I checked out the Buffalo Sabres’ optional practice Wednesday morning at the Northtown Center in Amherst. It was tough to really gauge who looked ready to play (everyone looks good when no one’s really playing defense and the goalies aren’t professional caliber) but here’s what stood out to me:
—Steve Ott looked good. Everyone on the ice had his way with the goalies (even “coach” Andrew Peters), but Ott’s shots were particularly well-placed and he continued to create openings and finish when they broke into small-sided games.
—John Scott skated for the first time this week, donning New York Rangers gear and green socks. The 6-foot-8 newcomer’s biggest talent seems to be just that: being a large person. All pros are great puck-handlers and shooters, but other players on the ice were clearly a step above him talent-wise. Scott hasn’t scored since 2009-10, but that’s OK — his job is to be large and intimidating (and/or take out Milan Lucic) and he certainly accomplishes that.
—Ville Leino, perhaps not unexpectedly, was the guy I noticed least on the ice. He was in and around the play, but aside from one nice shot he didn’t really stand out. Leino also had tape wrapping around the bottom of his shin guards to the back part of his skates. It looked weird. He had a foot injury last year but I don’t think this was related.
—Thomas Vanek had some nice dangles, which is what you expect from your highest-paid player. Also made a few nice passes through traffic. The Sabres are going to need him to score.
—Matt Ellis had a decent showing. I have him pegged for the fourth line this year.
—Mike Weber is still Mike Weber, mixing in both “wow” and “ugh” plays regularly.
—Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford didn’t look bad either. Nothing negative to say. Same goes for Pat Kaleta, though his ceiling is lower.
—Jordan Leopold looked solid without drawing too much attention to himself.
—The only other guys on the ice were Peters and Jay McKee, who ran practice, and two goalies who didn’t move until most shots were in the back of the net. People don’t think much of Peters and his four career goals, but man, compared to the average guy, he can play.
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