As prospects go, the Buffalo Sabres are thin on the right side among defenseman. St. Cloud State junior Will Borgen seems like the best bet in that area.
Borgen, 20, is at his third development camp. There's not a lot of flash and dash with him and that's said in a most complimentary way. The 6-foot-2, 188-pounder is a defensive stalwart with grit to his game, traits the Sabres certainly need throughout the organization on the blueline.
Borgen had two goals, 10 assists and 60 penalty minutes in 33 games last season for St. Cloud. He was a plus-17 as a freshman and plus-4 last year as the team's record slipped from 31-9-1 to 16-19-1. You often don't notice defensemen like Borgen. Again, that's a good thing. Stay at home, get the puck to the forwards and eye-popping mistakes are limited.
There was some thought the Sabres would get Borgen to sign his entry-level contract for this year but he opted to return to St. Cloud State for his junior season. Prevailing wisdom has them making another run at Borgen next year to get him to Rochester for the 2018-19 season.
"School is the No. 1 priority for me right now," Borgen said Monday in HarborCenter. "Try to get a degree because you can't play hockey forever. That's my mom's theory."
As for signing after next season, he said simply, "I have no clue. It depends on how I play I guess."
Borgen played heavy minutes last year at St. Cloud with freshman partner Jack Ahcan, who won a gold medal for the United States at the World Junior Championships in Montreal.
"I had a good 'D' partner who was a very smart player and helped me out," Borgen said of Ahcan, a undrafted player who has had development camp tryouts the last two years with Florida and Los Angeles. "We liked to handle the loads against good teams."
Borgen said he's looking to add some weight and create more offense by finding better shot lanes from the point. He saw plenty of offense in the playoffs from his favorite player, Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban.
And while talk of the Predators' Stanley Cup final run is all over this camp because the Sabres hired Preds assistant Phil Housley as their head coach, Borgen was a staunch Pittsburgh Penguins fan.
That's because Pens veteran Matt Cullen is from his hometown of Moorhead, Minn., and Borgen has skated with him during summers.
"It's awesome. He's a great role model," Borgen said of the 40-year-old Cullen. "I get to skate with him each year and that's a lot of fun. He always comes out and helps out the Moorhead young kids, the college kids that are playing. He runs the drills out there, has skating coaches come out and help us. He teaches us a lot of things."
Borgen was a member of the 2016 United States World Junior team that won a bronze medal. The roster featured three standout NHL rookies from last season in Toronto's Auston Matthews, Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk and Columbus' Zach Werenski. Borgen is too old to play in this year's tournament in Buffalo but said he's talked to fellow prospects who could be on the way to playing in the event.
"It was an awesome experience for me and I hope some of these guys make it," he said. "It's so much fun, a once-in-a-lifetime."