The Buffalo Sabres, in conjunction with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, will hold a news conference on Thursday at 2 p.m. at the First Niagara Center. The news conference is reportedly in regards to a game, according to Erie Times-News staff writer Victor Fernandes.
— Victor Fernandes (@GoErieHockey) August 20, 2014
Former Sabres defenseman Jay McKee, who was recently named an assistant coach with the Otters, will be in attendance at Thursday’s conference, along with Otters head coach Kris Knoblach, GM Sherry Bassin and 2015 NHL draft hopeful Connor McDavid.
While details are murky at this point, it seems that the Otters will be playing a game in Buffalo sometime soon. Whether it’ll be a preseason game or regular season is uncertain right now, but Erie is set to begin its preseason schedule on August 30 against Mississauga.
Realistically, you’d have to think it would be a regular season game; these things need to be planned out, and announcing a preseason game that would be held in the next month would require a lot of work to put together last-minute like this. Regular season begins September 24 against the Saginaw Spirit, so if it was a preseason game to be held in Buffalo, it’d have to be within the next month, and I somehow doubt that the OHL would set that up. (But who knows, maybe they’ll prove me wrong.)
As for the Otters’ opponent in the game, the Niagara IceDogs would make the most sense geographically, as they play just about 30 miles north of Buffalo, in St. Catharines, Ontario. But the OHL may choose to make this an all-American game and pick one of the other OHL teams located in the United States as an opponent instead.
This is a great opportunity for both the Otters and the Sabres.
Buffalo fans will be able to get a closer look at Connor McDavid, some for the first time. He’ll also be in Buffalo next year for the NHL Combine before he gets drafted to an NHL team in June 2015. Erie is about an hour and a half drive, but this game in Buffalo will allow Sabres fans to catch a glimpse of McDavid and other draft-eligible players in a bigger setting and on our home ice.
Other players on the Otters that may be of note include Dylan Strome – Ryan Strome‘s younger brother, who just won gold with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, and Andre Burakovsky, a Washington Capitals draft pick who may or may not return to Erie, as he may wind up playing with the Caps. There’s also center Kyle Pettit, who was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks this year; Thorold native Jake Evans as well as a pair of players from Hamilton, Patrick Murphy and Quentin Maksimovich, as well as a whole host of other players who have yet to be picked up by an NHL team.
Last season was one of the best in the Otters’ recent history. They finished third in the Western Conference with a record of 52-14-2-0 and 106 points. They finished the season with eight straight victories and went into the playoffs but ultimately fell in the conference finals to the Guelph Storm.
McDavid had 28 goals and 71 assists for 99 points in 56 regular season games during his second season in the OHL. Maple Leafs prospect Connor Brown led the entire Ontario Hockey League with 128 points on the season , while Dane Fox – a Canucks prospect – had 107 points and a league-high 64 goals in an offensively explosive season. Brown and Fox will both likely be in the AHL this season.
More details about the rumored Erie Otters game to be played in Buffalo will be released at Thursday’s conference, which will be held at 2 p.m. at the First Niagara Center.