Standouts from the Sabres Prospects Challenge
Some players stood out, while others.... well, did not.
The Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils wrapped up their weekend-long Prospects Challenge on Sunday afternoon, with each team finishing with a 1-1 record. While I was largely focused on watching the Sabres prospects in action, there were players from each team that stood out on the ice this weekend, whether offensively, defensively, or in net.
It won’t be a name many Sabres fans will know, but I liked what I saw from forward Riley Fiddler-Schultz this weekend, particularly in Friday’s win against the Devils. The 19-year-old was an invite after spending last season with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. He played a physical game and wasn’t afraid to throw himself into the plays, and I can respect that he wanted to make sure his presence was noted.
It’s no surprise that Linus Weissbach made a big impact this weekend. He had multiple phenomenal chances in Friday night’s game, including a breakaway and another opportunity off a pass from Arttu Ruotsalainen. Weissbach was also a component of the Sabres’ top power-play unit, and what a talented unit that was.
Brett Murray was another standout, and there’s no surprise in that. As I wrote previously, Murray said he came into Friday’s game wanting to be the best player out there, and you can argue that he was. He played a strong offensive game but also got physically involved, and he didn’t look like he belonged in a prospects tournament. (That’s a compliment, if you didn’t catch that.)
Defensively, Peter Tischke was another standout. I’ll have more about him in a separate piece tomorrow, but the future Rochester Americans blueliner showed up with a pep in his step that was hard to miss.
Matej Pekar was incredibly quiet on Friday night; I hardly noticed him. That changed in Saturday’s game, when he was more vocal and more involved. Nearly every time there was a scrum on the ice, he was in it, one way or another. It’s the kind of player Sabres fans know him to be - that pest-type - and that’s what he showcased on Saturday afternoon.
Who didn’t stand out? Jack Quinn. He only played in one game and was held out of Saturday’s game due to what coach Appert called “load management,” but I was underwhelmed by his performance on Friday evening.
With regards to the Devils, I was particularly impressed by Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz. Mercer is skilled and knows where to put himself on the ice to find opportunities. There’s a reason he’s averaged over a point-per-game in each of his last QMJHL seasons.
Holtz’s talent is evident to anyone who watches him, and he had an impressive weekend. Just look at this bottle-popping rocket of a shot:
🚨 HOLTZ!— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) September 19, 2021
They say this kid has a good shot. What do you think? pic.twitter.com/vc64q7Yer6
Also, shoutout to Joe Masonius. It isn’t too often you go from playing in the SPHL to attending an NHL prospects camp, and he made his presence known early on Sunday, dropping the gloves with Ian McKinnon.
For the Bruins, the obvious standouts were Jesper Froden and Fabian Lysell. At 26, Froden was one of the oldest players on the ice this weekend but it was his first chance to show off in a Bruins jersey after being signed by the team in June. He had four goals in two games, so I’d say that looks like a good signing for Boston early on.
🎥Jesper Froden on potting two goals in the Bruins' 5-2 win over Buffalo at the Prospects Challenge: "It was a nice experience. A different type of game...but I felt pretty good out there." pic.twitter.com/q3hdLrM5n1— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 19, 2021
Lysell also looked sharp, and it was hard not to watch him every time he was on the ice. He impressed Don Sweeney, too, and is set to play this year with Vancouver in the WHL.
With the Prospects Challenge in the books, the focus now shifts to main training camp and the NHL season that lies ahead. Stay tuned!