How focused has Cliff Pu been heading into Sabres development camp?
The 19-year-old had no idea until he arrived here and reporters starting asking him about it that the World Junior Championships will be in Buffalo, starting Dec. 26 in KeyBank Center.
Pu, a 35-goal scorer last season for London of the OHL, figures to be one of the top forward candidates for Team Canada. He's heading to the Canadians' summer camp July 29-Aug. 5 in Plymouth, Mich., against prospects from Teams USA, Finland and Sweden.
"I didn't know it was in Buffalo but that's just a huge bonus for me," Pu said Monday. "Look at the fans coming out for practices here. It's a couple-hour practices and they're filling out the HarborCenter. It's a big hockey town and playing in front of them would be really special."
Reporters were taken aback Saturday when Pu acted confused about World Juniors questions. He confirmed Monday that was the first time it hit him that his potential future NHL home could be the site of one of the big early moments of his career.
"It kind of just clicked," he said. "I remembered there was an outdoor game, saw a tweet about something and saw a tweet about the USA jerseys. They looked like Bills jerseys so it clicked to me. I don't pay too much attention to those things. I stay on working as hard as I can but it would be really special to play in front of these fans."
Pu is one of four Buffalo prospects who seem to be in line to play at the World Juniors here. Top pick Casey Mittelstadt (USA), 2016 first-rounder Alexander Nylander (Sweden) and 2017 second-round goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Finland) would all appear to be on the radar for their countries.
Former Sabres Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian played for Team Canada when the tourney was last here in 2010-11. Canada blew a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes of the gold medal game against Russia and had to settle for a silver medal after a 5-3 defeat.