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Buffalo Sabres Development Camp Diary #2

Michael Peca is well-versed in what it takes to become an NHL player. Goodness knows he’s been around the game long enough, which makes him the perfect match to work with Buffalo Sabres prospects this week at development camp.

“The talent that’s out there is remarkable,” Peca said on Friday morning. “It’s the vibe off the ice that’s just as impressive. Everybody that spoke in front of the microphone [in the] second half of last year talked about the culture and environment, and how it’s just changed so much for the better.”

Among those who have caught Peca’s eye this week are, naturally, the first-round picks.

“When you see a team pick three first-round centremen, that means at least two of them might be on the wing at some point in their career. But I think it’s exciting. They said it, they picked the best player available.”

Peca noted Noah Östlund’s ability to move around the ice and his strength on the puck as key highlights. He’s also been particularly impressed with Jiří Kulich. Kulich was taken by the Sabres in the first round of the 2022 draft with the 28th overall pick, but based on what we’ve seen this week, he could’ve gone a lot higher – and the Sabres certainly could’ve taken him at 16.

“He’s just edged JJ out at the amount of oohs and aahs he’s created in the stands with his scoring ability,” Peca said. “His shot’s the obvious thing, it jumps out at you, but it’s his poise as an 18-year-old on the ice and off, in this environment, off the ice. He’s incredibly mature.”

“I think it’s been good for him to have [Lukas] Rousek and [Matej] Pekar and even [Jakub] Konečný. They call them the Czech Mafia. They’re tight,” he added.

Other notes:

  • Goaltender Tobias Leinenen wasn’t on the ice Friday. Peca said he’s dealing with “a bit of an injury.” Here’s to hoping that’s not anything too bad or long-term.
  • Does Jack Quinn ever *not* have a smile on his face? Kid is always smiling. Vibes are great.
  • “He made guys’ jaws drop on a daily basis in practice with his passing ability and his vision. I think that’s why he endeared himself so quickly to the guys; he just fit right in.” – Peca on Lukas Rousek
  • Erik Portillo has finally gotten *some* of his own gear after losing three bags of equipment in the London airport. While he was still sporting an old Jhonas Enroth-era Sabres mask, he finally had his signature pads, glove and blocker. Hey, it’s a start. Here’s to hoping the rest of it gets to Buffalo… eventually… (At any rate, Peca said he’s been impressed by both Portillo and Devon Levi in this week’s camp.)/

The Sabres prospects will wrap up this week’s development with the French Connection Tournament on Saturday morning. The 3-on-3 tournament kicks off at 9:15 a.m. at Harborcenter. It’s a ticketed event and, it appears, all tickets went to season ticketholders, but it will be streamed on Sabres.com and on social media.