Kassian, Foligno impress at Sabres Development Camp
blog by Talon • July 11, 2011 @ 3:49pm
The buzz that’s surrounded the Buffalo Sabres in recent weeks was certainly amplified after an extremely successful prospect development camp. As a Niagara University student and avid hockey supporter, I have spent my fair share of time in Dwyer Arena, NU’s on-campus hockey facility. That being said, the arena and parking lot are seldom as full as they were this Saturday as a fellow Buffalo.comer and I arrived for an inter-squad scrimmage between some of the Buffalo Sabres’ most promising prospects.
Fans witnessed a heated battle between the gray squad and the white squad, an encounter which we dubbed “Kassian vs. Foligno.” We came up with the name because these were the players we were most excited to see. Looking at the lineup, we couldn’t have been happier as Marcus Foligno’s top line was matched up against a line which featured Tyler Ennis and Zack Kassian on the wings, centered by the promising Luke Adam. Despite struggling on Saturday, we are still very hopeful about Adam, especially due to the Sabres’ admitted lack of depth at the center position.
The first half of the scrimmage was defined by spectacular goaltending; clearly these guys had a lot to prove since they’re fighting to make the Sabres’ roster, which already features two highly touted net-minders. A moment which really stuck out was a Dominik Hasek-esque diving save by up-and-comer Nick Eno, immediately after being wiped out behind the net.
The second half of the scrimmage was a different story. The more promising offensive players of the group began to assert their dominance, and seven goals were tallied for a final score of 5-2 in favor of Foligno’s white team. Unlike the gray team, the white team was the benefactors of scoring production from all over the board, exactly the type of balanced scoring effort that Sabres fans have come to expect in recent years. Despite his team’s losing effort, the gray team was lucky to receive a top notch performance, including multiple points, from the player we were so anxious to watch, Zack Kassian. In fact, Kassian did more than just score; physical play, puck possession and grit were among the other talents showcased by the twenty-year-old forward from Ontario. After being reminded of a young Eric Lindros, we determined that a bit more time to mature and refine his game is all that is needed for Kassian to be a serious force to be reckoned with in the NHL.
After an hour and a half of back and forth hockey and a belly full of complimentary Tim Horton’s coffee and bagels, we hit the road with a double shot of optimism and enough hockey material to discuss for the remainder of the weekend. If you were worried that Mr. Pegula and company hadn’t filled all of the necessary voids (and I would argue that you would have to be crazy to think that) then this crop of speedy, skilled and noticeably larger future Sabres should be more than enough to satisfy your apprehension about the future of Buffalo hockey.
I must admit, I felt rather under dressed for the occasion. My khaki pants and collared polo stuck out like a sore thumb in the sea of official Sabres shirts, hats and jerseys. If I needed any reassurance that Buffalonians are crazy about their Sabres, I had it within first glance at the thousands on hand to see the future cast members of the Buffalo Sabres’ ongoing Stanley Cup drama. A quick glance to my left at legendary Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret helped spawn the most excitement for an upcoming hockey season since the first campaign following the NHL lockout. I’m thrilled to draw a comparison between this year’s team and the team from ’05-’06, who realized great success. If it weren’t for a banged up defense and an inhuman Eastern Conference Finals performance by the creature from the blue lagoon (the ever ugly Rod Brind’amour), the Sabres would have been favorites to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in a finals showdown against the Edmonton Oilers.