What They’re Wearing: Alex Ovechkin

What They’re Wearing: Alex Ovechkin

What They’re Wearing: Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin is one of the most electric playmakers in the NHL today. He’s perhaps the most pure goal scorer amongst the league’s elite and he is one of the few players that opponents need to keep an eye on at all times when he’s on the ice.

He’s also a player who is very focused on his gear. During the Capitals’ appearance on 24/7 he was one of the most excited players when their new equipment arrived ahead of the Winter Classic. He’s also gone through a major overhaul after he switched from CCM to Bauer a few years ago.

Helmet: Bauer RE-AKT helmet: Ovechkin wears the flagship helmet from Bauer along with a Bauer HDO Pro Straight Visor. His history of wearing a smoked or tinted visor added to his legend in a way given the unique look that he sported throughout his early career. The RE-AKT is a great helmet for a player like Ovechkin who has shown that he doesn’t shy away from contact and having a lid with Bauer’s Suspend-Tech padding liner will aid in lessening impacts taken when Ovechkin is giving or taking checks.

Stick: Bauer TotalOne NXG: Ovechkin’s banana-hook curve has gained almost cult status as the curve on his stick is beyond that of what any other pro uses these days. The TotalOne NXG suits Ovechkin’s game well as the lightweight, responsive stick is also quite tough. For a player that takes as many slap shots and one-timers as Ovechkin, a more durable model stick is exactly what’s needed.

Gloves: Bauer APX Pro: Interestingly, the TotalOne is the only piece of equipment that Ovechkin uses that doesn’t fall in line with the rest of his gear. Between his APX gloves and skates, it seems clear that Ovechkin prefers the speed and quickness promoted by that line of gear. The APX Pro gloves are no exception. Their tapered fit promotes a snug, responsive feel for the player, allowing the most adept stick handlers and shooters a glove that moves along with them at all times.

Skates: APX 2: A ridiculously lightweight skate, perfect for powerful skaters like Ovechkin. The stunning weight of the overall package leaves you feeling barely anything on your foot while you play. The APX 2 utilizes the new Lightspeed 2 TUUK that promotes a tighter turning radius due to a slightly higher angle thanks to the new holder. These are a perfect skate for Ovechkin as he’s consistently playing with the puck on his stick; and for a player who steams up the wing before making split-second changes in direction, a skate like this suits his game perfectly.

Set yourself apart with vintage inspired gear

Bauer Vintage TotalONE NXG Composite Hockey Stick

Set yourself apart with vintage inspired gear

As the holiday season approaches, as does the time for the NHL to take their game outdoors. That means all sorts of new uniforms are to be worn by the participating teams. Quite often those new uniforms are of the vintage variety and that vintage look is something that serves to be quite popular amongst fans.

Unfortunately, most players are unable to snag a pair of gloves or some of the other special edition equipment worn by the players and goalies during the Winter or Heritage Classic. Unless you’re willing to shell out major dough on eBay for game worn items, players are typically stuck enjoying the unique gear on television. But that’s no longer the case.

Great Skate is carrying a handful of special edition items this season that offer you an exclusive product much like what will be seen on the ice during the NHL’s outdoor games.

Bauer is offering two separate models of their Supreme TotalOne NXG stick in a vintage finish that’s quite reminiscent of a traditional wood stick. The primary finish is a natural or “vintage white” base with a very traditionally inspired graphic to finish the look. The sticks come in either a blue and red or black and red pattern, with the black and red being ever so slightly more modern due to the lack of the natural finish from the hosel up towards the middle of the stick.

The Vintage TotalOne NXG shares all of the features and benefits of the basic NXG with three different curve patterns available. The blue and red looks particularly good as the vintage white finish really makes the stick pop with the traditional design.

To complement the traditional NXG, Great Skate is also offering a unique, limited edition Warrior Bonafide X glove in a Winter Classic inspired design for Detroit and Toronto’s appearance in the Winter Classic this season.

Warrior Bonafide X Vintage Winter Classic Hockey Gloves

Warrior Bonafide X Vintage Winter Classic Hockey Gloves

The glove is a basic Bonafide X four-roll build with nothing but nylon as the outer finish. It has the look and feel of a pro glove and the addition of the lightweight nylon adds to that. Both the Toronto and Detroit color ways are just a basic blue and red, respectively. There are no additional stripes or graphics to dress these gloves up. Only the white (vintage white for the Detroit gloves) Warrior logo on the cuff and a custom Detroit and Toronto inscription where a player’s name would go on a pro model.

The Bonafide glove is a great model that shares a number of traits with Warrior’s flagship, the Franchise. It’s a popular model due to the responsiveness and pro look that appeals to a number of players. Adding the basic, vintage look to this popular model makes the Winter Classic Limited Edition gloves that much more of a hot ticket.

Pairing the Bonafide X Winter Classic gloves with one of Bauer’s TotalOne NXG Vintage sticks would give you a great, throwback inspired set up for this season.

Holiday Gift Guide for goalies

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

With the holiday season upon us, goalies will certainly be filling their lists with all of the gear and accessories they’ve been hoping to get as the season has progressed. As you prepare to begin your shopping this year, keep some of these ideas in mind for the hockey players on your list:

One great gift that can easily be over looked is a safe, comfortable neck guard. Of all the neck guards on the market, it’s hard to beat the Vaughn VPC in that department. It’s a favorite of nearly every NHL goalie and would make a great addition to any goalie’s gift pile.

Goalies also are never lost without a good practice jersey. So often you see netminders sporting old game jerseys during practices. Grab your goalie a proper goalie cut practice jersey that can be used at practice and even at goalie camp in the summertime.

There are also some cool new sticks on the market this season and finding the newest composite to tie up with a bow would make a number of goalies very happy. If you’re going to go big, you can’t go wrong with the Bauer Reactor 6000. It’s the top composite on the market today and offers unparalleled performance in terms of weight and balance. If the goalie you’re shopping for is more of a traditionalist, you can’t go wrong with the CCM 400 or Warrior Swagger. Both are great, durable sticks that slot in at a competitive price point.

If it’s come time to upgrade one of your major equipment categories, Great Skate has a phenomenal selection both in-store and online in terms of pads, blockers and gloves. Our in-store goal crease will allow you to try on and get a feel for any of the gear that you have your eye on this holiday season.

Holiday Gift Guide for skaters

Bauer Vapor APX Mini Stick

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

With the holiday season upon us, hockey players are going to be filling their lists with all sorts of gift ideas. Some may be in need of an upgrade of a certain piece of equipment while others may be hoping to get the newest technology in their hands.

As you prepare to begin your shopping this year, keep some of these ideas in mind for the hockey players on your list:

Sticks: There are some awesome deals on sticks out there currently along with some very cool new technology that has really set a number of manufacturers apart from the others. One very cool idea, especially for the holidays is the MyBauer program. It is a feature that Bauer offers which will allow you to fully customize a stick just like the pros do. From flex and pattern right down to your own name and number, it is a very cool, personal gift idea. The new Easton VSeries is a brand new line from Easton with some incredible features and a lightweight profile across the entire line. The V5E comes at a great price point and offers many of the benefits that the VSeries has introduced. There are also a ton of great deals on Warrior’s full collection, including the Dynasty AX3. The Dynasty line is a tremendous collection with some groundbreaking technology from a company that is making huge strides with their impressive stick technology.

Gloves: Of all the gloves on the shelves nowadays, there isn’t anything cooler than the exclusive Warrior Bonafide Winter Classic gloves. These are a special edition glove designed by Warrior to compliment the uniforms that will be worn by Detroit and Toronto in this year’s Winter Classic. Both gloves come in 13 and 14-inch models and are very basic, but classic in their look. These will be huge favorites this winter. The Warrior Covert DT2 gloves also slot in at a phenomenal price point along with the incredibly comfy CCM CL400 gloves. If you’re looking for more color options than Toronto or Detroit, those two models would be a great place to start.

One last piece to keep in mind is the Youth Hockey Package. If a family member is hoping to, or has already started playing hockey, this is a wonderful gift to give. It features every piece of equipment that you need to get started; including a helmet, pants, shoulder pads, skates, gloves, shin guards and elbow pads. All that’s needed is a stick, a skater and a rink and your new player is good to go.

Stocking Stuffers: Laces, tape and hockey apparel are always welcome presents for hockey players of all ages.

25% off all Hockey Gear (13-Hour) Black Friday Sale

25% off all Hockey Gear (13-Hour) Black Friday Sale

25% off all Hockey Gear (13-Hour) Black Friday Sale

Starting on Friday November 29, 2013 for 13-hours, receive 25% off your purchase at both Great Skate and Greatskate.com. If you are going to be shopping online you can take advantage of early shopping and In-Store pickup. When shopping online please use Promotional Code GS2013 (Please note that your discount will be deducted at the time of shipping)

Great Skate will be opening a bit early on Friday morning starting at 8am, so if you or someone you know is out shopping at Best Buy, Target, and Kohl’s tell them to stop by and check out our great deals. Choose from all major manufacturers such as Bauer, CCM, Easton, Reebok, Warrior, & Vaughn. If a Bauer APX stick is on your list this year you won’t find a better deal than at Great Skate!

Don’t forget to ask about our door buster deals such as 50% off Bauer TotalONE Colored LE Composite Sticks, Easton Mako, & Easton Stealth RS II Sticks. How can you beat these deals? 

When it comes down to Fit, Feel, Performance, Dedication look no further than Great Skate. Stop by Friday morning at 3395 Sheridan Drive / Amherst / NY / 14226. If you aren’t from WNY give us a call at 1-800-828-7496. As always some restrictions may apply (MAP) click here or call for details.

Take advantage of this sale today. It wont last long. GAME ON!

Happy Thanksgiving

 

Great Skate Staff

Ranking the NHL’s third jerseys

Buffalo Sabre's 2013-2014 Third Jersey

Buffalo Sabre’s 2013-2014 Third Jersey

Perhaps one of the perpetual cycles that NHL teams struggle most with is alternate jersey designs. Even when a team has a great one, something seems to crop up that causes them to change their threads.

As you may or may not remember, the third jersey craze really heated up in the 1995-96 season and has since skyrocketed to a perpetual cycle for most of the teams throughout the league. Not every team has a third jersey in active service, but most teams utilize some option as an alternate or for special occasions.

I base my preference of third jerseys off a handful of criteria which I have used to make a definitive ranking of the NHL’s alternate uniforms. A third jersey should offer a few specifics. First, proper use of the team’s color palette is a must. I prefer taking a complimentary color and using it as the jersey’s base. Second, using a different pattern than the primary uniforms is always nice. There isn’t much point in adding another traditional looking jersey to a pair that looks almost identical to it. Preferably a team with a more modern jersey set would go with a traditional design whereas a team with a traditional design would go in the other direction. The lone exception here is if a team goes with a full throwback style, typically those fit in well regardless of the team’s typical look. Finally, I like having the primary crest as a secondary and using a secondary crest as the primary. After all, most shoulder patches are a team’s alternate logo. Using the primary works just fine, but well done alternate logos are high on my list. What tends to happen is that some alternate crests don’t translate on a larger scale, which detracts from the jersey’s overall look.

Using my very particular tastes, I’ve taken the 19 teams with third jerseys and ordered them from best to worst. Here are my rankings:

  1.  St. Louis Blues: A perfectly executed alternate jersey. This takes a complimentary color and uses it as a primary, it gives a traditional take to a team with a more modern design standard and the circular crest is awesome. Full marks.
  2. Ottawa Senators: Like the Blues jersey, this offers a different, more traditional design standard when compared to the regular home and away jerseys. The crest couldn’t be any better and the whole jersey looks terrific.
  3. San Jose Sharks: The black and teal work too well together for this not to rank high on the list. A great, understated jersey that fits perfectly within the team’s identity; another important factor to consider with a third jersey.
  4. Vancouver Canucks: The first retro jersey on the countdown, Vancouver went with a complimentary design as opposed to one that stands out from their traditional jerseys. For a team that has so widely embraced that M.O., this jersey fits perfectly with their uniforms.
  5. Washington Capitals: Slotting in at five thanks to the nostalgia factor, these duds are a great throwback jersey that holds steady with the team’s current standard while taking everyone back by a few decades.
  6. New York Rangers: The New York vintage third jersey looks great. The traditional striping pattern works well with the team’s design standards. While the Lady Liberty jerseys will always be my favorite, these still look great. The vintage white does it for me.
  7. Los Angeles Kings: The Kings may deserve an asterisk here since they seem to be slowly doing away with their alternate jerseys. While this doesn’t meet many of the rules I set for proper third jersey design, the traditional throwback is a clear exception to the rule. Turning back the clock (like the Flames previous thirds) is an auto win for me because there is no way to screw them up.
  8. Minnesota Wild: The best overall set of uniforms in the league boasts one of the best third jerseys. While I think the crest leaves something to be desired, the overall design here looks awesome.
  9. Toronto Maple Leafs: Not much to see here, a throwback inspired jersey that looks great. It also looks a hell of a lot like their homes, so there isn’t much to judge.
  10. Phoenix Coyotes: Perhaps a surprise this high on the list, I love Coyotes alternates. The sand colored numbers, leaping Coyote and alternative striping pattern all work very well together. It offers a different look than the primary design even with a change in the crest, which can be a no-no.
  11. Colorado Avalanche: A blue version of their ultra-classy burgundy thirds from the early 2000s. While these certainly look nice, I’m not all that taken with them.
  12. Carolina Hurricanes: Alternate logos can be tricky if they’re overdone, but Carolina (and Phoenix for that matter) do a great job with theirs. The black-on-black shoulder patch and storm flag waist stripe are a little over the top in my opinion.
  13. Anaheim Ducks: What I like about this jersey is that they use the webbed-D as opposed to the out-of-place Ducks wordmark. What I don’t like it how the orange is incorporated. They get credit for not going orange with these – it just would’ve been too much to handle – but the way they incorporated it just doesn’t work for me. Not an appealing look.
  14. Boston Bruins: Holy vanilla, Batman. I don’t think the Bruins jerseys could get more boring than they currently are. I was a huge fan of the Pooh Bear thirds from the 90s and these are just so plain. No waist stripes hurt and I’m not sold on this particular alternate logo as a crest.
  15. Calgary Flames: The shoulder patch on these jerseys is so awesome. But the rest is just bad. It reminds me of a beer league softball jersey. Their throwback alternates were so perfect that these really pale in comparison.
  16. Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts wordmark really hurts these jerseys. I like the change in the design standard and the blue base looks cool. But the crest is out of place.
  17. Columbus Blue Jackets: The color scheme looks amateurish to me. I think they went overboard with the off-white everywhere and it doesn’t translate well to the design. The pattern would be cool, but the color choices and that horrible crest really set this uniform back.
  18. Buffalo Sabres: This abomination has earned plenty of enemies in Buffalo since it was unveiled. Blame the cape-effect you get from the two-toned pattern. Don’t forget the grey number (why?) and oddly placed silver accents. They were on the right track with yellow, everything else is a miss.
  19. New York Islanders: Amazingly I still slot the Isles jerseys behind Buffalo’s new alternates. There is no black in the Isles color scheme. The baseball-style team name looks bad and the number actually overpowers it on the front of the jersey. Add in the odd choice of grey and this thing is a train wreck. 

Headshots dominate early NHL headlines

Headshots dominate early NHL headlines

Headshots dominate early NHL headlines

A rash of suspensions handed down from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in a response to a ridiculous number of illegal checks through the first month of the NHL season has been the primary focus of fans and media members alike.

John Scott’s elbow to Louis Ericsson’s head was the exclamation point on a two-week span that saw a handful of ugly hits and somewhat lengthy suspensions doled out as punishment  joined Pat Kaleta as the sole set of teammates on the list of suspended players and the combined games between the two illustrates the need for more strict policing both on and off the ice.

The worst side effect from these hits – outside of the media circus they often spark – is the long-term effects that players will suffer from repeated head injuries. With all the steps the NHL has taken in an attempt to curb head contact and dangerous concussions, it’s hard to say what type of effect the recent legislation has had.

Companies like Bauer, CCM, Easton and Warrior who each have a major claim in the helmet market have each taken strides to introduce technologically advanced helmets with features designed to help reduce the chances that a concussion will occur. The Bauer RE-AKT is the current trail blazer in this category as the Suspend-Tech liner introduces a padded liner designed to move independently from the helmet shell; thus limiting the chances that a jarring blow to the shell will cause the head and brain to react in a similar manner.

Interestingly enough, one of the most effective helmet designs with concussion prevention in mind was the M11 helmet that was on the market recently. Bauer has taken over the line and is utilizing the Seven technology in their new IMS line.

However, in the NHL at least, these technologically advanced helmets aren’t the norm. Many professionals choose to go the comfortable route with a VN Foam liner in their helmet. That isn’t to say that a player’s choice in helmets has anything to do with keeping them free from concussions, but the use of old technology can’t be helping, either.

Football and hockey have both shown that no matter what type of helmet you’re using that jarring collisions that cause the head to be shaken or rattled in a violent matter will likely lead to some concussion-like symptoms. Even on plays without head contact, violently altering a body’s motion has the ability to cause a concussion due to the whiplash effect.

Preventing head injuries is ultimately on the onus of the players. At the youth and professional levels, the responsibility falls on the participants to avoid dangerous hits, slow down when they see their opponents numbers and be smart when lowering a hit.

Not one of the hits that led to a suspension in the NHL this year showed any sort of caution or care for the opponent. In a sport as physical and competitive as hockey this isn’t necessarily a surprise. However, the reckless actions that were taken by John Scott, Cody McLeod and Maxim Lapierre could have been easily prevented had the player processed what they were doing prior to leading with their elbow or throwing their opponent into the boards head first.

Goons, enforcers and grinders aren’t the lone culprits here either. Skill players who get away with taking liberties due to their status is a trend that cannot continue. While the physical force of the game isn’t likely to be drastically changed anytime soon, longer suspensions for violators in these cases will continue to serve as the deterrent for these plays.

Bauer Hockey Equipment

Highlights of Bauer Hockey’s Spring 2014 product line up include:

BAUER SUPREME SKATE LINE:

Led by the BAUER SUPREME TOTALONE MX3, the new BAUER SUPREME line of skates continues to deliver new levels of skating efficiency with its light weight, anatomical fit and next-generation range of motion technologies. The BAUER SUPREME TOTALONE MX3 features a new FREE-FLEX tendon guard that allows for the maximum range of motion and a new injected one-piece stability lacing system designed for a BAUER SUPREME fit. It also has a 3FLEX TONGUE with CURV® composite inserts that let a player customize the flex and performance of the skate. Like a springboard, the CURV composite inserts respond as a player skates forward. The top five new BAUER SUPREME skates feature the TUUK LIGHTSPEED EDGE HOLDER that allows players to change out broken or dull steel in seconds.

BAUER NEXUS SKATE LINE:

The new BAUER NEXUS skate line combines state-of-the-art technologies with an authentic look and feel. The elite BAUER NEXUS 8000 features a new CURV composite quarter package and a three-piece felt tongue with a high-density metatarsal guard. Its HYDRAMAX 2 liner delivers ultimate comfort and abrasion protection. The top four BAUER NEXUS skates feature the TUUK LIGHTSPEED EDGE HOLDER that allows players to change out broken or dull steel in seconds.

BAUER RE-AKT 100 HELMET:

Available in stores this summer, this revolutionary helmet delivers next-generation protection and enhanced impact management. The RE-AKT 100 features the new SUSPEND-TECH 2 liner system with FLEXORB for superior impact absorption and better rotational management. SEVEN+ embedded in VTX Technology provides optimal impact management for both high and low linear energy impacts.

NEW FULL LINE OF PERFORMANCE APPAREL:

Bauer Hockey unveiled several new lines of apparel, including the first launch of its off-ice training apparel and women-specific base layer, as well as next-generation protective and base layer apparel. This new full line of performance apparel is led by the introduction of FLEXORB and 37.5, which deliver exclusive revolutionary technologies that advance player performance and protection. FLEXORB offers exceptional protective properties and flexibility and will debut in Bauer Hockey’s latest line of protective base layer. FLEXORB is strategically placed in vulnerable areas, such as the clavicle or lower rib area, to complement other equipment. Apparel with 37.5 technology, a state-of-the-art moisture management innovation, uses body heat to quickly evaporate water away from an athlete, allowing him or her to dry up to six times faster. 37.5 technology will debut across Bauer Hockey’s new elite performance apparel line, as well as in certain protective equipment.

BAUER NEXUS STICK LINE:

The new BAUER NEXUS stick line, with its TRU mid-kick flex, is ideal for the player looking for a balanced feel with a quick, effortless release. The BAUER NEXUS 8000 stick features a new POWER SENSE CORE blade that maximizes power and puck feel while enhancing balance and stability. It also includes a PURE SHOT blade profile that reduces the amount of blade deflection – the twisting or opening of the blade while shooting – improving blade control and accuracy. For added durability, the BAUER NEXUS 8000 includes eLASTech Technology, a proprietary resin system that reinforces composite materials and reduces the spread of micro-fractures.

For more information please visit us online at greatskate.com

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres

There is going to be a big spotlight on Ryan Miller for most of the 2013-14 season. As he enters the final year of his contract with the Sabres many are wondering whether he will be convinced to re-sign, if he will be traded at the deadline or if he’ll simply play out the deal and sign with a new team in free agency.

While there will be plenty of talk about his play in Buffalo, one thing you may or may not have noticed is that he has completely switched his gear. After a number of years using Reebok equipment, Miller has gone to a Vaughn set up for the 2013-14 season.

Perhaps he is thinking of switching things up after a couple of playoff-less seasons in Buffalo. Maybe Vaughn was able to better construct the type of pad he wanted to wear moving forward. It’s anyone’s guess and here’s a look at what Miller is wearing this season.

Mask: Warwick custom – Dating back to his time at Michigan State (and probably earlier), Miller has worn a custom Warwick mask. It’s a small custom mask shop that primarily builds for pros and college players. But they have recently started doing work for Vaughn. Look for some of their design features in the new Vaughn mask line.

Blocker: CCM EFlex (blocker) and Vaughn T5500 (glove) – Ryan Miller broke his thumb during the 2005-06 season and subsequently switched to a Reebok (then RBK) blocker. The Lefevre design has a one-piece cuff that offers  comfortable, full-coverage protection that many other models don’t feature. Miller may actually be wearing the Vintage version of the EFlex, but the lack of graphics makes it hard to tell. I feel like it has become something of a comfort level with Miller as he’s worn a different model blocker (don’t be fooled by graphics) than his catch glove and pads since that 05-06 season. Miller’s new glove appears to be a T5500 model from Vaughn. Miller is known to be particular about his gear and it’s certainly possible that this is more of a custom build than what you’d find with a stock 5500. What’s for sure is the two-piece cuff and T-pocket appears to have all the qualities of the 5500.

Pads: Vaughn Velocity V5 – The most obvious change for Miller comes with his leg pads. Not only the manufacturer but that fact that his new Vaughn pads appear to be relatively stock. One thing many people didn’t know is that Miller’s Reebok Larceny’s were a fully custom pad that was built with the Larceny graphic. His previous pads were actually a custom build with traits from different Vaughn and CCM pads from previous years. These new pads have a flat face (as opposed to having shin rolls) and a more modern build than the traditional construction of his previous pads.

Stick: Reebok Pro – Miller has stuck with his sticks from previous seasons. The sturdy Reebok Pro wood stick. This is a solid stick that is popular throughout the league. I doubt he switches things up this year from a model that he’s been using for so long.

Sabres prepared to defend Traverse City title

Sabres prepared to defend Traverse City title

Sabres prepared to defend Traverse City title

You can’t say the Sabres haven’t won anything. They enter this year’s Traverse City Prospect Tournament as the defending champions after their triumph in 2011.

Buffalo’s title defense was delayed after last season’s lockout and they may benefit from the delay as they are prepared to ice a scary talented roster for the 2013 tourney. Mikhail Grigorenko will lead Buffalo’s other top prospects including; Joel Armia, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and others in search of another tournament championship.

Sending stacked rosters isn’t necessarily something that only the Sabres participate in. Each team manages to send a combination of pro ready prospects, new draft picks and players who have seen pro ice time to the tourney. It just so happens that Buffalo makes sure to construct a roster of their best prospects.

In 2011 the top line of Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian bullied their way through the rest of the tournament and claimed the first championship the franchise has ever seen.* Considering that Armia, Girgensons, Grigorenko and Larsson are amongst those participating, I think the Sabres are betting on bringing back another championship.

In addition to Girgensons, Grigorenko and Larsson – all who played professionally last year – Buffalo has a pair of NHL defensemen (Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Pysyk) to skate along with another NHL-ready player in Ristolainen.

Traverse City Tournament provides in live action for an organization’s prospects prior to the start of preseason action. For those players who aren’t expected to see time in the preseason – mostly newly drafted junior players – it serves as a way for coaches and scouts to see their new players live.

Even though the tournament serves more as an evaluation tool, it is still a nice point of pride for the winning club. It almost serves as verification that one team owns a better prospect pool than the others in some ways. For Sabres fans, this should offer a nice barometer for seeing how Darcy Regier’s recent investments are developing.

One benefit from the tournament is putting brand new prospects in a team setting with some of the older members of the group. This not only allows players like Nick Baptiste to see how Pysyk carries himself, it gives Pysyk a leadership opportunity that would otherwise be missed in the regular season.

That type of locker room and off-ice growth is a valuable fringe benefit that goes along with the on-ice play each of the prospects get over the course of the tournament. Although it didn’t seem to do too much for guys like Adam or Kassian in 2011, perhaps the inclusion of an established talent like Pysyk indicates the Sabres are hoping for him to take the reins.

Like the Sabres, the other participating clubs don’t shy away from using their big guns. The Stars will have Jack Campbell, Radek Faksa and Valeri Nichushkin among others on their roster, proving that each team is indeed out to impress during the event.

Buffalo’s participants include a handful of very intriguing names who will be very interesting to watch. Seeing Johan Larsson in a Sabres jersey for the first time will be cool and having the chance to see him skate with someone like Girgensons will be particularly exciting.

Fans are likely hoping to see Armia and Grigorenko skate on a line together – Kris Baker from Sabres prospects points to Dan Catenacci as their linemate, which I fully endorse – and having the chance to see Ristolainen playing in North America is also encouraging. Obviously those five are the marquee names wearing blue and gold but they’re not the player’s I’m most interested in seeing during that weekend.

Catenacci is one of my favorite Sabres prospects and I’m very hopeful that the 2013-14 season serves as a major stepping stone for him moving forward. An NHL callup isn’t what I’m hoping for, so much as a great growth year that prepares him for a solid NHL career. Colin Jacobs found his footing as a shootout specialist in his Rochester debut and I’m hopeful that he can evolve his game now that the Sabres invested a contract in him. Logan Nelson could also push for a professional deal if he has a strong showing, and the Coon Rapids, MN native has an offensive side that would be great to see flourish.

In addition to Jacobs and Nelson, I’m waiting to see if Brady Austin grows into a late-round sleeper and I’m also hoping to see Justin Kea explore the physical side of his game.

A few of those names are boring, long-term prospects who don’t carry the pedigree of the big names who will likely grace Traverse City and First Niagara Center during this season. But they’re also prospects who appear to have solid value given their draft status.

Depth in the prospect pool is something each and every team at the Traverse City Tournament shares. I’ll be keeping my eye on the depth players while waiting to see if Buffalo’s big guns earn another title.