Sabres' Smith is trying to make it difficult to send him down to Rochester

The winger sees opportunity in this training camp

Paul Hamilton
September 24, 2018 - 12:18 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports


Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Last season, C.J. Smith had a good training camp, but Jason Botterill wanted him to learn the pro game in Rochester. Injuries started piling up, but he still had enough opportunity to become an AHL All-Star.

Smith has come into training camp this season and has again performed well. He scored a skilled goal against Toronto and showed that if injuries hadn’t gotten in the way in Rochester, he may have gotten a call up to the big club. Smith said the injuries were frustrating, “It was pretty tough timing with the injuries and maybe a little frustrating for me personally, for my game when I got back because I wasn’t able to get back to 100 percent, so it hurt me at the end of the year.”

There is a process to learning the pro game. Smith signed in Buffalo after three seasons at UMass-Lowell. He said the length of the Amerks season is what was different, “To be able to be a pro every day I think is the hardest thing.

“It’s the cliché thing coming from college to pro, 30 games to 80 games, but it is so true having a clear mindset every day, trying to come in and get better every day is pretty tough during the season, but you’ve got to somehow be able to do it.”

Smith will be 24-yeard-old in December, so he’s ready to challenge for a job with the big club. The thing that I’ve been most impressed with in two training camps is how smart Smith is as a player. He said he needed to be that way to make it in college, “I was always a smaller player and I was late to develop my skills, so I always had to think the game very well and it’s helped to this level and helped me grow into the player I am now.”

To illustrate that, Smith was never drafted, but he scored 23 goals and 51 points in 41 games during his junior year. That put him in high demand when he decided to leave college a year early and Tim Murray convinced him to sign in Buffalo over many other NHL teams that wanted him.

When you have a much longer season and then you start missing time because of injury, things can get tough in pro hockey. Smith said what he learned was, “You’ve got to be there mentally to push through it, so you keep it simple when you are tired and be able to mentally push through it.”

Smith is very much pushing to make the opening night roster, as are Alex Nylander and Tage Thompson. Smith said, “It’s tough, you don’t know really where you stand so you have to come in every day and take advantage of your opportunities when they’re given and play to your ability and not try to do too much, but do something to make yourself stand out too.”

Phil Housley broke the team into two groups in Monday. It’s possible that the players from Session 1 could be going to Clinton on Tuesday along with one forward from Session 2.

In Session 1 on Monday, the lines were:

53 Skinner - 9 Eichel - 23 Reinhart

92 Nylander - 10 Berglund - 21 Okposo

49 Smith - 37 Mittelstadt - 52 Oglevie

71 Rodrigues - 65 O’Regan


26 Dahlin - 19 McCabe - 4 Bogosian

45 Guhle - 8 Nelson - 33 Borgen


34 Johansson

31 Wedgewood


In Session 2 on Monday, the lines were:


28 Girgensons - 17 Sobotka - 29 Pominville

20 Wilson - 22 Larsson - 95 Bailey

41 Olofsson - 74 Asplund - 72 Thompson

51 Criscuolo - 13 Baptiste


6 Scandella - 55 Ristolainen - 24 Pilut

82 Beaulieu - 5 Tennyson - 27 Fedun


40 Hutton

35 Ullmark

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