Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres had their first formal practice ahead of this weekend's Prospects Challenge on Wednesday. Jack Quinn had to leave the ice early after getting two teeth chipped.
Quinn has been moved to center for this week after playing a little center with the Rochester Americans last season. Amerks head coach Seth Appert said they think center could be Quinn’s best position.
“We started that last year, and if he didn’t have surgery to end it, the last 10 to 15 games he would’ve been a center for us," Appert said following Wednesday's session at Harborcenter. "I think he played three [games] at center and was very, very good at it.”
Appert isn’t the only one that thinks that way. Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams also feels the same about Quinn.
“We’ve always felt as an organization that he has the traits of a center, and now we’ll start the process,” Appert said.
Quinn tried to play through a hernia injury last season that eventually ended his 2020-21 season. The forward has been back on the ice this summer, and Appert said he’s fully recovered and will play in the two games this weekend.
“'Quinner' has had a very impactful summer both in his training and the weight room, plus, the work he did on the ice to improve some pieces in his game," he said of Quinn.
Appert has been consistent with Quinn since the 19-year-old arrived in Rochester this past season, giving him the things he needs to work on.
“The beauty of Jack is he’s really coachable," Appert said. "When you tell Jack Quinn to go attack an area of his game, he does.
“This summer, we challenged him to keep improving his shot, his release and how quick his release can be, because he can power it past junior goalies. But the release is more important in how you get it off and how deceptively you are in pro [hockey]. We challenged him to get better in his skating.”
The question to ask with this decision to move Quinn to center is, what did the Sabres see in the 2020 first round pick to make them think he can play a position he’s never played before?
“He’s a play driver, and there’s not a ton of wingers that are play drivers," Appert explained. "A lot of times, wingers are guys that get out early on offense and can score, or they have some defensive deficiencies to their game. But Jack is a play-driving winger, and he’s incredibly intelligent in how he attacks the game both on the ice and how he looks at the game off the ice.”
Quinn will have 2020 second round pick J-J Peterka on his right wing, and 2016 fourth round pick Brett Murray on the left side.
Peterka had never been to Buffalo until three days ago. Appert felt his first practice on Wednesday went well.
“He’s a dynamic athlete and an explosive hockey player. I’m certainly excited to get the chance to start working with him," Appert said of Peterka.
“J-J is one of those rare guys that has the speed and the skill and the explosiveness of elite, dynamic offensive players. But he also has the lurking goal scoring ability that more of the intelligent offensive players have. So he has shown at the younger age groups to have that really good combination of speed with the cerebral goal scoring ability that all special goal scorers have.”
Appert is excited that Peterka has elected to come to North America. Peterka is only 19-years-old, but he’s played pro hockey for the past two seasons with EHC Red Bull Munchen in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany. In 72 career games, he has 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points.
Appert said after playing wing last season, Arttu Ruotsalainen will be moved to center for this week. In 17 games with the Sabres, Ruotsalainen had five goals and six points. When he got called up, he was Rochester’s leading scorer with five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 13 games.
Ruotsalainen also played 19 games for Ilves Tampere in the Finnish Liiga last season, netting 16 goals and 11 assists for 27 points.
One of the invitees at forward is Thomas Casey from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Last season with the Charlottetown Islanders, he netted 34 goals and 40 assists for 74 points in just 38 games. The year before, he had 26 goals in 57 games. Appert is really excited to see what the undersized winger can do.
“He had a really good year last season, and in a normal year where there wasn’t [COVID-19] and there was a full season, he might have earned other opportunities. His numbers speak for themselves,” Appert said.
57 - Brett Murray / 22 - Jack Quinn / 77 - J-J Peterka
81 - Viljami Marjala / 25 - Arttu Ruotsalainen / 65 - Linus Weissbach
63 - Josh Bloom / 58 - Riley Fiddler-Schultz / 54 - Olivier Nadeau
73 - Matej Pekar / 48 - Tyson Kozak / 61 - Thomas Casey
23 - Mattias Samuelsson / 64 - Oskari Laaksonen
56 - Matthew Cairns / 38 - Nick Boka (67 - Peter Tischke)
59 - Clay Hanus / 68 - Charlie DesRoches
1 - Ukko-Pekka Luukkoenen
50 - Mack Guzda
Brandon Biro and Oliver Satny were also supposed to be on the ice on Wednesday, but they were not present.
You can hear both games of the Sabres Prospects Challenge this Friday night and Saturday on WGR Sports Radio 550. I’ll be joined by Brian Koziol and Brayton Wilson starting at 7 p.m. ET on Friday against the New Jersey Devils. Before we bring you the game on Saturday against the Boston Bruins, we’ll have a one hour roundtable show starting at 2 p.m. ET.