Training camp has once again arrived and unlike last season teams will be able to put their players through a full camp and see where their prospects stand. It will be good for teams like the Sabres to have a full training camp in order to get their young players all on the same page.
With the young Sabres coming off a successful Traverse City tournament, training camp will be a very exciting place. The young players will come in on fire and motivated to push for a roster spot and it will be up to the veterans to match the intensity or ride the bench. It will be exciting just to see the boys back on the ice after the long offseason but, there will be a few interesting storylines to follow throughout training camp.
1. Who plays on the first line?
Two of the three spots on the Sabres first line are tentatively filled, depending on what happens with the centre. What we don’t know is
who will accompany Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson on that first line. Will it be Ville Leino who signed for big money and was expected to be a game changer for the Sabres? How about Steve Ott who saw some time on the first line late last season? Or what about the speedy and determined Tyler Ennis?
If the Sabres want to get a head start on the rebuild perhaps slating Joel Armia or Traverse City sensation Nick Baptiste into the first line isn’t a bad idea. Baptiste earned an invite to the camp, why not give him some rushes with Vanek and Hodgson to see what he’s got?
The good news is the Sabres have lots of options to put with Vanek and Hodgson and training camp is all about finding the right chemistry. Who do you see playing on the top line?
2. Where will Tyler Ennis line up?
The Sabres no longer have an issue with lack of centres, so they don’t need Tyler Ennis to play centre, but he’s not a horrible centre. If Ron Rolston decides to re-unite the Foligno -Ennis- Stafford, line then it’s a safe bet to keep Ennis in the middle, but if that line isn’t together should Ennis stick to the wing?
Ennis battles hard every game and leaves his heart out on the ice and that’s a major reason the Sabres decided to keep him over Nathan Gerbe. Having Ennis in the lineup is a big asset, so it will be interesting to see where they slot him.
3. Who gets the C?
I’m sure you’ve read enough articles debating who should be the Sabres captain this offseason and good news the suspense is almost over. Within the next week Rolston should have his captain named and all the speculation will end, of course there will also be backlash regarding whoever is chosen.
Will it be the no-nonsense Steve Ott, the offencive Thomas Vanek, first-line centre Cody Hodgson or quiet veteran Christian Ehrhoff, who wins the battle for captaincy?
4. Which young players stick around
The Buffalo Sabres are the youngest team in the NHL and they’re only going to get younger in the coming the years. There is a lot of solid talent floating around the AHL and CHL/OHL ranks and a lot of those players will get a chance to show their stuff at training camp. The question becomes, how many rookies will be sticking around?
The forwards for the Sabres are pretty much set and there are few openings, Zemgus Girgensons and Joel Armia probably have the best shot at cracking the forwards. Luke Adam will also be battling hard for a spot in the Sabres line-up. The biggest battle will be on the Sabres blueline where they’re literally overflowing with players. Despite two rough seasons, Tyler Myers will once again be back on the blueline, but who will be joining him? Will Chad Ruhwedel who captained the Traverse City Sabres crack the team? Mark Pysyk may be ready for a full-time NHL stint. And what about Brayden McNabb? Then you throw first round picks Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov into the mix and realize there isn’t enough room on the blueline. Mike Weber, Henrik Tallinder, Myers and Christian Ehrhoff already take up 4 of the 7 spots, look for a dogfight during camp for the final three.
5. Tyler Myers and …
Will Rolston reunite former defence partners Tyler Myers and Henrik Tallinder? Tallinder made Myer’s transistion to the pro’s seemless and was a big part of his Calder Trophy winning season. But since he left the gentle giants game has gone down hill, hopefully reuniting the two can get the old Myers back.
If Myers and Tallinder are not paired together, who would you like to see Myers play with? Christian Ehrhoff could be another calming influence on him or maybe pair him with Mark Pysyk or Chad Rehwedel both solid young defenceman.
With Training camp set to open tomorrow and the Sabres to take the ice on Thursday. These are some of the early storylines to watch. Let me know your thoughts on these 5 area’s in the comments or on twitter @Hockeylife30.