The Buffalo Sabres kicked off their annual prospect development camp Wednesday with the first on-ice sessions for up-and-coming players. The team will continue its development camp Thursday and Friday, with camp culminating in the popular French Connection Tournament, for season-ticket holders only, on Saturday.
If you’re heading to a camp session or the tournament at Harborcenter in the coming days, here are five players at Sabres development camp to keep an eye on:
Cozens, the Sabres’ first-round pick in this year’s 2019 NHL Entry Draft, is of course one of the players that fans should watch closely at development camp. This is the first chance you’ll get to see Cozens in a Sabres jersey, and considering he’s still got at least one, possibly two, years of junior hockey left, it may be the only chance to see him in the blue and gold for a while.
Obviously, the hype surrounding Cozens isn’t anywhere near the hype that surrounded guys like Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart or Rasmus Dahlin at their first camp after being drafted by the Sabres. But that doesn’t mean Sabres fans shouldn’t be excited to see this kid play. He’s got some size, and in the first day at development camp, showcased his skill with swift use of his hands and impressive skating ability.
Like Cozens, this is Ruotsalainen’s first development camp with the Sabres, and the first chance for many fans to see what he can do. Ruotsalainen agreed to terms with the Sabres in early May, signing on a three-year, entry-level contract just days after he was cut from Finland’s World Championships roster. The center spent last season with Ilves, where he accrued 42 points (21G, 21A) in 59 games. His goal tally was good for ninth league-wide in scoring.
Ruotsalainen had a breakout season this past year, and he adds a depth of skill to the Sabres’ forward group. He said earlier in the week that his goal is to make it to the NHL this season; if he doesn’t, he could go back to Finland.
LRT: Arttu Ruotsalainen is a small, hard-working center with great speed and good offensive skills. Quick thinker with the puck. Was relied upon to play both on the PP and PK for Ilves. Would be a solid add to Sabres prospect pool.— Marco Bombino (@marco_bombino) April 17, 2019
Olofsson is one of only a few players at this year’s Sabres development camp with NHL experience, along with Lawrence Pilut (not skating), Tage Thompson and William Borgen. Sabres fans got their first chance to watch Olofsson in North America last season, but he spent most of the year in Rochester with the Amerks. There, he averaged nearly a point per game, with 63 points (30G, 33A) in 66 games. He also made his NHL debut, putting up four points (2G, 2A) in six games with the Sabres.
Olofsson doesn’t have the NHL experience yet, but this is his sixth development camp with the Sabres. He could certainly be a top-six forward on the Sabres this season if he earns the spot; his skill is undeniable.
Victor Olofsson should be playing for the Sabres full time this season. A lot of his shots have this result: pic.twitter.com/IMhURN0XMg— Kebert Xela (@JamesBerek) June 26, 2019
Scheel is an interesting invite to Sabres development camp this year. The North Dakota freshman goalie was named to the NCHC All-Rookie team, and his success on the ice this season helped him in his push to become the starting goaltender, a rare feat for a freshman.
In the end, he appeared in 26 games for the Fighting Hawks, with a 2.07 GAA and .910 save percentage. Scheel went 13-10-2, with one shutout, and allowed 51 goals over the course of the season.
Cooley is one of a handful of free agent invites to this year’s Sabres development camp. For local college hockey followers, Cooley’s name will sound familiar: he just finished his sophomore season playing with Niagara University. The Pittsburgh, PA native recorded 27 points in 41 games this past season, including 18 assists. This is his second time attending an NHL development camp, as he was invited to the Leafs’ development camp after his freshman season.
Check out this post for the full development camp roster & schedule.