The annual Buffalo Sabres prospect tournament taking place before the preseason has been an unofficial beginning to the new hockey season for many Buffalo fans. Whether it be the Traverse City tournament or this year's inaugural Prospects Challenge, the youngsters hitting the ice for real games means the rest of the team isn't far behind.
This year, however, the Prospects Challenge holds increased significance thanks to the presence of two of Buffalo's biggest prospects since drafting Gilbert Perreault in 1970, that of course being Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
Both recent #2 overall selections are expected to make the leap to the NHL this year and contribute in a significant way to a Sabres team that should be much improved from last year's disastrous effort. Both players have spent the offseason focusing on strength, with Eichel gaining 8-10 pounds thanks to boxing workouts and better nutrition while Reinhart feels, "the strongest I've ever felt in my life". That added muscle will help them transition to the grueling schedule they'll face this season as NHL rookies, and their first chance to show the results will be this weekend.
As exciting as both will be to watch in this tournament, Eichel and Reinhart aren't the only big Sabres prospects participating. Justin Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste, and Evan Rodrigues join the forward ranks in a preview of what the Amerks might look like this year, while Jake McCabe and newly drafted Brendan Guhle will be the players to watch on the blue line.
The full Sabres roster for the Prospects Challenge can be found here.
The Sabres will have one practice tomorrow at 9am in the First Niagara Center, open to the public, and will play their first game against the Devils on Saturday night, followed by the Bruins on Monday night. One week later, on Monday September 21, the big club will play its first preseason game against the Minnesota Wild.
Hockey is back in Buffalo, folks. Give us your thoughts on the Prospects Challenge below, and get ready for a new Sabres season coming soon.