PUCKSTOP by Andrew Kulyk

World Cup, Prospects Challenge, Training Camp and it’s only September

Here it is, not even October yet, temperatures outside are still summerlike, yet the month of September has been a busy one for hockey enthusiasts in the Buffalo area, as several marquee events have already taken place and 2016-2017 training camp is well underway at HarborCenter.

World Cup of Hockey.

But tune in to ESPN, and it’s been plenty of hockey, as the World Cup of Hockey 2016 has been taking place just up the road at the Air Canada Centre. An interesting format has eight different countries taking to the ice. Sort of. For two of the teams are labeled “Team North America” comprised of under 24 players, and “Team Europe”, star from all Euro countires outside of Sweden, Finland and Russia.. And that means that the two generational players of last year’s draft, Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, appear on the same roster in international tournament play, something that will probably never happen again.

The results have been somewhat predictable, with Team Canada owning the event and looking nearly flawless before a full throated home town crowd. What has been surprising however, is the lackluster play of Team USA, coached by John Tortorella. The Americans looked overwhelmed and spooked in what amounted to summer shinny, going down quietly with a 0-3 record.

The finals are now underway, with Canada facing Europe in a best of three format. If it goes to a deciding third game, that will take place this Saturday. A quadrennial return to the World Cup is promised, with the next event taking place in 2020.

Prospects Challenge

This is the second year that three teams – the Sabres, the Boston Bruins, and the New Jersey Devils have sent their juniors and prospects to play a round robin tournament here in Buffalo, and two weekends ago the event took place over a four day span at HarborCenter. The public was invited to attend and watch team scrimmages and practices, and then three games in a row, two involving Buffalo.

For the Sabres prospects, it was a pretty disappointing performance, losing both games, first to the Devils by a 6-3 score and then two nights later to the Bruins 4-3. Local products Justin Bailey, Matthew Lane and Austin Osmanski were listed on the Buffalo roster, although Bailey, who played the bulk of last season with the Rochester Americans and getting three separate call ups to Buffalo, saw only limited action on one of the prospects games.

For Osmanski, who was drafted in the 7th round back in June at the NHL Draft, this was his first opportunity to dress in a Sabres uniform and was in the lineup wearing his number 51. It’s been a whirlwind summer for Osmanski, who plays for the OHL Mississauga Steelheads, and sat through two days of selections before hearing his name called right at the end of this year’s draft. It is most likely that Osmanski will return to play with his teammates in Mississauga as training camp winds down.

Training Camp

As Sabres training camp opened here in Buffalo last week, predictably most eyes and attention were placed on embattled forward Evander Kane, whose off season was full of stories and dramas as he faces yet more legal problems stemming from his off ice behavior.

Kane has gone on the offensive relating to his incident from last winter, and has filed a countersuit against the woman who filed a civil suit against him seeking damage for injuries sustained in his hotel room. Kane has called the suit “a sham” and is suing for legal fees and other costs. In a separate incident, Kane is also facing for assault relating to allegations of assault against three women in a Buffalo bar.

If Kane is contrite and apologetic about all the drama that has surrounded him during his hockey career, with a lengthy list of incidents and “bad boy” melodrama that has dogged him even back to his days in Winnipeg, he did not show it on opening day of camp.

Facing a large media contingent, Kane explained his situation like this: “These things unfortunately happen more often than not, and they’re becoming more and more prevalent each and every day if you look around other sports,” Kane said. “For me, it’s trying to stay out of that kind of stuff and kind of picking my spots better.”

So in other words, it’s everyone else’s fault and all athletes get into these kind of jams and he has to be more careful moving forward.

The Sabres have already had two preseason games, one down at Penn State University’s Pegula Ice Arena and a second here at home, and will play the Toronto Maple Leafs this Friday at the newly renamed KeyBank Center. By this weekend the first roster cuts should be in place as the team gets ready for its remaining exhibition games nest week.

The regular season schedule begins at home on Thursday, October 13 against the Montreal Canadiens.