Austin Osmanski almost left KeyBank Center during the seventh round of the NHL Draft last year when his name hadn't been called, but his hometown Buffalo Sabres selected the East Aurora native with the 189th overall pick. One year and almost two Sabres development camps later, the local sees himself as a vastly improved player on the ice.
The defenseman, who is one of two locals at camp this week along with West Seneca's Sean Malone, played in 55 games last season for the Mississauga Steeleheads in the Ontario Hockey League. He scored two goals and assisted on six others. He saw ice time in 20 playoff games as the Steelheads won the Eastern Conference Championship. Osmanski feels he's proven his defensive prowess. Now he wants to showcase another dimension to his game.
"I'm a much better player than when I finished my last season...right this summer I'm working on my offensive ability and awareness and making plays," Osmanski said Monday after the second camp session. "I like to say I'm pretty good defensively, so I'm trying to bring something to the table on both ends of the ice."
Tuesday's 3-on-3 tournament will give Osmanski the opportunity to do just that, largely because players will use the full ice in a NHL overtime style tournament instead of using only the offensive zone like last year. While the format tends to favor playmakers and flashy offensive talents, Osmanski hopes the last day of camp will be a proving ground for him as well.
"I've been working on my skill and I'm excited to show it," Osmanski said. "I've been working on it again this week and showing off a little this week. Three-on-three is a time when skill players take over and flashy players do what they can do, so I'm just trying to get in that loop and join them."
While the 6-foot-3, 196-pound Osmanski wishes, along with other "simple" players like him on the defensive end, that there was a 5-on-5 tournament to lessen the chance of getting exposed in open ice, he'll settle for trying to surpass expectations as a defenseman in 3-on-3. And even though players only found out Monday morning that they'd be playing 3-on-3 on full ice Tuesday, Osmanski welcomes the unexpected challenge.
"When they said it was full ice...it is what it is," Osmanski said. "It doesn't really affect me. I just go out and play, but bigger guys like me, we like to play in small areas. It's gonna be tough on the lungs, but I'm confident that I'll be able to show what I can do."
The final day of camp kicks off at 9 a.m. Tuesday with 3-on-3 action that will also be streamed on Sabres.com.