LEWISTON, NY – At the annual Buffalo Sabres Development Camp, there was a mix of high draft choices who entered camp with big expectations.
On the other end of the scale, there were the invitees who were given an opportunity to show what they can do. They entered the five-day camp hoping for two things – to sign a National Hockey League contract – and to get noticed, which would lead to an invitation to Buffalo’s real training camp in September.
One of these players who felt the most pressure to succeed in camp was winger Geordie Wudrick.
Things have not gone smoothly for Wudrick, a third round selection of the Los Angeles Kings in 2008, in trying to secure a National Hockey League contract. He has spent four years playing for Swift Current and Kelowna in the Western Hockey League, but has yet to sign or suit up for a NHL game.
At the beginning of the camp, things started off badly even though Wudrick arrived at camp without incident. The problem was, his equipment did not. It got tangled in a travel snafu and did not arrive in time for the first day workouts. So Wudrick spent that day doing off-ice conditioning drills.
“Everything is pretty good so far,” said Wudrick, who attended the Phoenix Coyotes’ rookie camp last summer. “We have had good practices and good skill work. Overall, it is a good experience to come out here.”
And despite failures to sign a contract with the Kings or Coyotes, Wudrick is aiming to make an impression on the Sabres brass.
“Not being able to sign a contract with LA and playing another year in junior, this is a good opportunity to come here,” he said. “My goal is, in this camp, to get a contract and to be part of the Sabres organization.
Wudrick had a solid 2010-11 season, at least statistically, scoring 43 goals and adding 16 assists for 59 points in 71 games.
A fascinating story at the camp was goaltender John Cullen, a goaltender who grew up in nearby Hamburg. A lifelong and voracious Sabres fan, he hopes to someday play for the exact same team he rooted for as a child – and still does now.
“I will tell you what. The first time I put on the jersey and looked down at my chest and saw the Sabres logo, it was a great feeling,” he said. “I have been such a great fan, and all of my friends growing up. I want to be a part of bringing the Stanley Cup to Buffalo. To have the opportunity would be a dream come true.”
Cullen, who went 6-3-0 with a 2.17 goals against average in 11 games this season with Windsor of the OHL, has that opportunity this week. He made the most of it in Saturday’s scrimmage, backstopping the Gray team to a 5-2 triumph over the Blue squad.
“I thought we played extremely well in our own zone,” said Cullen, who is rooming with fellow camp invitee Steve Beyers. “We kept the shots to the outside, and when they did have chances, I was able to shut the door. We capitalized on our chances, and it was a good team game overall.”