Because he has such a fun name to say, Cliff Pu has quickly earned a following in Buffalo. Whenever he's scored, earned an assist or blocked a shot during the Sabres' Prospects Challenge, the fans in HarborCenter have serenaded the center.
The way he's progressing, it's a name fans could be saying for a while.
Selected in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Pu has all the makings of becoming a steal. The Sabres are using him as their top center in the tournament, and he's responded. He had two assists in the opening game while skating between Alex Nylander and Nick Baptiste, and he had a goal in the second game while centering for C.J. Smith and Justin Bailey.
He's scheduled to skate between Smith and Bailey again at 7 p.m. Monday when the Sabres host Pittsburgh in the championship game.
"Every player on this team is really talented, and I feel pretty blessed to play with anyone," Pu said in HarborCenter. "But they've given me some really good linemates the last few games and a lot of opportunity on the power play and penalty kill. I'm trying to work as hard as I can and reward them."
When the Sabres drafted Pu, he was a secondary player on a Memorial Cup team. The London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League were stacked. Forwards Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak jumped right to the NHL and made immediate impacts last season.
Pu capably embraced a top-line role. After recording 12 goals and 31 points in 63 games during 2015-16, he exploded for 35 goals and 83 points in the same number of games last year.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pounder can fly. At the rate he's going, the 19-year-old could slot in nicely behind Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly in two or three years.
"Every day you try and get better, and I think over the last two years I've really tried to improve every aspect of my game," Pu said. "I think I've grown on the ice and off the ice, so hopefully I can continue to do that."
The Sabres and Penguins will enter the finale with identical 1-0-1 records. Buffalo lost, 4-3, to New Jersey in overtime Saturday and responded with a 7-4 victory over Boston on Saturday.
The news brass wants to instill a winning attitude, and the prospects realize they have a chance to bring that right away. Tickets to the game are $10.
"We should have won the first one, and obviously that was good with the second one," center Vasily Glotov said after the morning skate. "We're pretty happy about the last win, and I think today's a really important game. It's the last chance to show your full arsenal and what you can do, show your discipline and character for management – and obviously we're going to win."