Brycen Martin knew he’d get plenty of chances to shine during the Sabres’ prospect challenge. The defenseman was one of the more experienced players for Buffalo, and he skated in a top-four role while quarterbacking the power play.
He hopes he showed enough to do the same thing in Rochester.
Martin, a third-round draft pick in 2014, is embarking on his first professional season. He’s in line to be one of seven defensemen with the Amerks – Brady Austin, Mac Bennett, Erik Burgdoerfer, Justin Falk, Taylor Fedun and Paul Geiger are the others – and the rookie’s goal is to climb toward the top of the depth chart.
If he does, it’s his offensive skills that will carry him there. Martin recorded six goals and 31 assists in 66 games in the Western Hockey League last season, and the organization needs puck-moving defensemen to key the offense.
“I think I could help quite a bit in the offensive play,” Martin said Monday in HarborCenter. “I want to be relied upon defensively, but I know I have a lot to work to do before I can be a well-trusted guy. I’m just going to do my best and work with the coaches and make my game what they want it to be.”
While defending remains a work in progress, the blue-liner has achieved another objective. The Sabres wanted him to get stronger to face bigger forwards in the American Hockey League, and Martin had a solid summer that boosted his 6-foot-2 frame to 206 pounds.
“I put on a lot of strength, which was a big key that they wanted me to do,” he said. “I think I’m going to take the next step forward.”
Martin recorded an assist during the opener of the prospect tournament but was also minus-3. The performance didn’t scare the team, which went back to him in key situations Monday.
“Coming into the third year, I kind of figured I’d be relied upon a little bit more than previous years,” Martin said. “It means a lot. I’m just trying to slowly improve each and every single day, just make my way to the player that they want me to be.”
Evan Rodrigues skated into the summer feeling good about his game, and the Sabres felt likewise. The left winger played in Buffalo’s final two games last season, and he recorded a goal and assist in the finale while displaying tenacity.
He used it as a springboard to a skills-driven summer.
“In this game, you have to continue to develop or you’re going to go downhill,” Rodrigues said. “If you’re not getting better, then you’re not doing things right.”
Rodrigues worked with a power-skating instructor and a shooting coach during the offseason. The 23-year-old has noticed the improvements. Buffalo’s coaches will get a look soon.
“I’ve put a lot of work in this summer, especially on my skating and shooting,” Rodrigues said. “Those are two big things that I was relentless with all summer. I’m going into this camp and I’m going to try to prove myself again and show what I have.”
While the Sabres’ prospects went through their morning skate, many of Buffalo’s NHL players skated on their own in HarborCenter’s other rink. They’ll take center stage this week.
Sabres training camp will open Thursday with physicals. The players will take the ice Friday through Sunday before kicking off the preseason Monday against Minnesota on the Penn State campus.
Buffalo will conduct training camp in HarborCenter to take advantage of the dual-rink facility. The Sabres are scheduled to have practice sessions at 9-9:45 a.m., 10:40-11:25 a.m. and 12:50-2 p.m. Friday through Sunday, with a scrimmage 9:50-10:35 a.m. each day. All sessions are free to the public.