Binghamton Devils head coach Rick Kowalsky has been around the Devils organization for a long time and is running his third Prospects Challenge in Buffalo New York. The Devils have seen themselves go through a complete prospect overhaul and have a couple of shiny new toys in Will Butcher and Nico Hischier.
But it was prospects Jesper Bratt and Marian Studenic that had the Binghamton bench boss raving about the change in the Devils prospect pipeline.
Coach, Hischier and Butcher rightfully get a lot of attention, but I thought Marian Studenic was a real standout tonight for your team. What did you see?
I agree 100%, I thought him and Jesper Bratt actually were our top forwards as far as creating and using their speed. They were good along the walls, making plays. I liked Studenic’s game and you know, this is what’s great about this tournament, is you get to start to see players you normally wouldn’t.
Both of them didn’t get to play power play, but moving forward, I got to find more time for them. I was looking for more ice for them as the game wore on. I don’t know them as a coach, I’ve seen Jesper a little bit at summer camp and Studenic just this year at development camp. Like I said to the coaching staff, everybody can’t play the power play and everybody can’t kill penalties but we’re going to work that in at some point. Those were two guys that as the game wore on I was trying to find more for them because I liked the way they played. Both skilled, both have good speed and made good plays under pressure.
The third goal was a great set up by Butcher that everyone will be talking about, but I felt it was the play by Studenic in the defensive end that made that all possible.
Absolutely! And that’s the stuff for me, those are the little things in pro hockey, the guys that can make those plays, have a chance to play and be successful. There are some guys, we call them wall plays or wall work, and there are some guys that can’t make those plays, but there is no question he started it and it was not an easy play. He had pressure and he had to hang on to it and kind of cut back and then just laid an area pass to the support but he did start the play.
This is your third Prospects Challenge, the first year you guys were here the Sabres blew you guys out of the water and now, it seems the Devils prospects have come into their own. What can you say about the development of where this team has come in just a short amount of time?
No question. Just in my involvement with this, which is just been the last three years, the skill level and the speed of the players we’ve drafted and brought in has continued to increase. Obviously Nico and Butcher take that element to another level, but overall just seeing some of these kids, whether this is their second development tournament or some of the ones that this is their first, there’s no question that the scouting staff and management’s done a great job and to be honest with you, there’s probably four or five that I saw at development camp that I’d love to have here, but just can’t be here.
There’s no question we’re headed in the right direction as far as what we want to do and the management group and scouts have done a good job of finding players.
There were a couple of blown leads tonight, is there anything you guys want to work on, on the defensive end?
I was more impressed with how we stuck with it and found a way to still get back. I think, if you look at the first period, I thought we controlled the play (they did), we had the puck the whole time. I loved our energy and the pace of which we played with. Probably could have been rewarded with a couple more goals.
To Buffalo’s credit, they came back, they established a forecheck. Some of their, if you can say, veteran guys in here, like Baptiste and Bailey, caused some problems on the forecheck and they got a little bit of momentum.
We’re not too worried about systems here. We liked the fact that we responded, I liked the fact that we played at a high level from a speed and pace stand point and that we competed and stuck with it. To have a bit of a rollercoaster here, you’re not looking for the perfect game, it’s more about evaluating some of these individuals and that was our message going into this that we didn’t want to focus too much on structure and systems. We want to see what you’re capable of doing.
The play that Butcher made, or the play that Studenic made, Kujawinski going to the net to get rewarded for all of his goals, those are more important than whether there was a breakdown defensively. We can teach that as the training camp comes and the season starts to get under way.
Right now, it was more about the style overall that we want to play and for the most part we were really happy with that.