Observations From Development Camp, Part 2: Updates On Grigorenko, Compher, Malone, Catenacci, and More
After going to the morning session on Day 2 of the Sabres Prospect Development Camp, we went back for a second helping during the afternoon sessions. Here's what we came away with.
Here's who was on the ice for the afternoon session, courtesy of Sabres.com:
Daniel Catenacci – Mikhail Grigorenko – Colin Jacobs
J.T. Compher - Justin Bailey
Brad Navin – Sean Malone – Christian Isackson
Tyler Gjurich – Judd Peterson
Brayden McNabb – Chad Ruhwedel
Alex Lepkowski – Jerome Gauther-Leduc
Kevin Czuczman – Anthony Florentino
Who Stood Out
Mikhail Grigorenko - OK, let's get the big guy out of the way first. The most noticeable change in Grigorenko since last season's development camp is in his skating. The work he's put in with the Sabres coaches (he's been in Buffalo all June working) are paying off in his more powerful, confident stride. He still doesn't have the explosiveness of other skaters, but he looks good wheeling around the zone and can stick with most anyone once he gets going. He was a healthy scratch in Buffalo for a few games in order to work more on his skating, so to see it improve this much with a few months still to go until the season starts is a very promising sign.
Grigorenko also flashed his wicked shot in multiple drills, scoring three in a row during a neural zone 3-on-3, and ripping a Vanek-ian slapper in a simple shootout move reminiscent of our favorite Austrian. He also made a few nice passes, though other players sometimes weren't ready for them, and showed off a fancy set of quick hands.
You'll hear people complain about his "battle" or "compete level" during certain drills, but I think that stems from one thing: Grigorenko still uses his stick too much rather than his body to try and dislodge the puck from his opponents - it looks like he's hesitant to engage, while I think it's something more like he's trying to use his best asset (his hands) to his advantage. While he's still not (and I doubt he'll ever be) a battler on the boards, that's not his game. Grigorenko operates best in space, finding soft spots in the zone to either send or receive passes and get off one of his wicked snap shots. His compete level isn't bad, and he doesn't shy away from contact, he just plays a different game than many other, more physical prospects.
Justin Bailey - Bailey stands out mostly for his great size (it's obvious where that whole "linebacker on skates" idea came from) but he also showed some good speed and a hard shot. He clearly has all the tools to be an NHL power forward some day, provided he can put it all together and avoid injuries. Should he do so, the Sabres, and their fans will end up loving this pick.
Daniel Catenacci - Holy cow, this kid is fast. Did you guys know he was fast? Because I did, but I keep forgetting just how fast he is. Turns out, he's really, really fast. Add in an Ennis-level set of quick hands and a nose for the net (a few nice top shelf-ers stood out) and you've got a player to keep a close eye on next season in Rochester.
Sean Malone - The Sabres drafted this Buffalo-born center in the sixth round this year, but today, he just about matched Grigorenko goal for goal, also scoring three in a row during the neutral zone 3-on-3. Malone looked to have a quick, accurate shot, and showed some nice moves in the shootout competition. Good to see a low draft pick outperform his standing.
J.T. Compher - Compher's claim to fame is his fantastic intangibles, and he put his level of compete on display today. One drill stood out in particular, where he and Sean Malone spent a good 60 seconds battling like crazy for loose pucks being thrown in by the coaches, and really went after each other. After the whistle blew, Malone went over to give Compher a hug for the effort, but J.T. was having none of it. It was a funny moment for the fans, but it shows just how much this kid wants to be the best, even at simple drills.
Jerome Gauther-Leduc - JGL came in to this camp with a lot to prove, considering how many young promising defensemen sit ahead of him on the Sabres depth chart. Well he certainly put it all out there today, scoring more goals than anyone except Grigorenko and Malone as far as I could see. His offensive prowess is well documented, but his steadiness on D was a pleasant surprise today. He was the afternoon session's best defender, rising above Brayden McNabb and Chad Ruhwedel. Whether he can keep it up for more than a day remains to be seen, but it was ncie to see him rise to the challenge.
Andrey Makarov, Linus Ullmark, and Nathan Lieuwen - I'm lumping all three of these guys together, because all three made some really excellent saves during the day that drew stick taps from players and coaches alike. They also all showed off a good sense of humor, joking around with the players during drills, and showboating a bit during the shootout. Of course, they all let in some poor goals at times, but the inconsistency is why they're here, right?
That completes our coverage of Day 2 of the Sabres Development Camp. Tune in tomorrow for more prospect news, as well as a recap of the Blue & Gold Scrimmage, which begins Friday at 4pm, $10 admission.