Andrew Poturalski, a Williamsville native, took a step toward his childhood dream at the first day of Sabres development camp Monday.
“I’ve always grew up a Sabres fan,” Poturalski said. “I came to games as a kid and to be out on the ice and have a chance to compete with these guys is a really good experience for me.”
Poturalski, a forward whose day included firing a hard wrist shot above the goaltender’s shoulder and into the back of the net, was one of 14 free-agent invitees at the development camp. Of the 46 players listed on the developmental roster, 43 took the ice.
Poturalski, a Nichols School graduate, is coming off a freshman season at the University of New Hampshire where he had 14 goals and 15 assists in 40 games.
New Hampshire won 10 of its final 13 games, including two of three against Providence – the eventual national champions. Poturalski had nine points in the final 13 games and recorded an assist in New Hampshire’s 4-1 loss in the Hockey East semifinal to Jack Eichel’s Boston University.
“Our team as a whole struggled in the beginning,” Poturalski said, “and then the second half of the year we really picked it up and really came through in the end and made a good run down the finish.”
Poturalski looked ready for college hockey from Day One as he recorded eight points in his first 10 games. New Hampshire had a freshmen-rich roster (11 of 28 players), which allowed him to play from the start – even if he wasn’t sure how he would fare.
“I didn’t really know what to expect going in to be honest with you,” Poturalski said. “We had a lot of freshmen this year and we had some opportunities right away, so I thought I could go in and work hard and make the most of it.”
Poturalski had to adjust to the speed and physicality of college hockey compared to the leagues he previously played in.
“Playing college hockey you are playing against men, like 22-, 23-year-old guys just compared to high schools and juniors where it’s just teenagers.
“I think it was a little challenging in the beginning,” Poturalski said, “but if you want to be great you got to make the adjustments and I think that came with it.”
Eichel may have been the main draw, but there were 46 total players competing in front of more than 1,000 people at the first day of Sabres development camp.
Three of the 46 – Sean Malone, Jack Nevins and William Carrier – didn’t participate in on-ice activities. Carrier suffered a shoulder injury in Rochester late in the season.
Newly named Sabres assistant coach Dan Lambert, who previously served as coach of the WHL Kelowna Rockets, mostly led the drills. Other coaches included assistant coach Terry Murray, player development coaches Adam Mair and Bob Janosz and Amerks assistant Chris Taylor. Sabres assistant coach Dave Barr, player development coach Krys Barch and scout Seamus Kotyk coached the second group.
General manager Tim Murray, head coach Dan Bylsma and other scouts watched from the stands.
Eichel was one of 22 players in group one at 1 p.m. with another 22 players starting at 2 p.m. The players participated in mostly skating, shooting and puck handling exercises before ending with 3-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills.
Sam Reinhart, Jake McCabe and Andrey Makarov were the only Sabres with NHL experience last season to take part in development camp.
Reinhart was the second overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and the Sabres selected McCabe No. 44 in 2012.
Tuesday’s camp runs from 2:30 to 6 p.m. at First Niagara Center. The event is free to the public and there is free parking in the First Niagara Center parking ramp.