The Buffalo Rookie Challenge ended on Monday afternoon with the Cypress defeating the Ottawa Senators 6-3.
Buffalo was the only team that managed to turn the table, finishing 3-0 to perfection.
Pittsburgh has played only once in the tournament. The Penguins defeated the Boston Bruins 6-4 on Saturday afternoon.
Montreal had victories over Ottawa and New Jersey, their only defeat at the hands of the Cypresses 4-3.
New Jersey also finished with two wins and one loss. Their victories over Boston and Montreal and their only loss were a 7-4 defeat to Buffalo.
Senators in Ottawa have never really gone down the right track as a group. They finished with 0-3 record.
Full marks for the Sabers organization and fan base for their support of the season’s inaugural tournament. Two out of three Sabers games were sold out and the fans in attendance were too raucous for the show’s games. The LECOM Harborcenter, home of Canisius College and Buffalo Jr. Sabers of the OJHL, an ideal venue for this event.
Here are some player notes from the tournament. All scout notes from TheProHockeyGroup.com.
Juraj Slavkovsky: 2GP, 0G, 1A
All eyes were on the first public pick of the draft, and he was generally not disappointed. He finished with only one pass in the tournament, but played with a physical presence and relentless rivalry. By the end of his second game he looked frustrated with his game and was clearly looking to make more of an attack.
It will take Slafkovsky some time to adapt to the ice surface of North America and play with more consistent detail from three regions. Main camp starts this week in Montreal. I expect his game to continue to evolve in the coming weeks before the regular season begins. I think he’ll get NHL games to start the season, but there’s a good chance he’ll spend some time with AHL Laval as well.
Drop: Top 6 NHL Power Forward
Owen Peak: 3GP, 2G, 0A
Beck was awesome this weekend. Play with exceptional detail in all three areas. He was never late with the attack zone exits and kept the play ahead of him most bouts. For the time he had a disk on his wand, he could have inflicted even more humiliation with a bit of luck.
Beck is excellent in the confrontation circuit. He wins on both sides of the ice and has his own unique approach (flips his wand to take fights on the strong side of his blade). Demonstrates hockey IQ for use in all situations, if necessary, at a professional level.
Drop: Middle 6 NHL Forward
Arber Xhekaj: 2GP 0 points
Xhekaj set the tone early and often through his physical play. He has a presence. His pace was solid. He was iconic, at times, in the offensive blue line. His outlets were accurate. It’s still early days, but Arber has established himself as a player to watch closely in the Canadiens main camp. He’s close to challenging for a job in the NHL.
Drop: Heavy, bodied, No. 5 D. Potentially top 4 in time.
Kaiden Guhle: 1GP, 1A
Guhle only played one game in the tournament, versus Ottawa, but he gave a positive outlook on what’s to come. In my estimation, he’s NHL ready. Play a fast, physical and assertive match. Show he has legs to lead the lunge alone or join in as an extra layer. Defensively, he’s quick on spaces and bodies very well. Guhle is a relentless competitor and can be deployed in all situations.
Projection: Best Pairing NHL Defenseman
Emil Heinemann: 3GP, 2G, 1A
Heinemann was tough for the Canadians. He showed more skill than expected. Emil is the type of player who needs to play aggressively and tenaciously in all three areas to be effective. He had more puck discs on his wand than I’d seen since I started tracking him three years ago. He must be confident to head to the main camp.
Drop: down 6 NHL forward. Needs seasoning AHL
Justin Barron: 2GP, 1A
Barron wasn’t great at Buffalo. Nor was he poor. He diverted pucks and made some cunning plays in the attack zone. Well distributed on PP. Barron is a transitional two-way defensive man. His defense required more growls at times. It’s early in camp, but both Xhekaj and Guhle outdo it.
Drop: NHL Defenseman’s Middle Conjugation. He may need time at AHL Laval.
Angus Cruikshank: 3GP, 2G, 2A
Cruikshank missed the entire 2021-22 season after being torn in the AFC Champions League at the Buffalo Prospects Challenge last fall. He was, by far, the most competitive and energetic senator this weekend. It’s a rash that never goes away. Angus has the ability to outwit his opponents. He played fast and was a threat away from the rush. When there was a loose disc to be found around the crease, he did not avoid fighting in the trenches.
Projection: 4The tenth NHL streak ahead. Medium spot 6 duty if needed. AHL Belleville to get started
Jake Sanderson: 1GP 0 points
Sanderson was only fit for one match, but it was enough to see that he was ready to compete in the main camp of the Senators. He is an elite skater who sees ice well. He goes out responsibly, extending play into the attack zone, and quickly shuts down opponents. He’s ready to compete for the NHL job in the coming weeks.
Drop: The best NHL Defenseman pairing that will be deployed in all situations
Tyler Boucher: 3GP, 1G
I didn’t like Boucher’s game in this tournament. It gives me the impression that he is not sure how he should define himself as a player. There were times when he set up shop around the crease in the attack area, causing a distraction in the process. However, there were other times when he didn’t fight enough along the wall or in difficult areas. Score his goal in strong play, a shutter on the top shelf of the middle slot. His defensive detail was 50/50 at best. His overall competition was the same. I expected it to be better than it was.
Projection: middle 6 forward if it goes right but it will take some time
Mads Sogaard and Kevin Mandoliez
Sogard faced 27 shots against Boston and allowed five against them. Mandolese faced 44 shots against Montreal and allowed seven against it.
They are not sufficiently established and will need to build their games as roles in the bootcamp.
Expectations: Sogaard will likely get more on the net than Mandolese at AHL Belleville this season. Both take time.
New Jersey Devils
Simon Nemec: 2GP, 1A
The July 2 public pick took a while to get started, but it showed more pros than cons. He actually tried to make his way through the ice, occasionally, with a puck disc on his stick. He also exaggerated playing in the neutral zone several times, expecting the team to be in control and going on the offensive. In the coming weeks, he will be more acclimatized to the smaller ice surface and learn how to better pick spots. He’s an elite potential for the Devils who can score plenty of icy time in all situations, but he’s unlikely to be used on penalty kicks early in his career.
Projection: Best-Paired, Bi-Directional Transitional NHL Defenseman
Alexander Holtz: 2GP, 2G
The Devils first rounder of the 2020 draft showed his speed and skill, but left me wanting for more consistency. His element is a crime. Holtz ripped household pucks from the ward in a play of strength. When competing to his full potential, he has a look from the six best forwards in the NHL for New Jersey. His effort and detail in the three areas will need to improve.
John Beecher: 3GP, 3G, 1A
Beecher was a bit of a mystery in Buffalo. He put in an offensive performance, but there was a stretch in his pace and his response should have been better. When he’s at his best, he plays fast and fast and gives opponents everything they can handle along boards and curls. He’s not naturally gifted with discus and I wouldn’t expect him to score a ton at the NHL level. He has a lot to give him despite the fact that he led the Bruins in scoring at Buffalo.
Projection: middle 6/2 forward direction
Ryan Humphrey: 3GP, 2G
Humphrey jumped at me for all the right reasons. He was relentlessly hurting in the ass! He did not hold back from getting involved in difficult spaces and played with some speed and skill. It will be interesting to see what happens with Ryan in the coming days. He’s in camp on an experience and will be back at OHL Hamilton at some point. It would be interesting to see if Boston invited him to their main camp.
Projection: 13The tenth Striker / Minor League summons. heading up
Tyson Cusack: 3GP, 4G
A seventh-round pick of the 2021 draft, Cusack has a chance to be an NHL player one day. Score goals, clear and simple. On the weekend, he found pucks in high-risk areas and took his chances. He has some work to do off the disc and in his territory. He will need to be more committed on a professional level. But you can’t teach him his skills. Could be a good story in the future.
Drop: Middle 6 NHL Forward possible.
Isak Rosen: 3GP, 1G, 2A
Rosen’s element is abuse. It will never be published in PK at the NHL level. From the impulse he showed some deception and the ability to get the edge and drive, or withdraw, to make plays. Defensively he was average but not his area of strength. He is a skilled and light striker and will need to find a role in the top half of the Sabers squad to make an impact. It will take time, but he showed glimpses of what he can do this weekend.
Projection: He will either be the top 6 striker in the NHL or the 13The tenth straight ahead
Jiri Kulich: 2GP, 1G, 2A
Kulic came to camp with a nagging leg injury that disqualified him from the first game of the tournament. He scored all three of his points against New Jersey on Saturday. His goal was scored in an empty net. His pace seems healthy and there’s no doubt he has the skill to be an influential player in the NHL. For that day to arrive, sooner rather than later, the details of his three regions and away from the puck’s efforts must be much better than they were this weekend. I try not to be too critical, as this is his first camp and he’s acclimatising, but his awareness of the defensive zone was very disconcerting.
Matt Savoy: 3GP, 3G
Savoie emptied the tank on each shift. There is no doubt that he will produce offense at the NHL level one day. This is his first pro camp and his saber is in the middle. At times, it seemed like it was too much of a request for him to track down and descend on the ice and maintain enough energy to play with his element offensively. Time will tell, but it’s more suitable to play as a winger at the NHL level in my opinion.
Colin Sawyer: 1GP, 4A
Sawyer is entering his first year in professional hockey after four years at Michigan Tech. It was only one game watching but it was a great day. Sawyer is able to skate the pucks out of his area and attack quickly. It has a transitional component. It is also very well distributed over the power play. I would describe his defense as “high end of average”. He is not very tall (6 feet) but does have some weight and strength (190 lbs). He is 24 years old and seems more mature than the others in the match against Boston.
Drop: NHL Defenseman/7 . lower couplingThe tenth Dr
Samuel Boleyn: 1GP, 1G, 2A
The 2019 first-round selection Penguins is entering its second season of professional hockey. He played on his identity at the weekend. His goal was to tap in from outside the right post right after the disc had rebounded amicably from the pitcher behind the net. Being around the crease to create a screen and looking for a tip or a bounce is exactly where Pauline will find success at the NHL level. He played a very strong match against Boston. He’s not naturally offensively talented and his career has room to take it to another level. If he plays on his strengths, and exhausts opponents in difficult areas, he has a chance to be a National Hockey League player.
Drop: Down 6 NHL Power Forward