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At Development Camp, progress must be shown from key prospects

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The Sabres need some of their top prospects to take the next step.

Buffalo Sabres v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres Development Camp is fully underway, with the team’s top prospects that have been drafted over the last three offseasons in their second of four days with the team’s coaches and trainers. You can check out the prospect roster and a recap of Day One at Sabres.com, but today we’re going to focus on the players that have a chance to contribute at the AHL or NHL level next season.

Because as much as this camp is for the rookies and younger players to learn about how to train, how to take care of their bodies, and how to maximize the resources that the Sabres organization offers, it’s also a chance for the more veteran players to show their dominance, a sign that they’re ready to become either significant AHL contributors or ready to take on a role for the big club.

For a player like Justin Bailey, who’s had some AHL success but hasn’t seen that translate to the NHL, this camp is his last chance to impress the coaches before training camp. Bailey has spent the offseason continuing to work on his strength, bulking up to 215 lbs.

"Being a bigger player, last year, there were times where I would beat a guy, but maybe I'd get nudged a little bit and get knocked off my skates. I'm focusing on bulking up, but also keeping that speed that separates me from other guys."

The development of Bailey this season, along with other key young forward prospects such as Nick Baptiste and Evan Rodrigues will play a huge part in the team’s new focus on creating a winning culture not only in Buffalo, but also in Rochester.

Other players have spent their summer in the gym, including Brendan Guhle, who is now around 200 lbs. Alex Nylander has bulked up as well, and both of these players are perfect examples of the organization’s focus on development, not just in this camp, but throughout the year.

A few months ago, many Sabres fans had penciled Guhle and possibly Nylander into the NHL lineup, but after the hiring of Jason Botterill and his work in free agency to build the organization’s depth, it would appear that both players will now spend much, if not all of the year in Rochester. While this might not make Sabres fans who were excited to watch the youngsters in Buffalo very happy, it will benefit the long-term development of both players, who still must get more comfortable playing against older, bigger, tougher competition.

The development process that the organization has now shifted towards is solid, but it’s still up to these players to show that the process is working, because while it’s nice that GMBOT has filled out the organizational depth, the Amerks and Sabres still need most, if not all of these key prospects to take that next step in their development. Through two days of camp, the signs are promising, but we’ll see how that process continues to play out through the rest of the summer and training camp in the fall.

The Sabres are wrapping up their second day of camp today, and have two more days to go, including a 3-on-3 tournament to wrap things up. Practices are free and open to the public at HarborCenter, and the remaining two days look like this:

Monday: 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 to 3 p.m.Tuesday: French Connection Tournament: 9:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. (Streaming live on Sabres.com!)