The original point of the All-American Prospects Game was to display U.S. kids to NHL scouts. With more than 150 talent evaluators in Buffalo to witness the inaugural event, USA Hockey scored.
“I think in the end, we could not have been more pleased,” Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, said in a statement regarding the Sept. 29 game. “For an inaugural effort, our feedback has been extremely positive from fans, players, scouts, media and our sponsors.”
The full impact of the game won’t be felt until June, when NHL teams decide whether to draft the 38 players who competed in First Niagara Center. In the meantime, USA Hockey and the Buffalo Sabres will decide whether to turn the prospect showcase into an annual event.
“We are very interested in hosting again,” Sabres President Ted Black said Monday via email.
Said Ogrean: “Our staff is in the process of fully reviewing all aspects of the game, and we’ll make a decision on the way forward likely by the end of the year.”
Attendance was disappointing for the event, with an announced crowd of 5,519 translating to nearly twice the actual attendance inside the arena.
But from the beginning, the Sabres said the event was not about ticket sales. It was about building a stronger relationship with USA Hockey and showing the prospects a first-class time.
A private gathering the night before the game, which included a pep talk from Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, and a tour of the Sabres’ locker room and training area connected with the players.
“Going out on the ice in an NHL building was pretty surreal,” defenseman Ian McCoshen said. “It is a pretty spectacular facility that the Buffalo Sabres have.”