Some of the top prospects of the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils will converge on Buffalo this weekend for the Sabres’ annual Prospects Challenge. Games will be held between Friday, Sept. 6 and Monday, Sept. 9 at Harborcenter.
In case you missed it, here’s the full roster for the Sabres, and here’s a look at five players to watch in the blue and gold this weekend. 2019 first-round pick Dylan Cozens is in town, but is not expected to participate in this weekend’s tournament.
Now that we’ve covered our bases on the Buffalo squad, here’s a look at a few players from each of the other teams involved that fans may want to keep a special eye on:
Jordy Bellerive will be an interesting one to watch. The 20-year-old spent most of last season with Lethbridge in the WHL. He accrued a whopping 83 points, including 50 assists, in just 68 games. The center then made his AHL debut in three games with Wilkes-Barre Scranton.
On the flip side, defenseman Called Addison showcased his offensive side last season, also with Lethbridge. The 19-year-old put up 65 points in 67 games from the blueline, including 54 assists. He was drafted by the Penguins 53rd overall in 2018.
Finally, right winger Nathan Legare put up 87 points (very Pittsburgh-centric) in just 68 games last season with Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL, good for 8th in points scoring in the league. The 18-year-old was picked up by the Pens with the 74th overall selection in the 2019 draft.
Anders Bjork appeared in 20 games with the Bruins last season. At 23, he’s one of the older players in the Prospects Challenge, and one of the more experienced, with 50 overall NHL games under his belt. The 2014 draft pick didn’t see much action last year thanks to injuries, but he’s proven himself to be an offensive powerhouse in the past.
The 20-year-old Jack Studnicka will be another interesting player to watch. Sabres fans may be aware of the kid, who played part of last season with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, just across the border. In 60 games last season between Niagara and Oshawa, he put up a whopping 83 points. He also notched four points in five games at the World Juniors.
Another name to watch: Axel Andersson. The 19-year-old defender was drafted by the Bruins in 2018 and spent last season overseas with Södertälje SK. He put up five points, all assists, and added 20 penalty minutes, in 41 games. He also appeared in two games with Djurgårdens IF J20 and has been noted for his puck-moving skills and passing. He should play this season with Providence in the AHL.
New Jersey Devils
This one’s a no-brainer. All eyes will be on Jack Hughes, who was, of course, picked with the first-overall selection in the 2019 NHL draft. A lot has been said about Hughes, but this will be your first chance to see the 18-year-old in action. Hughes captained the U.S. U18 team lat season and put up 112 points in just 50 games. Yeah, the kid is... good, to say the least.
21-year-old Michael McLeod will be another player to keep an eye on. McLeod spent most of last season with Binghamton of the AHL, where he put up 33 points and added 43 penalty minutes in 55 games, The center also recorded three assists in 21 NHL games, his first taste of the big-league action. He’s been noted for his puck handling and skating skills.
One more player to watch: Nikita Popugaev. It’s been an interesting saga between Popugaev and the Devils since 2017 - from getting cut from training camp to returning to the WHL for all of 13 games before heading to Russia to play in the KHL. It didn’t quite work out for him overseas, so he came back stateside and signed with the AHL’s Binghamton Devils rather than returning to juniors with about 6 weeks left in this past season.
Once more, in case you missed it, here’s the full schedule for the Prospects Challenge:
Friday, Sept. 6
• Pittsburgh vs. Boston, 3:30 p.m.
• Buffalo vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 7
• New Jersey vs. Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m.
• Buffalo vs. Boston, 7 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 9
• Boston vs. New Jersey, 9:30 a.m.
• Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh, 12:30 p.m.