The ECHL club will likely serve as a safety valve for the Rochester Americans if they’re in need of reinforcements. The Gladiators may also end up being a place to stash additional players in the event that there is no room in Rochester. Based on the training camp roster, the Sabres have a few players who may end up being bumped to the Coast.
After sending ten players back to junior yesterday, the Sabres were left with 47 players in training camp, only 23 will end up on the Sabres opening night roster. Buffalo kept a few interesting names pas the first cut, namely forwards Riley Boychuk, Jonathon Parker and Phil Varone; and defensemen Corey Finenhage, Joe Finley and Matt Mackenzie.
Both Boychuk and MacKenzie are eligible to return to their respective junior clubs while Parker and Varone continue to extend invitations that extend back to prospect camp. Fienhage and Finley stand out to me because of Finley’s size, draft position and lack of a contract and Fienhage simply doesn’t have a deal with the Sabres, that I know of.
I would expect Varone to get a contract, while Parker is probably toeing the line between staying and leaving. Boychuk and MacKenzie will ultimately return to their junior clubs but Fienhage and Finley very well may battle for a spot with the Amerks.
The majority of the 47 players will end up split between Buffalo and Rochester, however there is the opportunity to send additional players to the ECHL and keep them within the system. In the past, players like Fienhage may have been discarded after fizzling in the pipeline, but the new affiliation allows players to be stashed away while still playing the professional game. This will be a great tool for the Sabres to utilize.
For example, goaltender Jeff Jakaitis will be kept as an insurance policy for the Amerks in the event Drew MacIntyre or David Leggio are recalled or injured. The Buffalo News reported that Jakaitis was signed to an AHL contract, today. Maxime Legault and Jacob Lagace are also likely targets for the Gladiators. Both will have a great chance to make the Amerks, but if they are to be cut, they can be sent to Gwinnett and kept in the system for the year. Fienhage, Finley, Parker and even Dennis Persson are on my list of ECHL candidates.
While this affiliation won’t necessarily allow the Sabres to cultivate the next Gretzky, it will keep assets in the system when they would have previously been lost because the AHL club lacked the roster space.