Matej Pekar likes to agitate opponents. ©2018, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres prospects Matej Pekar, Casey Mittelstadt battle on ice

BUFFALO – After Matej Pekar hit Casey Mittelstadt in the head during Saturday’s three-on-three development camp tournament, the agitator sensed an opportunity.

“That’s my shot to kind of piss him off, get in his head and try to win the game for the team,” Pekar said after camp ended inside HarborCenter. “I guess it worked out.”

Pekar, the 94th overall pick a week ago, kept going after Mittelstadt, irking the Sabres’ top forward prospect. The youngsters shoved. For a few seconds, it looked like they would fight. Pekar’s Team Hasek eventually won the game.

“It’s way more fun when you see Casey getting pissed at you,” he said.

Pekar, a Czech winger who produces points, relishes going against the opponent’s top players.

Any physicality or scrapping during camp usually involves invites or later-round picks looking to make an impression. But Pekar said he loves “to be the annoying guy.”

Pekar said he tries to emulate the same style as Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand, the NHL’s biggest rat.

“I’m not a super-skilled guy that just can dangle all over five guys and score a goal,” he said. “In order to create some offense, I got to play like that.”

During a later tilt between Team Hasek and Team Martin, Pekar and Mittelstadt shoved again near the benches. Eventually, center Eric Cornel came to Mittelstadt’s defense.

“It’s just hockey, I guess, two competitive guys,” Mittelstadt said. “I don’t think it’s anything. Leave it on the ice. I’m sure it’ll be fine when we get off it.”

Sabres coach Phil Housley said the battling was “just the spirit of the moment.”

“Matej is a competitor and you could see it,” he said. “When competitive situations arise, we want competitive players, and I thought he did a great job today.”

Team Martin won the tournament.

On Friday, a day after Pekar high-sticked defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, the first overall pick leveled Pekar. But Dahlin said the open-ice hit wasn’t retribution.

“There wasn’t any hard feelings, no,” Dahlin said. “It’s all good now.”

After the hit went viral, Pekar said he and Dahlin laughed about the it together at a table.

“It was all over the media,” he said. “The Czech national team posted it.

Housley said Conor Sheary, the winger the Sabres acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, possesses speed the team sorely needs.

“We’re trying to get faster and he can bring that,” he said.

The Sabres also acquired Matt Hunwick, a defenseman Housley coached in the 2014 World Championship with Team USA.

“Hunwick is a very reliable puck-moving defenseman that has great mobility,” he said.

Assistant general manager Randy Sexton said the Sabres haven’t decided where goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will play next season.

The Sudbury Wolves selected the Finn third overall in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft on Thursday.

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