The Sabres’ organization wants to make Buffalo and HarborCenter a destination and focal point of hockey development.
USA Hockey wants to grow the game and celebrate the accomplishments of American-born players.
So the two came together Tuesday morning to announce a two-year partnership to bring the All-Americans Prospects Game to Buffalo in 2014 and 2015.
“The goal is we want the path to the NHL to go straight through Buffalo whether you’re an official or part of the game or a player, to make it to the NHL you’re going to make a stop in Buffalo,” Sabres president Ted Black said. “And that day’s in our sights. ... We want to change the perception of Buffalo and the trajectory of Buffalo and we’re going to do it through hockey and through our vast community involvement as well.”
The inaugural All-American Prospects Game was played in Buffalo in 2012 and featured Seth Jones, currently in his rookie season with the Nashville Predators. Other first-round NHL picks in that game were Michael McCarron and Ryan Hartman.
“When we started the prospects game, the concept was really simple. It was about celebrating the American player,” said Jim Johansson, assistant executive director for USA Hockey. “We really didn’t have something that celebrated the growth and development of the American player, and we felt we were at the stage where we needed an event to showcase those players.”
The event will feature 40 of the top American-born prospects eligible for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. While NHL Central Scouting has not yet rated the players who would play in the 2014 event (scheduled for Sept. 25), Johansson said the class projects to have several first-round draft picks including Jack Eichel, who starred for the U.S. at the World Junior Championships.
And speaking of those World Junior Championships, the United States is next slated to host the international event in 2018. Buffalo hosted the event in 2011. Could it come back to Buffalo and HarborCenter?
“The Sabres are interested in bringing that event to Buffalo. Absolutely,” Black said. “I think all the advantages are obvious. ... We will go after the World Juniors very aggressively, and it’s right in the wheelhouse of what we want to do. We want to bring the world’s best to Buffalo for hockey and the World Juniors really is a defining moment for that.”
USA Hockey loved its experiences in Buffalo and would welcome a bid from the Sabres to host the 2018 World Juniors.
“Buffalo stacks up very well because of the facilities, because of the fans, because of the people who run this team and run this building,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “Our experience here has been terrific. It was a big success, I think, for the city, for the Sabres, for USA Hockey a few years ago.
“I guess the good thing from our standpoint is that when we have had events like the World Juniors in Buffalo when we launched the prospects game in Buffalo, there are other American NHL clubs that have seen that success and have inquired how do we get on the bus? We welcome those expressions of interest, but Buffalo set a very high bar.”
The line of Steve Ott, Cody Hodgson and Matt D’Agostini had an impressive showing for the Sabres in their 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at First Niagara Center.
Hodgson scored the game’s first goal on a pass from Ott while D’Agostini scored in the third period. The two-point night for D’Agostini, who assisted on Hodgson’s goal, gave him 101 career points.
“I thought we did a good job of getting some turnovers on the forecheck,” D’Agostini said of his line. “That’s mainly what we try to do, get our game established by our forecheck. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight, we had the rush going there. It was a great pass by Otter on both goals. It was good to get a couple. We just didn’t get the important one.”
For D’Agostini it also was his first multi-point game since March 19, 2013. He has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games, his best four-game stretch since April 2011.
Hodgson had a goal and an assist to collect three points in two games since returning from an upper-body injury which had him on injured reserve for eight games.
The buzz of the first period was a save by Jhonas Enroth on Claude Giroux. The Sabres’ goalkeeper was out of position, slid across the crease and knocked away the shot with his blocker.
“I thought I could make it,” Enroth said. “I just never gave up on the play. I was a little lucky there that he kept it on the ice and didn’t go upstairs.”
The Sabres’ loss to the Flyers on Tuesday was their first home loss in regulation since they lost to the New York Rangers on Dec. 5. The unbeaten streak at home ended at 6-0-2. ... It was the eighth time this season the Flyers have won after trailing in the third period. The franchise record is nine set in 1996-97. ... Tyler Myers returns to the Sabres tonight when they play at Toronto. He was suspended for three games for a hit to the head against New Jersey on Jan. 4. ... John Scott was the other scratch for Buffalo.