Matej Pekar says he "loves, loves, loves" to be the annoying guy on the ice, and it showed throughout Sabres development camp.
The fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft was all over Casey Mittelstadt and Brett Murray Saturday, a day after he was the one getting nailed by a clean check from Rasmus Dahlin.
Pekar says Boston's Brad Marchand, who became infamous for licking opposing players this season, is someone he likes and admires.
“I love to be the annoying guy, annoying rat. I love getting under guys' skin," Pekar said. "I know a lot of people don’t like him, but it’s my game. I’m not a super-skilled guy that just can dangle all over five guys and score a goal. In order to create some offense, I got to play like that.”
On Friday Pekar was checked hard by Dahlin, leaving him on his back in the neutral zone. The two laughed about the hit later on at dinner.
“No, there weren’t any hard feelings,” Dahlin said. “It’s all good now. It was kind of funny, that was great.”
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) June 29, 2018
Pekar said he was surprised when he found out it was Dahlin who had knocked him to the ground, as it is not typical behavior for the Sabres' 2018 first overall pick.
“I’ve never seen him hit somebody like that, like open-ice hits,” Pekar said. “Honestly, I would never make that move if I knew it’s him.”
On Saturday during the 3-on-3 tournament, Pekar and Mittelstadt went back and forth throughout the series of games. At one point Pekar, Mittelstadt and Murray appeared to almost get in a fight in front of the team benches, but the referees intervened.
"It's just hockey I guess," Mittelstadt said. "Two competitive guys going at it. I'm sure we'll leave it on the ice. ... It was a lot of fun, kind of woke me up. It's early in the morning for me at least."
All in all, Pekar said he just likes going up against tough guys and playing physical.
“It’s way more fun when you see Casey getting [mad] at you."
A quick recap of the 3-on-3 games, which were 10 minutes in length:
Team Robert 3, Team Perreault 1: After Dahlin hit the crossbar on the opening shift, his team fell behind, 2-0 on goals by William Worge-Kreu and Pekar and never caught up.
Team Hasek 2, Team Robert 1: Brendan Guhle scored the winner in a shootout. Rasmus Asplund's backhand feed to Chris Brown for the Team Hasek goal was one of the best passes of the day.
Team Perreault 2, Team Martin 1: Dahlin's team got its first win thanks to goals by invitees Brandon Biro and Connor Mackey. Lawrence Pilut scored for Team Martin.
Team Robert 3, Team Martin 1: With the game-long spat between Pekar and Mittelstadt the main talking point, Pekar's team got the last laugh. Mittelstadt got the Team Martin goal but Cole Coskey snapped a tie and Vasily Glotov hit the empty net.
Team Perreault 2, Team Hasek 1: Invitee Pascal Aquin (Charlottetown) scored the only goal in a shootout that saw Dahlin and Asplund both get thwarted.
Team Martin 1, Team Hasek 0: Mittelstadt got the game's only goal with a bar-down backhander on a breakaway that burned Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
In round robin play, Team Robert was 2-0-1, Team Perreault (Dahlin) was 2-1, Team Hasek was 1-1-1 and Team Martin was 1-2.
Semifinal I: Team Martin 4, Team Robert 0: Goals by Brett Murray, Pilut, Mittelstadt and Miksa Kukkonen claimed the first spot in the final.
Semifinal II: Team Perreault 3, Team Hasek 1: Aquin got the game's first goal on a breakaway with 1:05 left. Biro had the other two, the second into an empty net. Guhle scored for Hasek.
Championship: Team Martin 3, Team Perreault 2: Mittelstadt's shootout goal clinched the championship after Andrew Ogilvie's penalty-shot tally with 18 seconds left had tied the game.
Eric Cornel and Mittelstadt had scored for Team Martin in a 27-second span to provide a 2-0 lead but Victor Olofsson streaked in for a flip to the top corner to make it 2-1 with two minutes and Ogilvie got the equalizer.
The 3-on-3 tournament was missing several top prospects. Alex Nylander, Cliff Pu and Casey Fitzgerald were among the players who were kept off the ice during the week because the team felt they were not 100 percent physically.
Mattias Samuelsson, Buffalo's second-round pick this year, had skated during the week but did not participate Saturday as the club continued to use caution with its young players.
Assistant GM Randy Sexton said the team has made no decision on where to place Luukkonen for next season. Luukkonen, Buffalo's second-round pick last year, was selected by Sudbury in this week's CHL Import Draft and could conceivably play goal in the Ontario Hockey League rather than stay home in Finland.
"Seamus has spent a lot of time with him," Sexton said, referring to goaltending development coach Seamus Kotyk. "We're going to meet on it to find the right situation, whether it's North America or Europe. It doesn't really matter to us. The most important thing is to find the right development situation for him."