The Buffalo Sabres caught Corey Tropp’s eye during the 2007 playoffs. Little did he know, he was in their sights, too.
“I remember in ’07, my actual draft year, watching the Sabres and how cool it looked in Buffalo,” Tropp said to The News by phone Thursday. “Then, a month later, I was getting drafted by them.”
It turns out Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen also was watching Tropp back then, so he pounced when the Sabres waived the 23-year-old. Tropp’s run in the Sabres’ organization came to an end Thursday when the Blue Jackets claimed the right winger.
“I was a little disappointed with what transpired,” Tropp said while getting ready to head to Ohio. “It was an honor to be a Sabre. One of my greatest memories is my first game I ever played at home. It was real excitement.
“They were great to me and gave me an opportunity to get my first NHL games and help me grow as a person on and off the ice.”
The Sabres helped him hone his competitive spirit, and it will be on display with the Blue Jackets. He’s eager to show the Sabres they made a mistake.
“I’m a passionate player, and I think that shows,” Tropp said. “It was definitely tough getting the news, but it’s exciting to have a good opportunity in front of me. At the end of the day, I’ve got to go out and hopefully make Buffalo regret making that move.”
There’s a chance of that happening. The former third-round pick has hustle and grit, but he’s coming off a knee injury that cost him nearly of all last season. He couldn’t find a spot under new Buffalo coach Ted Nolan, who wanted to see what Tropp could do with significant playing time in Rochester.
“If we’re going to start developing players, we can’t develop them with five, six minutes on the fourth line,” Nolan said. “We have to give them some real minutes and let him see what kind of player he can be. I don’t know if he’s going to be a fourth-line chipper or if he’s going to be a third-line guy. We have to let him play and find that out.
“You’re happy for the young guy,” Nolan added. “That’s unfortunate that we don’t have enough positions or room for him right now. It’s good for him to be picked up by somebody else and get his career going there. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t happening here at that moment. You take a chance, and now it’s good for Corey.”
Tropp played 43 games for the Sabres during his four seasons in the organization, putting up three goals and nine points. He had just one assist and a minus-8 rating in nine games this season.
“We’ve got to start shaking the tent here a little bit and start making these guys appreciate where we are,” Nolan said. “We’re in the National Hockey League, and you have to be on your toes every game because this could happen to anybody.”
The Sabres host Toronto tonight, and the Maple Leafs arrived Thursday after a 6-5 shootout loss in Pittsburgh. Toronto lost, 6-0, to Columbus on Monday.
“Obviously we’ve given up 11 goals in two games, and that’s not going to cut it,” coach Randy Carlyle said in First Niagara Center. “That’s not going to work in the NHL.”
The Leafs had a 4-1 lead over the Penguins early in the second period before collapsing under the weight of penalties. Pittsburgh went 3 for 5 on the power play.
Forward Cody McCormick took part in the Sabres’ optional holiday skate, but he doesn’t expect to play against the Leafs. He’s a possibility for Saturday’s game in New Jersey, but Nolan doesn’t expect him until next week.
“Another day might do it some help,” said McCormick, who suffered an upper-body injury Nov. 21 in Philadelphia. “I just took a stiff hit and didn’t react well to it.”