By Warren Kozireski —
To say 2020-21 was a whirlwind season for Buffalo Sabres 2021 third round draft pick Stiven Sardarian would be quite an understatement.
Starting with things returning somewhat to normal after the pandemic to being selected in the third round of the NHL Draft by a Sabres front office that couldn’t get as many scout’s eyes on him as usual to flying across the big pond from his native St. Peterburg, Russia to play junior hockey with the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL.
New country, new language—all at 18 years of age.
“It was a hard decision because I didn’t know about NCAA anything, but USHL is like the junior league in Russia with younger guys playing,” Sardarian said.
As a freshman at the University of New Hampshire last season, Sardarian scored two goals with seven points over 29 games and was chosen as the Wildcats Most Improved Player.
This season, he already had four goals and five assists after just the first 12 games.
“I feel way better; I think I play good. We have really good team this season and also, I play a lot of time on the first power play, so I think I’m better than last season and I’m ready and our team is ready.
“I think my power, body. I worked really hard this summer and also, I have confidence. I believe in myself and I think that leads to points.”
In a recent game at RIT, the 6’1”, 170 lb. left wing was on the ice with UNH trailing the Tigers by a goal in the final minute. His centering pass from the right corner found teammate Ryan Conmy in the slot and his goal sent the game into overtime where the Wildcats won.
“I saw Ryan and he had a really good shot; unbelievable emotion (with) five seconds left.”
Sardarian was able to return home briefly this past summer after the semester ended in May but was back for the Sabres camp in July. Then back on the plane home for a camp in Moscow and back again in time for classes to begin this fall.
“Buffalo camp was really good; I like because around me were a lot of good players. Also my friends (and fellow Sabres draft picks) from Russia like (Aleksandr) Kisakov and (Viktor) Neuchev and a lot of Sweden guys, Canadian. It was an unbelievable experience with the coaching staff; it’s really interesting.”
Sardarian has not yet chosen a major but is leaning toward Sports Management or Communications. And that decision to leave his family at 18 years old to pursue his hockey dream?
As a freshman at UNH last season, Sardarian scored two goals with seven points over 29 games. This season, he already had four goals and five assists after just the first 12 games.
His favorite movie is listed as “The Blind Side,” so maybe Sardarian mirrors that movie central figure going from relative unknown to bonafide prospect over the next few years.
“It was hard decision for me moving to the U.S., but I’m happy and I think it’s really the right decision because here I can prepare really good for AHL(and) NHL.”
(Photos By University of New Hampshire Men’s Hockey Program)