This time last year Derek Grant was entering Buffalo Sabres training camp as just another camp body who’ll play in the minors as a top six forward. Out of nowhere, Grant stole the attention and earned himself a roster spot out of training camp, which nobody predicted.
Now, we all know how that ended. He ended up scoring no goals with the Sabres and at one point was placed on waivers, before returning back to the Sabres when he was placed on waivers for a second time by the Nashville Predators.
Do the Sabres have themselves another Grant on the training camp roster this season? Probably not. However, let me give you a few players to watch that are deep down the roster. We all know about the big names, but it’s the unexpected stories that are fun to follow.
Stevie Moses was signed to an AHL contract this summer. Some of you may remember Moses from when he was a hot commodity as a free agent from the KHL. In April of 2015, he signed a one-year contract with the Predators after scoring 57 points in 60 games with Jokerit of the KHL.
The experiment didn’t last long. Moses failed to make the Predators roster the following season and after a disappointing performance with Milwaukee of the AHL, his contract was terminated by Nashville in December. Only nine months after coming over from Russia.
After spending the last two seasons with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. The 28-year-old is back to make another run at success in North America. Moses isn’t the biggest guy on the ice at 5’9”, but he has the potential to be a camp surprise. He’s not going to wow you with the style of play. Nonetheless, he’s a guy that could be interesting to follow throughout the preseason.
Matt Tennyson is another one who is pegged for Rochester as a depth defenseman. He spent 45 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, which was a career high in games played after playing three seasons prior with the San Jose Sharks organization.
The Sabres appear to have their stable of seven defensemen locked into place. Brendan Guhle is a candidate to crack that group, but if he’s not in the top six it would make more sense to start him in Rochester. Tennyson, with a strong camp, could work his way into the seventh or eighth blue line position if they decided to carry two extra players.
The 27-year-old has good size at 6’2” and over 200 pounds. He also has a good shot from the point that could earn him some points and attention in the preseason. The other challenge will be for Tennyson to remain healthy. Something he’s battled in his four NHL seasons.
Ok, I know, CJ Smith isn’t that deep of pick. That being said he seems to be the forgotten man by some in the competition with Alex Nylander, Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste and Hudson Fasching. Smith only played two games last with the Sabres after being signed as a coveted college free agent from UMass-Lowell.
Smith reminded a lot of people that he shouldn’t be excluded from the conversation with how well he played in the Prospects Challenge this past weekend. Guhle, Bailey and Smith were arguably the top three Sabres players in the tournament.
The young winger has the potential to be a decent bottom six depth forward this season. He’s forgotten about because we only got a small look at him under Bylsma at the end of last season. Smith was a productive player in his final year of college scoring 23 goals and 51 points. Of course, that doesn’t always translate to the pro game, but if he keeps performing like he did in the Prospects Challenge he can’t be ignored as a real candidate to make the opening night roster.