News and notes from Day 3 of Development Camp

Jul 4, 2024

By Katelyn Kardaman | @katelynkardaman

Rochester Americans assistant coaches Nathan Paetsch and Vinny Prospal took the ice at LECOM Harborcenter for Day 3 of the Sabres’ annual Development Camp on Wednesday, which will conclude with a 3 vs. 3 tournament on Thursday.

Both coaches took the podium following the on-ice session and shared their perspectives on several Sabres prospects. 

General manager Kevyn Adams said during his media availability on Monday that the organization made the decision to hold a number of top prospects out of Development Camp so that they could properly recover from their long seasons and continue their training at home.

Here’s what Paetsch and Prospal had to say about some of those prospects as well as Development Camp attendees Viktor Neuchev and Konsta Helenius.

Jiri Kulich

Kulich led the Amerks with 27 goals in 2023-24 while ranking third with 45 points (27+18). The 20-year-old also made his NHL debut with the Sabres, skating 14:53 and recording one shot against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 25.

Aside from his scoring, Prospal saw growth in other areas of Kulich’s game.

“Kulich made tremendous strides in his two-way game,” Prospal said. “When he was not scoring, he was doing all the little things, even on the D side. And that’s a credit to him. … He's definitely on the right path and we see an NHL player right now.”

Prospal also shared what the young forward will need to do in order to make the Sabres roster in the future.

“He’s got to learn how to be more consistent,” Prospal said. “He’s a great kid. He’s great player at that level, but he needs to remain in being consistent. He needs to tear up the league a little bit down there and show that he’s an NHL hockey player. I mean, he’s got great skating ability. He’s got a great shot. Just, there cannot be dips in his play.”


Nikita Novikov

Novikov recorded three goals and 20 assists in 65 games during his first season in Rochester. The native ranked tied for third among Amerks defensemen in points (23) and led all Rochester skaters with a plus-20 rating.

Paetsch remembers Novikov standing out at last year’s Development Camp and rookie tournament and liked what he saw from the rookie this past season.

“He’s very confident and his confidence carries over on the ice,” Paetsch said. “He’s a big kid and he’s still developing. He’s young and he’s got a lot to do with his body still, but he’s got a lot of physical upside. And the confidence he brings, he just has this swagger that things get done when he’s on the ice, and he wants to win. When the game’s on the line, there’s nobody more competitive. That’s my favorite thing about him.”

Vsevolod Komarov

Komarov won the Emile-Bouchard Trophy as the top defenseman in the QMJHL this season and was named to the QMJHL’s First All-Star Team after leading all defensemen in the league in assists (55) and points (69).

He then received the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the top player in the playoffs, ranking second among league defensemen with 15 points (5+10) in 19 playoff games, leading his team to the QMJHL championship and a trip to the Memorial Cup.

Paetsch was assigned to work with Komarov when he was on Buffalo’s development staff and immediately saw a special player.

“I had him for player development, and man, I’m excited for him,” Paetsch said. “Wait until you meet this kid. I mean, he’s just such a polite, happy kid, and his progression the last two years – I mean, I don’t know if anybody could have saw that coming. I always knew he was special, but coming over from Russia, it’s always difficult your first year. So, we got a steal in the fifth round like let’s be honest. … When he adjusted, he took off and I’m hoping for big things with him.”

The 20-year-old was also nominated for the CHL Defenseman of the Year Award, but Paetsch believes it’s Komarov’s character that has ultimately led to his success.

“We knew he was going to maximize whatever talent ability he had, and he just keeps getting better and better,” Paetsch said. “But that’s the character. I saw the character right away that was special and that translated, obviously, on the ice.”

PHOTOS | 2024 Development Camp - Day 3


Ryan Johnson

Johnson appeared in 41 games for the Sabres as a rookie last season, tallying seven assists and a plus-3 rating in those contests while averaging 13:52 of ice time. The defenseman added nine assists and a plus-5 rating in 27 games in Rochester as he helped the Amerks in their Calder Cup playoff push.

During his media availability, Paetsch shared what qualities make the 22-year-old stand out among other players.

“He’s an excellent skater and he’s got to end plays and move pucks fast,” Paetsch said. He should be the best rush defender in the American Hockey League if that’s where he ends up. He has the ability to do that, and he’s taken steps towards that. … He should dominate games and never actually have to defend because nobody gets through the neutral zone against him.”

Viktor Neuchev

Neuchev, who is taking part in his second Sabres Development Camp, led all Amerks rookies with 28 points (11+17) in 57 games in 2023-24. Prospal noticed how the 20-year-old developed into a strong competitor and hard worker over the course of the season.

“He made tremendous strides throughout the season, and it showed in his play and his ice time,” Prospal said. “He looks great. He looks great out there. You can clearly see that he’s above some of the players there on the ice right now. And I fully expect him to play a larger role with us in his second season.”

Konsta Helenius

The 14th-overall pick in the 2024 NHL Draft has been making the most of his time in Buffalo, demonstrating his puck-moving skills and ability to evade pressure.

Helenius posted 36 points (14+22) in 51 games in Finland’s top professional league (Liiga) last season and Prospal has seen his talent in his three on-ice sessions so far.

“The first thing that stands out is the hockey sense,” Prospal said. “When you see him, especially in the small-area games, you can really see that he’s got above average hockey sense compared to some of these players that we have on the ice right now. … It’s the perfect opportunity to come here, see the surroundings, and once he shows up for the prospect camp or the main training camp, then he’ll know what he’s going into.”



Here’s more from Day 3 of Development Camp.

1. Amerks head coach Michael Leone, who was appointed to the role last month, arrived at Development Camp on Wednesday and led the on-ice session after missing the first two days due to the birth of his first child.

Prospal was happy to finally meet Leone in person and expressed his excitement about getting to know him.

"It's the perfect opportunity for us to meet in person and get to know at least a little bit [about] each other prior to prospect camp and our upcoming season," Prospal said.

2. Thursday’s 3 vs. 3 tournament will begin with warmups at 9:15 a.m. inside LECOM Harborcenter. The tournament is free and open to the public.

Back to All