It didn't take long for Brandon Hagel to get down to business with his junior team.
After the 19-year-old forward was assigned back to his Red Deer Rebels out of Sabres' training camp, he promptly scored three goals with two assists in his first two games.
That will make an impression.
Hagel, who was drafted by the Sabres in the sixth round in 2016, is in his third and final year of playing in the Western Hockey League, part of the major-junior system in Canada.
And Hagel is ready to not only step up his own game but to be a leader.
"I knew I would be a top guy here and I had to buy into the Rebel system as soon as I got back," said Hagel, who is an alternate captain for Red Deer. "I thought I did a good job with that. I stuck to my game and good things will happen if I continue to do that.
"Coming back, being an older guy, I want to show the younger guys the way. I want to be a leader. If I'm playing my best, those guys can look up to me."
Through his first five games, the left-shot left winger has seven points, one game-winning goal, and 13 shots on goal.
The Rebels opened the season with three consecutive wins. That streak ended on their first extended road trip of the season, losing at the Moose Jaw Warriors and Regina Pats this past weekend.
Still, it's a hot start for Hagel, who finished last season with 71 points, scoring 31 goals with 40 assists over 65 games.
Offense has been a strong point for Hagel, while he continues to work on the defensive side of his game.
"I think my defensive play improved quite a bit," Hagel said. "Last year it wasn't my best asset but I thought coming into this year it was something I had to change and I think I've done a good job at it."
Hagel spent his second summer and preseason with the Sabres, as part of development camp and main training camp. A new coaching staff meant a new opportunity to impress, but he kept the focus simple and the same, sticking to his game and not forcing a favorable impression.
"I just want to be myself and play game my game out there," Hagel said. "I think that's what got me there so I'll continue to do that."
The Sabres staff "definitely gave me some feedback on my camp, but now I have to work on my strengths," Hagel said. "I have to put the work in. You can't change that. I have to do it myself."
Meanwhile, Hagel is focused on his Red Deer team. The Rebels finished third in the WHL Central Division last year, losing in seven games to Lethbridge in the first round of the playoffs. This season, they've sprinted to an early lead in the Central Division and Hagel is animatedly excited when talking about what he loves about this group in Red Deer.
"We have a really close group this year," Hagel said. "There are no cliques. Everyone gets along and that's going to help us out in the long run. Once everyone gets settled in and the season starts going a bit more, I think this group is just so close, it's going to help us out."
Vojtech Budik (defense, Prince Albert Raiders): A native of the Czech Republic who has played for his national team, Budik will play his third season with the Raiders in the Western Hockey League. Last season he had a goal and 25 assists in 56 games.
Cliff Pu (forward, London Knights): Pu returned to the Knights of the Ontario Hockey League after a stint at Buffalo Sabres main training camp. In his first four games, he's registered four assists. He finished last season ranked eighth in the OHL in points with 86 (35 goals, 51 assists) in 63 games.
Austin Osmanski (defense, Mississauga Steelheads): The East Aurora native began his third season with the Steelheads of the OHL, picking up an assist in his first four games. Last year he had two goals and six assists in 55 games.
Vasily Glotov (forward, Shawinigan Cataractes): He returns to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League but changes teams, playing for Shawinigan this season. He had two assists through his first five games. Last year, Glotov played for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, notching 15 goals and 35 assists through 64 games.
William Borgen (defense, St. Cloud State): Begins his junior season at St. Cloud State. In 70 career games for the Huskies, he has three goals and 23 assists.
Christopher Brown (forward, Boston College): Named one of three captains for Boston College, Brown enters his junior year for the Eagles. He is the returning leading scorer after netting nine goals with 17 assists while his plus-19 rating led the team.
Jacob Bryson (defense, Providence): The Sabres drafted Bryson in the fourth round in 2017 after he put up three goals (two on the power play) with 17 assists in his freshman season at Providence. Bryson returns to the Friars for his sophomore year.
Ivan Chukarov (defense, UMass): He enters his junior year at UMass with five career goals and 11 points over 72 games.
Casey Fitzgerald (defense, Boston College): A captain for Boston College, Fitzgerald was the second-leading defensive scorer for the Eagles last season with five goals and 17 assists in 37 games. He is one point shy of the 50-point mark entering his junior season.
Connor Hurley (forward, Minnesota): After three seasons at Notre Dame, Hurley transferred to the University of Minnesota. He will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules and have one year of college eligibility left for the 2018-19 season. In 98 career games for the Fighting Irish, Hurley had 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists).
Casey Mittelstadt (forward, Minnesota): The Sabres first-round pick in 2017 begins his freshman season at the University at Minnesota. Mittelstadt will also be a key component of Team USA for the IIHF World Junior Championships, scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo.
Brett Murray (forward, Penn State): Murray joined Penn State for the second semester last season, picking up an assist in his 12 games. A fourth-round pick in 2016, he begins his sophomore season with the Nittany Lions.
Philip Nyberg (defense, UConn): It was a bit of a topsy-turvy season for Nyberg last year. The Swedish player signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Wisconsin, but failed to meet requirements for foreign students and was ineligible for the first semester. He played 25 games in junior hockey with the Madison Capitols of the USHL, then flipped his commitment to Connecticut and played the second semester for the Huskies. He returns to UConn for his sophomore season after notching six points in his first 16 collegiate games.
Judd Peterson (forward, St. Cloud State): The senior was named one of three captains for St. Cloud State. He scored 11 goals with six assists last year and has 31 goals and 16 assists in his collegiate career.
Linus Weissbach (forward, Wisconsin): A native of Sweden, the 19-year-old enters his freshman season at Wisconsin and already notched his first two collegiate goals as Wisconsin won its season opener, 3-2, over Michigan Tech. Weissbach played junior hockey last year in the United States Hockey League, scoring 19 goals with 28 assists in 49 games for the Tri-City Storm.
Maxwell Willman (forward, Brown): Enters his senior year at Brown coming off his best season of collegiate hockey. As a junior, Willman scored 11 goals with 15 assists in 31 games, including four power play goals.
Rasmus Asplund (forward, Farjestad BK): Drafted by the Sabres in the 2016 second round, Asplund remains in his native Sweden this season playing for Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. Last season he scored six goals with 13 assists in 39 games for his club team and collected 12 points with two goals in 16 games for Sweden's national U-20 team.
Marcus Davidsson (forward, Djurgardens): The second-round draft pick by the Sabres in 2017 is in his native Sweden this season to play for Djurgardens IF. Last year he played in 45 games in the Swedish Hockey League with five goals and four assists in 45 games.
Oskari Laaksonen (defense, Ilves): A third-round pick in 2017, he remains in his native Finland to play for Ilves in the Under-20 league (Jr. A SM-Liiga). In his first 12 games this season, Laaksonen has a goal and four assists.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (goalie, HPK): A second-round draft pick in 2017, Luukkonen returned to his native Finland, playing for HPK in the same Under-20 league as Laaksonen.
Victor Olofsson (forward, Frolounda HC): Began his season in his native Sweden back with Frolounda HC of the Swedish Hockey League. Through his first four games he has a goal and an assist. Last year in 51 games for Frolunda, he had nine goals and 27 points in 51 games.
Story topics: Brandon Hagel