A throng of fans gathered in the 100s to see seven teams play mini 3-on-3 games. Guess who else was there: Terry Pegula, Ted Nolan, Tim Murray and many more members of the Sabres’ front office.
Murray spoke after Team Gray (made up of Mikhail Grigorenko, Mark Pysyk, Drake Caggiula, Liam Pecararo and Justin Kea) raised the cup - or a cup.
“I think it’s the start of team building,” the Sabres’ GM said. “These guys will be together at certain points in the year and then some will play together…it’s the start of these guys creating relationships.”
Murray said he views the 3-on-3 tournament as more important than the scrimmage because it focuses more heavily on competitiveness. The teams played game after game, all in one zone, and fought to get pucks past rotating goaltenders Nathan Lieuwen, Andrey Makarov, Jonas Johansson and Linus Ullmark.
Normally the winner of this sort of tournament would mean about as much as who painted the ice, but Grigorenko leading his mini club to victory by dominating the puck and showing superior skill was a positive sign – the type that many have been waiting for from the former first-round selection.
“It was pretty intense,” Grigorenko said, looking stronger than even when he left Rochester in April. “Everyone wanted to win. You also had to be smart – to understand how to play with the rules they told us to play.”
Sam Reinhart was back on the ice after a maintenance day on Thursday. Buffalo’s No. 2 overall pick was non-descript when describing his injury, but insinuated it was simply because of the toll his body has taken from juniors to the combine to camp.
“I could have skated yesterday but the trainers thought it was the best thing,” he said.
“I think it was good to get in, get familiar with the organization and the facilities here and get comfortable on the ice,” Reinhart said. “Obviously it was a high level of play here, so it was good.”
Another young player getting familiar with the Sabres’ organization is Hudson Fasching, who walked out of the locker room with a bandage on his chin thanks to Rasmus Ristolainen. Fasching came over in a trade from the Los Angeles Kings and flashed some competitiveness and talent at camp.
“It gives you a different perspective,” Fasching said of playing against players as big and skilled as Ristolainen. “It helps you get better to play against really good players. It helps my game and gives me a different view on the game in general.”
- Goalie Linus Ullmark continued to impress. His size and quickness immediately stand out. Murray said he has been impressed and noted that Ullmark and Nathan Lieuwen were the goalies most far along in their development
- Nick Baptiste showed flashes of why he scored more than 40 goals in juniors, with an explosive first step and ability to get in front of the net
- Fans will like J.T. Compher, who had no issues keeping up with the competitiveness of the games
- Justin Bailey is an under-the-radar prospect. His size and ability to protect the puck were notacible
- Eric Cornel has a pretty impressive shot. He picked the top corner from the high circle for one goal and was on the puck often
- Victor Olofsson is undersized, but flashed some puck skills that are clearly above average
- Brendan Lemieux is being touted for his competitiveness, but his first stride with the puck is strong and quick and he can handle it too. There’s more there than sandpaper