2014-07-23 / Sports

Williamsville’s Bailey works towards making Sabres’ roster

PATRICK NAGY
Sports Reporter


Williamsville’s Justin Bailey skates during the Buffalo Sabres’ Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage on July 15 as part of a week-long development camp at First Niagara Center. The 19-year-old forward plays for the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League. 
Photo by Timothy T. LudwigPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Williamsville’s Justin Bailey skates during the Buffalo Sabres’ Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage on July 15 as part of a week-long development camp at First Niagara Center. The 19-year-old forward plays for the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League. Photo by Timothy T. LudwigPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com A lot has changed within the Buffalo Sabres organization since Williamsville native Justin Bailey attended development camp last year.

Team captains, Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott, are no longer with the team. Goalie Ryan Miller was traded. Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston were fired as general manager and coach and replaced with Tim Murray and Ted Nolan.

All of the changes have not stopped Bailey’s desire to earn a shot at playing in the National Hockey League.

Bailey — a second-round choice by the Sabres in 2013 — was one of 41 players at development camp last week at the First Niagara Center.

“This camp is in July so it’s a midway point,” Bailey said Thursday. “The place where you really want to show is training camp. Every year my goal is to make the team. Until that happens, I will continue to keep working.”

Bailey, who turned 19 on July 1, has put in the offseason work. Since coming home in April after his Ontario Hockey League team, the Kitchener Rangers, failed to make the playoffs, he’s added approximately 11 pounds of muscle mass to his 6-foot-4 frame, increasing his weight from 195 to 206 pounds. “Not making the playoffs with Kitchener was tough but I was able to come back in April,” Bailey said. “I have been in the gym since then and have made good strides this summer. I have gotten a lot stronger and it translates on the ice.” Bailey saw a difference in his play at the Sabres’ Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage on July 15 in front of more than 8,700 fans. “That was the first game atmosphere since I have been working out this summer so I felt a lot stronger with the puck,” Bailey said. Bailey’s confidence has also grown. He said participating in development camp last year has made the transition a bit easier this year, but admits the intensity level is higher. “From the first day of practice, there was high intensity and lots of hard work,” Bailey said. “A lot of it is coming down to the mental part. Everyone’s body is a little bit tired. In the summer, you’re in the gym but there is a difference between running in the gym and skating. They are throwing a lot of stuff at us so for me, it’s a mental battle, but I feel pretty good.” Bailey is coming off a strong year for the Kitchener Rangers in which he tallied 24 goals and 19 assists for 43 points and was named Team MVP. The Rangers finished in last place in the OHL Midwest Division and failed to make the playoffs, a year removed from finishing with 87 points and qualifying for the playoffs.

Two of Bailey’s teammates, Ryan MacInnis and Nick Magyar, were drafted in June by the Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche.

“It was a year full of ups and downs,” Bailey said. “We started the year with an older team and we traded a lot of those guys. It was definitely difficult going from a team that was so talented to losing some of that.” If Bailey does not make the Sabres’ roster, he will return to play for the Kitchener Rangers. He will also compete for the Sabres in the NHL Prospects Tournament Sept. 12-16 in Traverse City, Michigan.

email: pnagy@beenews.com

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