When the Sabres decided to invest in downtown, they figured a hockey-centric building would thrive. A glimpse of the 600 people wandering through and past HarborCenter for the NHL Scouting Combine shows they were on to something.
While hoping the Combine becomes an annual event in Buffalo, the team is looking into bringing the prospects back for games, too.
The Sabres are not returning to the Detroit Red Wings’ prospect tournament this summer in Traverse City, Mich., and they’re searching for a short-term replacement. The long-term idea is to host their own.
“When you have a facility like this, when you have the ability to open up three rinks, I think you can think big down the road,” Sabres President Ted Black said Thursday. “That will be something that we’ll certainly consider in 2016 and beyond.”
Until then, the Scouting Combine will suffice. Prospects arrived early this week for interviews, and they’ll take part in fitness testing Friday and Saturday. Black said early reviews of Buffalo’s inaugural year as host have been glowing.
“The feedback that we’ve received from the league, from the prospects, from the teams has been all very, very positive, especially the veterans of this event, the ones who’ve seen it before and see how different this is,” Black said in HarborCenter. “The fact that everything is in such a wonderful location – in Canalside and HarborCenter – has really made this a spectacular event, certainly through the first half of it.”
All 30 NHL teams received a suite in First Niagara Center to conduct interviews, a welcome change from the previous setup of hotels near the Toronto airport. The workouts will be conducted in HarborCenter rather than a convention hall.
“It’s much easier,” said Greg Royce, the Sabres’ director of amateur scouting. “It was cramped quarters, and you’re crammed into a hotel room trying to meet the players and the air is stale. Now it’s fresher air, a little cooler. Everything’s wide-open at the HarborCenter for the testing. Before they’d have it down in the hotel lobby basically, and you’re craning your neck to see what the players are doing. Here, the sightlines are fantastic.
"I think what the Sabres are doing here is second to none."