Sabres Prospect Update/NCAA Tournament Preview

The seasons of many Sabres prospects are starting to come to an end. Buffalo has a few prospects that will participate in this year’s NCAA tournament. In this update, I’ll run down the stats of the players whose seasons are now over and also preview the NCAA games for this weekend.

Sean Malone
Center
159th overall (2013)
Harvard (NCAA)
33GP 18G 24A 42PTS

Sean Malone had a terrific year for Harvard this season. Malone has been really plagued with injuries throughout his four years at Harvard but this year he was healthy and had his best season in the NCAA. I believe that the Sabres will try very hard to get Malone signed once Harvard’s season comes to an end. Malone is a senior and he could potentially exercise his right to test free agency on August 15th but I highly doubt that will happen because Sean is a Buffalo native. Malone will be a great addition to a very weak Rochester Americans team for next season.

Anthony Florentino
Right Defense
143rd overall (2013)
Providence (NCAA)
29GP 9G 7A 16PTS

Anthony Florentino is a guy that will help out Rochester a lot for next season. Rochester’s defensive corps has been terrible all season with their two best defensemen in Justin Falk and Taylor Fedun being in Buffalo for most of the season. Florentino is in the exact same situation as Sean Malone right now. He is a senior and he could potentially be a free agent on August 15th. It’s just a matter of if he wants to sign with Buffalo. I think he’ll sign with Buffalo once Providence’s season comes to an end.

Malone and Florentino will face each other in the first round of the NCAA tournament this weekend. Harvard is the clear favorite to win this matchup, they are the 3rd seed in this year’s tournament. Despite being swept 2-0 in the 1st round of the Hockey East playoffs by Cal Petersen and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Providence still found a way to make it to the big NCAA tourney. The game will take place this Friday at 4:00 on ESPNU.

Ivan Chukarov
Left Defense
182nd overall (2015)
UMass Amherst (NCAA)
36GP 2G 6A 8PTS

Chukarov and UMass will not be in this year’s NCAA tournament and Ivan will most likely be back at UMass for his junior year. I didn’t get a chance to see much of Ivan this year but I always thought he was an okay defenseman at the development camps.

Will Borgen
Right Defense
92nd overall (2015)
St. Cloud (NCAA)
33GP 2G 10A 12PTS

St. Cloud won’t be in the NCAA tournament this year after they lost in the playoffs to North Dakota. Borgen was suspended for those 2 games for shoving a referee. Will is probably Buffalo’s 2nd best defensive prospect behind Brendan Guhle and there was some discussion that Borgen may turn pro after St. Cloud’s season ended. But St. Cloud’s coach, Bob Motzko already confirmed that both of the Sabres prospects on the Huskies will be returning to school next season. Borgen is a sophomore right now so I don’t have a problem with him going back to school. I expect him to turn pro at the end of next season.

Judd Peterson
Center
204th overall (2012)
St. Cloud (NCAA)
36GP 11G 6A 17PTS

Peterson will also be going back to school at St. Cloud for his senior year. There is a chance he’ll go to free agency on August 15th, 2018 but I think he’ll sign with Buffalo at the end of his senior year with the Huskies. Peterson will eventually help out the Amerks a lot. I don’t see him as a future NHLer but I think he can have a good career in the American League.

Casey Fitzgerald
Right Defense
86th overall (2016)
Boston College (NCAA)
37GP 5G 17A 22PTS

Casey Fitzgerald had a nice season with the Boston College Eagles this season. He was drafted by the Sabres in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft after being undrafted in 2015. BC won’t be in the NCAA tournament this year and Fitzgerald will not be turning pro this year. Like Borgen, Casey is a sophomore and will return to school next year and I think he will sign with Buffalo at the conclusion of BC’s season. Fitzgerald also played for team USA at the World Juniors and I thought he was very good in that tourney.

Chris Brown
Center
151st overall (2014)
Boston College (NCAA)
34GP 9G 17A 26PTS

Brown has shown a lot of growth in his 2nd year at BC this year. He doubled his production and he even played fewer games than he did last year. I think he was a nice find by Tim Murray and the scouting staff in the 6th round of the ’14 draft. I think his ceiling could be a bottom 6 forward in the NHL if he continues to develop the right way but it is very likely that he will just be a nice player in the AHL.

Max Willman
Center
121st overall (2014)
Brown (NCAA)
31GP 11G 15A 26PTS

Kind of like Chris Brown, Max Willman showed a lot of growth from the 15-16 season to the 16-17 season and doubled his point production from last year. I didn’t get a chance to watch Brown this year so I don’t think I can comment on his performance. Brown will not be in the NCAA tournament and Willman will most likely be returning to Brown University for his senior year.

Connor Hurley
Center
38th overall (2013)
Notre Dame (NCAA)
21GP 4G 12A 16PTS

Hurley had a hot start to the 2016-2017 season but he season ended a few weeks back due to an injury. Hurley was probably having his best year at the University of Notre Dame before that injury. Due to that injury, Hurley will not be able to play in the NCAA tournament. Hurley will most likely be going back to Notre Dame for his senior year and I believe he’ll sign with Buffalo at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

Brett Murray
Left Wing
99th overall (2016)
Penn State (NCAA)
12GP 0G 1A 1PT

Murray jumped into the Penn State lineup in the middle of the college season after ripping it up with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. Murray had 20 points in 27 games in his rookie USHL season. The production really hasn’t been there at all in Murray’s 12 NCAA games this year and there have been some nights where he can’t make it into the lineup. Penn State will be in the NCAA tourney and will play Union College on Saturday at 4:30 but I don’t expect Brett Murray to play much if he does manage to make it into the lineup. He’ll return to Penn State next season and will certainly have a bigger role with the team.

Philip Nyberg
Right Defense
129th overall (2016)
Connecticut (NCAA)
16GP 1G 5A 6PTS

Nyberg was one of the players who caught my eye at the development camp from the summer of 2016. The first thing you’ll notice about Nyberg is his size. He’s 6’4″ and he looked like he was very defensively sound. Like Brett Murray, Nyberg entered college midway through the 2016-2017 season after playing in the USHL. He played for the Madison Capitols and he notched 9 points in 25 games. He’ll return to the University of Connecticut for next season and I expect that he’ll have a bigger role.

Cal Petersen
Goaltender
129th overall (2013)
Notre Dame (NCAA)
37GP 21W 11L 5T 0.928SV% 2.14GAA 6SO

Cal Petersen’s decision of whether he’s gonna turn pro or not has been probably one of the biggest discussions the Buffalo fans have had all season. He had a phenomenal season with Notre Dame this year and helped them make it to the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame will play Minnesota on Saturday at 3:30. Cal Petersen has played over 80 consecutive games and that start streak goes all the way back to his freshman year in 2014-2015. Tim Murray tried to sign Cal after the end of last season but Petersen wanted to play another year at ND. Cal was the captain of his team which is very unusual because he’s a goaltender. Buffalo’s GM said on WGR550 yesterday that Cal Petersen has nothing left to prove at the college level. And I firmly agree with GMTM on this. Cal has gotten about double the development than any other player and it’s pointless for him to return for his senior year. But the question is, will he sign with Buffalo? Or will he go to free agency on August 15th? Since Cal Petersen has played 4 seasons since being drafted in 2014 (1 season in the USHL and 3 seasons in the NCAA) he can elect to go to free agency on August 15th of 2017. But if he wants to go to free agency he must notify NHL central registry that he is turning pro by June 1st. Now there’s still a chance that he can return to Notre Dame for next year but I still think he’s gonna turn pro. I do think he will sign with Buffalo because of the amount of opportunity there is in the crease. I expect that Linus Ullmark will be ready to back up Robin Lehner for next season which will let Cal be the starting goalie in Rochester for 2017-2018.

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