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Will Butcher looks to follow up historic debut performance

Over the summer, defenseman Will Butcher was looking for his best opportunity in the National Hockey League.

Plenty of teams, including the Buffalo Sabres, were interested in signing him.

Butcher,  who won the 2017 Hobey Baker and the NCAA national championship with the Denver Pioneers, chose New Jersey. And he had a heck of a first pro game with the Devils.

Butcher recorded three assists for New Jersey in its 4-1 season-opening win against the Colorado Avalanche – the team that drafted him back in 2013.

He will be in Buffalo Monday afternoon, hosted by the Sabres for a 3 p.m. game in KeyBank Center. And all eyes will be on how the 22-year-old rookie follows up that historic performance.

Butcher became the first player in franchise history to record three points in his NHL debut and just the fifth defenseman on any team to do so since 1967, the start of the NHL's expansion era.

He registered his first pro point just 4:04 into the game, setting up a power play tally by Adam Henrique.

He then picked up secondary assists on the power play, feeding the puck to Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri who in turn set up the goals.

"I just pass the pucks and they do the rest," Butcher said to the media after the game. "On the power play, where those points happened, giving the puck to Hall and Palmieri with time and space, good things are always going to happen."

Butcher was part of a larger youth movement for the Devils which started the season with a strong opening game.

Jesper Bratt, a 19-year old forward from Sweden, also made his NHL debut, scoring a power play goal while setting up a short-handed goal.

"I think the league is getting younger and teams are getting younger and I think that's kind of the vibe," Butcher said. "We want to play fast. We want to play in-your-face type of hockey."

"It was great to see those guys contribute," Devils coach John Hynes told reporters after the game. "In the preseason, we didn't feel as though it was a fluke the way they played. It's nice to see those guys come in and play important roles on our team and handle the responsibilities and be big factors in the game."

When Will Butcher chose Devils over Sabres, it wasn't personal


Former Sabres Drew Stafford returns to Buffalo in his first season with the Devils.

Stafford began his NHL career with the Sabres. He was part of the trade in the 2014-15 season that landed him and Tyler Myers with the Winnipeg Jet in exchange for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian.

Stafford was traded from the Jets to the Boston Bruins last season. In August he signed a one-year, one-way deal for $800,000 with the Devils.


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