The Buffalo Beauts 2018 Free Agent Camp had an impressive turnout of potentially returning veterans, heralded draft selections, and fresh faced free agents looking to make an NWHL roster. 24 players attended the camp in total, including five different goaltenders, two defenders, and a whole slew of forwards. Included among the prospects were two 2017 Beauts draft selections, Savannah Harmon and Annika Zalewski. THW had a chance to speak with both Harmon and Zalewski after the first session of the camp, as well as some of the other players in attendance.
From watching closely to the drills and player participation, in addition to chatting with the players, we offer our insight into which players will be extended offers to be part of the 2018-19 roster and how they during the camp itself.
Juron Most Upbeat, Most Vocal
Of the 2017-18 Beauts players to take part in the camp, the most visibly tenacious and ready to go was Jordan Juron. Throughout the course of the Jun. 9 sessions Juron clearly had pep to her step, and was routinely vocal on the ice with words of encouragement and communication to the other participants. Something about her willingness to engage in talking on the ice seemed to permeate through the newer players and visibly made them more comfortable and engaged. This is an intangible of Juron’s that could be very integral for the Beauts going forward.
Playing in two regular season games for Buffalo last year and the semifinal affair against the Pride in the playoffs, she has yet to play a game for the Beauts in which she hasn’t registered a shot on goal. Separately, she has a point a piece in each of her two regular season games thus far in her NWHL career. Juron has a scoring frequency, a style of play, and a physicality that mirrors that of Maddie Elia, Hayley Scamurra, and Kourtney Kunichika – the leading scorers on the team during this past season. With the idea that Juron could be a double digit scorer in 2018-19, the Beauts will be sitting pretty on the stats sheets.
THW shared back in early May that retaining Juron was a must for Buffalo in assembling their 2018-19 roster. All early indications are that she has secured herself a spot. The Beauts are a team that need to be energized heading into the league’s fourth season, and Juron is showing that she intends to be that necessary spark. This past season the team was known to possess ruggedness and tenacity, especially with the likes of players including Elia, Rebecca Vint, Sarah Casorso, Kaylyn Schroka, and more. This upcoming version of the Beauts can be very much the same, but they need a player that can light the wick – that would be Juron.
Neumann Made Some Darn Good Saves
Goaltending is a big question for Buffalo, when perhaps it really shouldn’t be. Five goaltenders attended the camp – Sarah Quigley (Buffalo State College), Samantha Walther (Hamilton College), Dana DeMartino (Farmingdale State), Tara Treloar (Chatham University), and veteran Buffalo Beauts netminder and 2017 Isobel Cup champion Kelsey Neumann.
The veteran Neumann looked particularly sharp during the three-on-three scrimmaging. Facing an onslaught at times of different shooters, her timing and positioning looked very sound. Perhaps almost as importantly, so did her composure. Granted, it was scrimmaging but Neumann looked very comfortable in net and was rarely beaten. You could count on one hand the pucks that evaded her, and even that is doling out too generous of a number – she pretty much stopped everything. Some of the saves Neumann made were quite stellar.
Looking at college numbers alone, Walther is a very interesting choice for the Beauts’ goal crease. A recent graduate of Hamilton College, this young lady assembled some truly astounding numbers for the Continentals. Walther appeared in 23 of Hamilton’s 25 games during the 2017-18 season and posted a record of 12-8-3. That’s nothing. Within those 23 games she generated a whopping .960 save percentage and a paltry 1.08 goals-against average. It does not matter what collegiate program you played for, those are incredible numbers.
Throughout Walther’s four years with the Continentals, her save percentage was never below a .937. Her career numbers at the end of her college career were 35-33-12 with a .948 SV% and a 1.40 GAA.
Draft Picks Harmon and Zalewski Are Welcomed Additions
One of the most pleasing sights to see at the camp was that two of Buffalo’s 2017 draft selections – Harmon and Zalewski – were both in attendance. In the second round last summer with the sixth pick overall, the Beauts’ selected Harmon – a defender and NCAA champion who captained the Clarkson University Golden Knights from 2016 to 2018. Then in the fourth round with the 14th selection Buffalo drafted Zalewski, a sizable forward from Colgate University.
THW asked Harmon in particular what she felt she could bring from her NCAA experience at Clarkson to a professional hockey team in Buffalo. She responded with the following:
“I think there’s a lot I can bring. I learned a lot over my four years just about leadership, and grew as a person in those roles the past two years, so I think that a lot. It will be a new team and new dynamics. They’ve been successful. They’ve been to the Cup championship the past three years. So there’s a lot. A different dynamic definitely, but I think I can bring a voice and a second, new opinion. A different style of play than what they’ve been used to in the past.”
Two-time National Champion and Beauts draft pick, Savannah Harmon, meets the Buffalo media. pic.twitter.com/f1CA4yYz73
— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) June 9, 2018
Harmon scored 30 goals and 83 assists for the Golden Knights for 113 points in 160 career games. She was also an astounding career plus-131 for plus/minus.
Likewise, Zalewski is another prospect who could pay dividends for Buffalo if the team extends her a contract offer. The 5-foot-10 forward who spent a part of her high school career playing hockey at the Nichols School in Buffalo scored 84 points in 131 collegiate games for the Red Raiders, including 38 goals.
“I was following the Beauts for most of the season, so it was exciting the success that they had,” Zalewski told THW, when asked how closely she followed the team that drafted her. “I was definitely keeping track of their success and their progress throughout the year.”
The Beauts Have Plenty of Options
Now comes the hard part. Who of the players that attended the free agent camp ultimately are offered contracts to make the final roster? The good problem to have is that the Beauts have an abundance of options, particularly at the goaltending and forward positions. This camp has made that notion very apparent.
While there are no guarantees, one would have to think that Harmon and Zalewski most assuredly are signed. They have the talent and the winning pedigree. With Zalewski being at least partially homegrown from the Buffalo area, she fits the modicum of local talent to join the team, such as Scamurra and Elia. Harmon – who made the trip from the Chicago region to Buffalo – is too good of a player to pass up.
“I like to think I’m pretty calm,” Harmon said to THW when asked about her best attributes as a hockey player. “Whether the game is we’re up a bunch or we’re down a bunch, I like to think that my personality and the way I play is going to stay consistent. Be calm, not worried, and not get too high or too low.”
Today is the LAST DAY to register for our Free Agent Camp!
— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) June 7, 2018
Five goaltenders are a lot to choose from, and with no announcement thus far that reigning NWHL Best Goaltender Amanda Leveille is being re-signed, it is a wide open field for Buffalo. Because that it is the case, it would behoove Beauts GM Nik Fattey to get Neumann signed. She has two years as a Beaut under her belt, knows the lay of the land, and can add sustainability to the goaltender rotation – whether she is the starter, the backup, or playing the tertiary role.
Juron was easily the top forward at the camp who is not yet under contract. Get her signed, and watch how much she will blossom with a full season under her belt.
Keep in mind too that veteran Beauts Jacquie Greco, Jordyn Burns, Kunichika, Sarah Edney, Colleen Murphy, and many others could all still be re-signed too – we are still very early into the summer, and have a long ways to go. There is also the notion of adding an Olympian or two from the PyeongChang teams as well. Regardless, Buffalo will have a strong team for NWHL Season Four, no matter who makes the final cut. It is just a matter of determining the right pieces, and then properly assembling them.