Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres will open the 2023 Sabres Prospects Challenge on Friday in front of a sellout crowd against the Montreal Canadiens at Harborcenter.
It’s a chance for fans to see five of the Sabres' first-round picks in Jiri Kulich, Zach Benson, Matt Savoie, Ryan Johnson and Isak Rosen.
It’s a time for young prospects to show general manager Kevyn Adams and head coach Don Granato where they’ve improved their games since last season.
Rochester Americans head Seth Appert will be leading the way behind the bench for the Sabres. He says he will have a message for the team before they hit the ice.
"In practice, we’ve tried to give them enough that we don’t look like a shinny hockey team, so have enough structure where we look organized. If we’re organized enough, they get to show how talented they are," said Appert following Friday's morning skate.
"Tonight the message will be compete and play fast. We want guys to show how high their compete is, as playing fast is how fast we think, knowing the play you want to make before we get it."
For the first three days of practice, the lines stayed the same, so there’s a good chance fans will get to see Benson play with Savoie, just like they did with the Winnipeg Ice (now Wenatchee Wild) last season.
Last season for the Amerks, Kulich, at times, was with Rosen, and they’ve been together in practice. Kulich moved to center from the wing late last season and into the playoffs. He’s been practicing at center all this week.
Three of the Russian draft picks will likely be playing on Friday in Aleksandr Kisakov, Viktor Neuchev and Nikita Novikov.
Other picks from the 2023 class that are here with the team are fourth-round pick Ethan Miedema, fifth-round goalie Scott Ratzlaff and seventh–round pick Norwin Panocha.
Keep your eye on Rochester signee, defenseman Zach Metsa. The former Quinnipiac captain is undersized, but once he got into the lineup last year in the Calder Cup Playoffs, Appert couldn’t take him out. He performed very well, and could very well earn a NHL contract.
Appert does have him on one of the power play units for the tournament. Metsa won the NCAA championship with Quinnipiac last April.
Others on the power play with the defenseman are Kulich, Rosen, Olivier Nadeau, and Neuchev.
The other unit is Benson, Savoie, Filip Cederqvist, Mats Lindgren and Kisakov.
Join me, Brian Koziol and Brayton Wilson for all the action starting at 7 p.m. ET on WGR Sports Radio 550.