When Joshua Chapman received an invitation to Sabres development camp, he knew he’d work hard. He never imagined he’d score the biggest goal of his life and have fans chanting his name.
Obviously, the 20-year-old had an exciting week.
“This was a crazy experience being here,” Chapman said after camp closed Sunday.
The defenseman was one of 14 undrafted and unsigned players brought in by Buffalo to fill out the camp roster. He made the most of the opportunity.
Chapman scored the only goal during the championship game of the French Connection Three-on-Three Tournament, and it was a beauty. He brought the trophy home by dancing into open ice and ripping a shot in off the crossbar.
Chapman scored only two goals during his 180-game junior career and had none for Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League during 2014-15.
“I’m not much of a goal scorer,” said Chapman, who couldn’t stop smiling. “It was nice to pop one there in the end and be a hero for once. It was great. I had fun with it.”
So did his tournament teammates, Evan Rodrigues, Dan Catenacci and Matt Garbowski.
“I’ve got to say I didn’t have that one,” said Rodrigues, who predicted a win but not the game-winning goal scorer. “It was a fun little tournament we played. Winning’s always fun, right? We’ll take it. It’s a good cap for the week.”
It was an unforgettable experience for Chapman. During Friday’s scrimmage, he flattened Maxwell Willman with a huge (though legally questionable) open-ice hit. Justin Kea took offense. He and the long-haired Chapman took part in a slugfest that would have made boxing and MMA highlight shows.
Fans noticed the effort. When the teams took part in a shootout challenge after the scrimmage, a large group began chanting, “We want Chapman.”
“I did hear that,” he said. “It was surprising. I turned around and I thought it was maybe extended family or something, but it just turned out to be a little fan base. I guess they appreciated the hard work and the fisticuffs. Everyone loves a good fight.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound hopes the showing will earn him another invite.
“It really shows you what it takes to be a pro, that’s for sure,” Chapman said. “It was tough so I’m glad it’s done, but in another way I’m kind of sad because I’m going to miss all the guys here and the people within the organization.”
William Carrier was way more comfortable during his second development camp with the Sabres, and it showed. He shined playing alongside Sam Reinhart during Friday’s scrimmage, and he controlled the puck often during Sunday’s tournament.
Carrier (pronounced Carry-a) came to Buffalo in the February 2014 trade that sent Ryan Miller to St. Louis. He had seven goals and 21 points in 63 games with Rochester last season, but he experienced plenty of rookie growing pains. The fine showing at camp earned him kudos from the coaches and has him ready for next season.
“They liked my game, how I played Friday, and I’ll try to bring that next year to Roch,” Carrier said. “You feel better on the ice when you have one year behind you.”
Buffalo’s prospects need to develop off the ice, too. They got help from Frank Henry, the NHL security representative for the Sabres. He gave the players tips on how to avoid gamblers, unscrupulous memorabilia seekers and negative publicity.
The cautionary tales included a story about a former player whose family was subject to an extortion attempt. The criminals called the player’s sister at her place of employment and said they had him hostage. She fulfilled their request to wire money into an account. When she called to make sure he was OK, she learned he’d been home all day and the story was a hoax.
The end of camp meant a much-needed break for Jack Eichel. He’s been on the run since arriving in Buffalo for the NHL Scouting Combine on June 1.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” Eichel said. “I think it’s good to go home and regroup and relax a little bit, then recharge and start training again for training camp.”