The Buffalo Sabres are heading into the final week of training camp and in the wake of Saturday's visit by the Toronto Maple Leafs to KeyBank Center, there are only three preseason games left.
None of those are at home. When the Sabres hit the ice again downtown, it will be for real as they stage the Oct. 4 season opener against the Boston Bruins.
There is plenty of roster roulette to be played before then. The Sabres entered Saturday with 50 players and promptly cut the group to 43 during the first period when they announced that seven players had been sent to Rochester.
The departed are goaltenders Michael Houser and Adam Wilcox, defensemen Zach Redmond and Devante Stephens and forwards Eric Cornel, Vasily Glotov and Kevin Porter. No surprises there.
Perhaps as many as a dozen more moves could be made Sunday, as the Sabres will get down to around 30 players so the Amerks can be decently stocked for the start of their training camp Monday in Rochester.
There are interesting decisions to be made by the front office and coaching staff based on what we've seen so far in training camp. And, being real about it, contract matters and waiver status may come into play too.
Here's a look where things stand:
These will easily be the most interesting decisions the team has to make. Going alphabetically, locks for spots are Patrik Berglund, Jack Eichel, Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville, Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues, Conor Sheary, Jeff Skinner, Vladimir Sobotka and Scott Wilson.
Casey Mittelstadt started camp penciled in as the second-line center but has been mostly silent to date. He still figures to make the team but it might make more sense to drop him down to the third line.
Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson are both under contract for this year but are getting pushed for their spots on the roster. It's possible the Sabres could look to waive or trade either of them prior to the season if they are looking to use spots for young players.
Justin Bailey and Nicholas Baptiste have to clear waivers to get back to Rochester. Neither has done much in camp or the exhibition games and seem to be headed to the waiver wire. The question is if they will clear to get back to the Amerks or if their time in the organization will end.
The Sabres have five intriguing young forwards in Tage Thompson, Alexander Nylander, C.J. Smith, Rasmus Asplund and Victor Olofsson. Thompson and Nylander have done an awful lot thus far to claim a spot.
Thompson, in fact, scored a highlight-reel goal Friday in Toronto and was rewarded with another game Saturday and a spot on the top line on Jack Eichel's wing. Although he was moved down a line in the second period, it's clear Thompson has impressed the brass.
"I really liked what he brought to the game [Friday]," said coach Phil Housley. "Some speed, tenacity on the forecheck and really used his speed in the right areas in the transition part of the game. Had some really good looks. … He's brought a lot of great energy into our group and it's good to see him develop in the right way."
Nylander was a standout in the Prospects Challenge and was easily the club's best forward in the preseason opener at Columbus. He's clearly stronger, faster and playing much more of a 200-foot game.
Smith, Asplund and Olofsson have all had good moments in either prospect games or the exhibitions. It's probably a stretch for any of them to make the team now but they would clearly be options for callups from Rochester if injuries struck.
It looked like the Sabres skated with their top three regular-season pairs Saturday night. The defense saw Rasmus Ristolainen with Marco Scandella, No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin with Jake McCabe and Nathan Beaulieu with Zach Bogosian.
After that, Casey Nelson would need waivers to go to Rochester and he's going to make the team. Especially since he signed a two-year contract in May. Veteran Matt Hunwick would have been in the top eight but a neck injury has him on the shelf indefinitely.
The surprise of camp on the blueline has been Swedish import Lawrence Pilut, who earned more than 25 minutes of ice time Friday in Toronto and has impressed with his skating and passing ability. Pilut and Brendan Guhle will be big names on what figures to be a deep blueline in Rochester. This week will decide if one of them might start in the NHL.
It's simple here. Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark will be in the NHL and Scott Wedgewood will join Wilcox in Rochester. Jonas Johansson figures to be the starter at Cincinnati of the ECHL, where the Sabres will also send some players.