truly had no choice, simply because the pick used was acquired from the St. Louis Blues as part of the much-maligned Ryan O’Reilly trade. Although, Johnson has responded well and developed appropriately, which is wonderful news for an organization looking to rebuild its defensive depth from the top down. While Johnson struggled statistically in his first season with the Golden Gophers in 2019-20, amassing only eight assists in 37 games, Johnson’s overall game took a leap forward in 2020-21. As pointed out by Expected Buffalo’s Chad DeDominicis in May, “the part of Johnson’s game that truly evolved this season was his ability to impact the game offensively.” Chad went on to say, “his (Johnson’s) impact goes beyond the points. In the games I tracked, he was the top defenseman on the roster in primary shot contributions at 5 on 5.” Ryan Johnson out here in the final seconds of a one goal championship game making a big defensive play that led to the empty net goal to clinch it. pic.twitter.com/9j57Q29XbP — Chad DeDominicis (@CMDeDominicis) March 17, 2021 For an organization that continues to push to develop impactful prospects, Ryan Johnson certainly looks ready to make the leap to the professional ranks once his junior season completes in Minnesota. #25 Casey Fitzgerald #24 Aaron Huglen #23 Linus Weissbach #22 Aleksandr Kisakov #21 Albert Lyckåsen #20 Erik Portillo #19 Devon Levi #18 Matej Pekar #17 Oskari Laaksonen #16 Isak Rosen #15 Jacob Bryson View the full article
  7. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Sabres, Devils & Bruins prospects & invitees converge on Buffalo Prospects from the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins converge at LECOM HarborCenter this weekend for a three-game Prospects Challenge among the trio of teams. There’s a lot of young, fresh talent that will hit the ice, including nine invited players for the Sabres who will help fill the gaps left by NCAA players and international players who couldn’t make it this weekend. Across the three teams, players represent a spectrum of experience across the AHL, ECHL, international leagues, college hockey and juniors. Both Jack Quinn & Arttu Ruotsalainen are expected to play center this weekend. Per Sabres.com’s Jourdon LaBarber, Quinn will skate with JJ Peterka & Brett Murray, while Ruotsalainen may find himself on a line with Linus Weissbach and Viljami Marjala. Game Schedule Friday, Sept. 17: Buffalo vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18: Buffalo vs. Boston, 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19: New Jersey vs. Boston, 1 p.m. How to Watch For local fans, all three games are open to the public at LECOM HarborCenter. Tickets are $10 per game. Per current guidelines, masks are optional for fully-vaccinated fans at the rink. The Sabres haven’t released any streaming info yet, but according to New Jersey’s Amanda Stein, both of the Devils games will be streamed. The Sabres Roster (* = camp invite) (# = has NHL experience) (bold = previously attended Sabres prospects camp) Forwards Brandon Biro (signed, 2020) - 23 years old. Joined the Sabres organization after four years at Penn State. Had five points (2-3) in 15 AHL games with the Amerks last season. Josh Bloom (drafted, 2021) - 18 years old. Did not play last season due to COVID shutdown. Last action was in 2019-20 with OHL’s Saginaw Spirit (14 points in 54 games). Thomas Casey* - 21 years old. Played last four years with QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders. Put up 74 points (34-40) in 38 regular-season games last season. Riley Fiddler-Schultz* - 19 years old. Appeared in 20 games with WHL’s Calgary Hitman last season. Recorded 15 points, including 10 assists. Tyson Kozak (drafted, 2021) - 18 years old. Spent most of last season with WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, where he scored 11 points (3-8) in 18 games. Viljami Marjala (drafted, 2021) - 18 years old. Recorded 27 points (5-22) in 30 games with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts in his first North American season. Brett Murray# (drafted, 2016) - 23 years old. Appeared in 2 NHL games with Sabres last season. Put up 20 points (9-11) in 27 games with the Amerks. Olivier Nadeau (drafted, 2021) - 18 years old. Recorded 45 points, (13-32), in 34 regular-season games with QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes last season. Matej Pekar (drafted, 2018) - 21 years old. Split last season between Liberec Bili Tygri HC (Czech) and Amerks; totaled 10 points in 37 games. JJ Peterka (drafted, 2020) - 19 years old. Split last season between Salzburg EC (Austria) and Munich EHC (DEL); totaled 36 points in 42 games. Had 10 points in 5 World Junior games. Jack Quinn (drafted, 2020) - 19 years old. Recorded nine points (2-7) in 15 AHL games with the Amerks last season. Five points in 7 World Junior games. Arttu Ruotsalainen# (signed, 2019) - 23 years old. Split last season between Buffalo (6 points, 17 games) and Rochester (13 points, 13 games). Linus Weissbach (drafted, 2017) - 23 years old. Just finished up four years at the University of Wisconsin; had 41 points (12-29) in 31 games last season. Defense Nick Boka* - 24 years old. Drafted by Minnesota, 2015 (171st). Played mostly with ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets last season with one AHL game (Ontario). Matthew Cairns* - 23 years old. Drafted by Edmonton, 2016 (84th). After three years at Cornell, played last season at Minnesota-Duluth (28 games). Charlie DesRoches* - 19 years old. Spent last three seasons with QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs; had 26 points (4-22) in 32 games last season. Clay Hanus* - 20 years old. Split last season between USHL’s Lincoln Stars and WHL’s Portland Winterhawks for a combined 42 games. Oskari Laaksonen (drafted, 2017) - 22 years old. Split last season between Pelicans (SM-liiga) and Amerks (AHL) for a total of 29 points and 48 games. Mattias Samuelsson# (drafted, 2018) - 21 years old. Appeared in 12 games with the Sabres last season; also had 23 AHL games with the Amerks (13 points). Peter Tischke* - 25 years old. Played 16 games with AHL’s Colorado Eagles last season; former Wisconsin Badger (2015-2019). Boka, Cairns & Tischke are all signed to play with the Amerks this season. Goaltenders Mack Guzda* - 20 years old. Last played in 2019-20 with OHL’s Owen Sound Attack; appeared in 51 games with a 3.18 GAA and .900 save percentage. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen# (drafted, 2017) - 22 years old. Played last season with Sabres (4 games), Amerks (14 games) and TPS Turku (13 games). Oliver Satny* - 18 years old. Spent last season in the Czech Republic; poised to play for QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders this season. The Devils Roster Players are listed alongside where they last played. (* = camp invite) (# = has NHL experience) Forwards Alexander Holtz (Djurgardens IF, SweHL & Binghamton, AHL) Tyce Thompson# (Providence College, Hockey East & Binghamton, AHL & New Jersey, NHL) Dawson Mercer (Chicoutimi, QMJHL) Nolan Foote# (Binghamton, AHL & New Jersey, NHL) Nate Schnarr (Binghamton, AHL) Fabian Zetterlund (AIK, Swe-1 & Binghamton, AHL) Luke Stevens (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL) Tyler Irvine (Binghamton, AHL) Patrick Grasso (University of New Hampshire, Hockey East) Jordan Kaplan (University of Vermont, Hockey East) Chase Stillman (Sudbury, OHL 2019-20) Aarne Talvitie (Penn State, Big-10 & Binghamton, AHL) Graeme Clarke (Nove Zamky Mikron HC, Slovak & Binghamton, AHL) Defense Reilly Walsh (Binghamton, AHL) Joe Masonius (Macon, SPHL) Zach Biggar (Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL) Jeremy Groleau (Binghamton, AHL) Michael Vukojevic (Binghamton, AHL) Nikita Okhotiuk (Binghamton, AHL) Kevin Bahl# (Binghamton, AHL & New Jersey, NHL) Goaltenders Akra Schmid (Sioux City, USHL) Nico Daws (Ingolstadt ERC, DEL) Mareks Mitens (Lake Superior State, WCHA & Binghamton, AHL) The Bruins Roster Players are listed alongside where they last played. (* = camp invite) (# = has NHL experience) Forwards Samuel Asselin (Providence, AHL) Marc Boudreau* (Soo, OHL 2019-20) Matt Filipe (Providence, AHL & Jacksonville, ECHL) Jesper Froden (Skelleftea AIK, SweHL) Curtis Hall (Providence, AHL) Brett Harrison (KooVee Tampere, Mestis) Jacob Hudson* (Moncton, QMJHL) Jakub Lauko (Karlovy Vary HC, Czech & Providence, AHL) Fabian Lysell (Vastra Frolunda Jr., Swe-Jr, & Lulea HF, SweHL) Ian McKinnon (Providence, AHL & Jacksonville, ECHL) Oskar Steen# (Providence, AHL, Boston, NHL (3 GP) & Bjorkloven IF, Swe-1) Eduards Tralmaks (Providence, AHL & Maine, Hockey East) Alex-Olivier Voyer (Providence, AHL & Jacksonville, ECHL) Defense Jack Ahcan# (Providence, AHL, Boston, NHL (3 GP) & Jacksonville, ECHL) Victor Berglund (Lulea HF, SweHL) Noah Dorey* (Kelowna, WHL) J.D. Greenway (Maine, Hockey East) Brady Lyle (Providence, AHL & Detva HC, Slovak) Ryan Mast (Sarnia, OHL 2019-20) Andrew Peski (Providence, AHL & Jacksonville, ECHL) Nick Wolff (Providence, AHL & Miskolci DVTK Polar Bears, Slovak) Goaltenders Kyle Keyser (Providence, AHL & Jacksonville, ECHL) Jeremy Brodeur (Binghamton, AHL & Knoxville, SPHL) For updates throughout the weekend, follow along on Twitter: @_MelissaBurgess and @DieByTheBlade. View the full article
  8. Buffalo, Toronto will square off in Hamilton, Ontario The news is out, and finally it’s official. As was reported first by the Sabres North Twitter account back in August, the Sabres are headed to their third outdoor game. This time, against international and Niagara Falls sharing rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The game will be played at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Canadian Football League stadium on March 13th 2022, aptly named Tim Hortons Field. For those who cannot make the trek or afford the likely inflated price from the poor saps that are Maple Leafs fans, the game will be televised on TNT, Sportsnet and TVA Sports @ 3pm EST. If you’re feeling lucky (punk?), four tickets are available to win. Register before New Years Eve (31st of December) and winners will be announced on 5th of January. If you’re a brave soul who’s kept their season tickets throughout this decade, you get some perks as well. All Season Ticket Members and partial plan holders will be offered a presale opportunity. All ticket sales details will be announced at a later date. Season Ticket Members will receive additional communication on Friday, September 17 with adjustments to their payment or payment plan, reflecting this game. Lucky for us, our game is not by far the worst of the outdoor matchups this season. Blues vs. Wild and Preds vs. Lightning are the other two, so there’s a good shot Granato can put on a good show with this roster. Here’s the press release. View the full article
  9. Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images Coming Thursday, comments will look different. Hey everyone, I’m Steph Driver, and I oversee all of our NHL sites. This Thursday will be a big day for our community: we’re moving our comments to a brand new platform, developed especially for SB Nation. All of our hockey communities will be moving to the new platform, and I’m excited about the change. Some of you may already be familiar with this new platform as it rolled out to our NFL communities last year and to many of our soccer sites over the summer. Over 30 new versions of the platform have been released since then, each bringing new features for SB Nation communities specifically, and changes to the user experience based on community member feedback. It’s a very different platform today than it was last year, and I can’t wait to show you. Why this change? We’ve been using the same commenting platform for over a decade and it’s time for an upgrade. The old system is brittle, and prone to outages. It’s not built for the modern web, and even just maintaining it gets tougher every year. Nobody likes change, but this is a necessary one, and it brings real improvements that’ll make our whole commenting experience better. In the new system, you’ll see features that we’ve wanted to add for years, including: Easier embeds (just paste the Twitter/YouTube link) Easier rich text shortcuts (control-B for Bold, control-I for italics) Email notifications when someone replies to you See who’s Rec’d your comments Better flagging options and strong anti-abuse controls A GIF library for easy image posting The ability to mute annoying commenters Easily find the most Rec’d comments Plus a whole host of features that we’ve kept because they make our communities special, such as new comment highlighting, color changes with high Rec counts, Z key, external image embeds, sarcasm font, and much more. This platform has been built specifically for SB Nation communities and, for the first time, we now have a team dedicated to constantly evolving and improving our commenting tools. I know that new things take a bit of time to get used to — I ask only that you give it a chance, try it on a few articles, and then tell us honestly what you think. This is a permanent work in progress — we will continue to evolve the tools over the coming months and years, to give you the tools and platform you deserve. In fact, we have already added dozens of new features based on feedback from our audiences since our initial launch on NFL communities last year. You can help make it better by giving us your feedback in the comments or emailing coralsupport@voxmedia.com. Some important information about the change: your old comments are being saved and will be returned to the pages in the future, but for now, stories won’t contain comments posted prior to the changeover. So please be mindful that any discussions happening at the time the switch is flipped will be interrupted. Your comment history will now be located under the My Profile tab at the top of the comments (not the top of the page), which is also where your comments archive will be restored when we bring them back. The new platform will go live on Die By The Blade beginning on Thursday, using the same login as always. Thanks as always for being here. Now let’s talk. View the full article
  10. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to be required Fans over the age of 12 looking to attend Buffalo Sabres games this season will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, Erie County and Pegula Sports & Entertainment announced Tuesday afternoon. The updated protocols give fans a window of opportunity to get at least one vaccination, before requiring full vaccination beginning October 31. The policy will be in place for events at both KeyBank Center and Highmark Stadium, including Sabres and Bills games. Between September 25 and October 30, fans will required to show proof of a minimum of one vaccination dose. This policy will be in place for three preseason games at KeyBank Center, as well as five regular-season home games. Beginning October 31, fans must be fully vaccinated (two weeks after second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after single dose of Johnson & Johnson). There will be no exceptions permitted. Proof of vaccination will be accepted in several forms, including a physical vaccination card, the New York State Excelsior Pass (digital) or the CLEAR Digital Vaccine Card or other government-issued digital proof. Photos of vaccine cards will not be accepted. There is no option to test-out of vaccine requirements. Fans under the age of 12 do not have to be vaccinated, but must wear a mask at all times. For everyone else, masks will be recommended but optional. Season ticket holders can request refunds thru specific guidelines, with a deadline to request refund by next Tuesday, September 21. Fans who have purchased single-game tickets are not offered a refund option. Those looking to get vaccinated can attend clinics at the Pepsi Club at Highmark Stadium on September 22 & 29, October 6 & 13 or visit the Erie County Department of Health’s website or their local pharmacy or doctor’s office. View the full article
  11. Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Bryson moves down a few spots in the rankings The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 485 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 10, 2021. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player. Jacob Bryson jumps in at the fifteen spot after making his first professional debut with the Sabres. Bryson, while being significantly defensively limited in my estimation, was a sign of the changes to come when he first debuted under Ralph Krueger’s conservative system. Not yet defeated by the coach that would ultimately signal the death of the Jack and Sam core, Bryson’s speed and confidence through the neutral zone must’ve made ‘ol Donny Granato so happy deep down inside. Bryson has made the stellar jumps and shown his ability now at three levels, the NCAA, the American league and now the NHL. Even though there is a transition to the smaller & mobile defenseman, concerns for the pessimists say that Bryson may never be a full time guy, even though he looks to be better than a career AHL’er. I sure hope Bryson proves us all right and tries to beat out Hagg and Butcher for that third pairing role. A steady counterpart like a Mark Pysyk or Mattias Samuelsson look to be a solid compliment and an effective pairing in a reduced role, especially on a Sabres team that is going to need offense to survive. Jacob Bryson gets the Sabres on the board early, 1-0 #LetsGoBuffalo #Isles pic.twitter.com/GOF3x3i4zs — Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) March 6, 2021 #25 Casey Fitzgerald #24 Aaron Huglen #23 Linus Weissbach #22 Aleksandr Kisakov #21 Albert Lyckåsen #20 Erik Portillo #19 Devon Levi #18 Matej Pekar #17 Oskari Laaksonen #16 Isak Rosen View the full article
  12. Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Ruotsalainen, Quinn, Peterka among attendees The Buffalo Sabres have announced their roster for the team’s upcoming Prospects Challenge, to be held Sept. 17-19 at LECOM Harborcenter. Prospects from the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils will join the Sabres in the three-game tournament. Sabres fans can expect to see some familiar names on the ice this weekend, including Arttu Ruotsalainen, Jack Quinn and Oskari Laaksonen. Mattias Samuelsson, Ukko-Pekka Luukonen, J-J Peterka and Matej Pekar are other big-name prospects who will be on the ice. Don’t expect to see number one pick Owen Power, however. He’s back in Michigan at school; the same holds true for goaltender Devon Levi, acquired by the Sabres in the Sam Reinhart trade. Levi is already on campus & practicing with his Northeastern teammates. Nikita Novikov and Alexandr Kisakov, both 2021 draft picks, are in the throes of KHL action, while William von Barnekow-Løfberg, Isak Rosén and Prokhor Poltapov are busy in Sweden, the SHL and VHL, respectively. You also won’t see Dylan Cozens or Jacob Bryson, as both have seemingly ‘graduated’ from participating in prospects events at this point in their careers. The Sabres roster has quite a few invitees, as well as impending Amerks players: goaltenders Mack Guzda and Oliver Satny; defensemen Nick Boka, Matthew Cairns, Charles Desroches, Clay Hanus and Peter Tischke; and forwards such as Thomas Casey and Riley Fiddler-Schultz. Here’s the Sabres roster: Our 2021 Prospects Challenge roster is set! Details: https://t.co/Iv6LO4D3Fm pic.twitter.com/t9MNsRozOA — Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) September 13, 2021 Neither the Bruins nor the Devils have posted their Prospects Challenge rosters as of writing. The three teams will kick off this weekend’s action with a Friday night tilt between the Sabres and Devils at 7 p.m. The Sabres and Bruins square off on Saturday at 3 p.m., while the Devils and Bruins will finish things off Sunday at 1 p.m. (Certainly a logical move scheduling-wise by the Sabres, who avoid having a prospects game competing with the Bills/Dolphins game.) Tickets for each game are $10 and available here. View the full article
  13. Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images Franchise-leading goaltender deserves accolades. If you’ve been a Buffalo Sabres fan at some point since 2005, chances are good that when you see the jersey number 30, you think of Ryan Miller - and for good reason. Miller, who recently retired, played 540 regular-season games with the Sabres while rocking the #30. That’s why, for many, it was a little startling Monday morning when the Sabres announced a slew of new jersey numbers for the upcoming season, including newcomer Aaron Dell suiting up under #30. My personal opinion: It will be very strange to see another Sabres goaltender wearing that number - but so long as it isn’t retired, it’s technically fair game. However, having another goaltender wear that number serves as both a joyous reminder of just how good Miller was, and a painful reminder of his departure & eventual retirement, as well as a painful reminder of what has happened in the Sabres organization since he left. The fan reaction to Dell’s jersey number announcement speaks volumes about Miller’s impact on the Sabres and in the Buffalo community, and reinforces why his #30 should be hung in the rafters at KeyBank Center. Nearly every response to the team’s Tweet is, in some form or another, “why on Earth is this happening?” While it doesn’t appear that the Sabres will retire Miller’s number or induct him to the team’s Hall of Fame this season, it certainly should happen sooner rather than later. (And for the record, they definitely could make it happen this season. There’s no required ‘waiting period’ after a retirement, and if it’s a franchise player, there’s no real reason to wait. See: the Rangers, who announced plans to retire Henrik Lundqvist’s #30 mere minutes after his retirement announcement.) Technically, others have at least been assigned that number since Miller’s departure from Buffalo, including Michael Houser entering last year’s training camp. (When he actually played in the NHL, Houser wore 32.) Announcing Dell’s number seems to suggest that this is real, though, which has rubbed fans a different way. If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to outline why the Sabres should retire Miller’s number, and why so many fans are disappointed, disgruntled and/or outraged at the idea of another goaltender, let alone Aaron Dell, wearing #30. But just in case you need a refresher..... to this day, Miller remains the Sabres’ franchise leader in goaltender games played (540), minutes played (31,661), career wins (284) and most wins in a season (41, 2009-10). He was an NHL All-Star in 2007 and won the Vezina Trophy and NHL Foundation Award in 2010. The last time the Sabres retired a jersey number and put a new player in the team’s Hall of Fame was 2014-2015, with Dominik Hasek. After Hasek, Miller is almost certainly the goaltender you think of when talking about the Sabres; his mark on the team - and the community - is still felt to this day, and it just makes too much sense not to honor him in this way. Miller is a significant piece of Sabres history, and the franchise should honor his legacy by retiring his jersey number and inducting him into the team’s Hall of Fame. In my mind, there’s no doubt it will happen eventually. The question now, it seems, is not if they’ll do it - but when, and respectfully, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. View the full article
  14. Smaht Scouting The Swede comes with top six potential and was drafted 14th overall in the 2021 Draft The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 485 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 10, 2021. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player. The Buffalo Sabres drafted the Swedish prospect with their second first rounder in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, choosing to bet on the speed and talent of Isak Rosen with their 14th overall pick. The teenager has always shined brightest when playing with his peer age group, using his quick shooting ability to excellent effect. He finds spaces to operate in the busiest areas of the ice, and is considered an elite playmaker despite being more of a goalscorer at the junior level. Rosen was expected to go in the 15-25 range so there were some eyebrows raised when the Sabres called his name, but he remains an exciting prospect who is committed to Leksands for the 2021-22 season and is already off to a bright start scoring a goal in the club’s first game of the SHL season. “Despite his small frame, Rosén’s acceleration and control have made him a mainstay in the Leksand lineup. His aforementioned speed helps to create odd-man rushes and breakaway opportunities. His vision pairs with this, making him a dependable playmaker. Although shadowed at times by his strengths, his lack of size and physicality is still noticeable, particularly along the boards. Gaining more muscle will not happen overnight, but it should not be a major detriment to his long-term future.” – Alexa Potack, Dobber Prospects Rosen is projected to be a top six winger in the NHL and is on the right track to get there. “In the offensive zone at the junior level, Rosén is a dual threat. He can use his high-end shot to score, but also dissect defenses with his plus-passing. For a smaller player he also drives to the net hard, and does not mind mixing it up in the tougher areas of ice, despite not being very physical.” – Alex Appleyard, Smaht Scouting #25 Casey Fitzgerald #24 Aaron Huglen #23 Linus Weissbach #22 Aleksandr Kisakov #21 Albert Lyckåsen #20 Erik Portillo #19 Devon Levi #18 Matej Pekar #17 Oskari Laaksonen View the full article
  15. Photo by John Crouch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Laaksonen’s first taste of North American play leaves him wanting more The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 485 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 10, 2021. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player. Buffalo Sabres fans finally got their first glimpse at Oskari Laaksonen playing North American hockey this past season, and he was fun to watch. Seventeen points in a shortened AHL season for a defenseman is nothing to scoff at, and Laaksonen will only get better as he further adjusts. His special teams play was notable, as both of his goals came on the advantage. (Unfortunately, the AHL does not make any ice-time stats public.) The 22-year-old was loaned to the Pelicans overseas for the beginning of their season and had a respectable showing there before coming to the U.S. when the AHL and NHL seasons finally kicked off. Although the AHL didn’t have its annual All-Star Game, Laaksonen was recognized as a North Division All-Star, a well-deserved honor for the rookie. The Amerks also honored him with a sportsmanship award at year’s end. Here’s what he had to say after his first AHL season: Laaksonen is one of six right-handed defensemen in the Sabres organization for the upcoming season. The other thing to keep an eye on right now is Laaksonen’s size. At 6’1” and just 172 pounds, he’s pretty lean - at least 13 pounds lighter than the other defenders in the Sabres system. Initially, Laaksonen appears poised to spend most, if not all, of this season with the Amerks, pending any injuries at the NHL level, but spoke about his “hunger” to get to the NHL level in this Finnish interview. After a full, standard regular AHL season, he should see some positive growth and development in his game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets recalled for a chance at the big league if the opportunity arises. (P.S. Look for him to be in attendance at the upcoming Sabres Prospects Challenge!) #25 Casey Fitzgerald #24 Aaron Huglen #23 Linus Weissbach #22 Aleksandr Kisakov #21 Albert Lyckåsen #20 Erik Portillo #19 Devon Levi #18 Matej Pekar View the full article
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