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Future Sabres: Viktor Neuchev

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By Warren Kozireski —

After producing just five points over the first 23 games of his American Hockey League career, Buffalo Sabres 2022 third round draft pick Viktor Neuchev has turned the corner leading all Rochester rookies in scoring with seven goals and 12 assists in 34 total games.

Included in his output since Jan. 1 is a pair of three-point efforts. His 54 shots on goal also is tops among first year Amerks.

“Neuchev’s growth lately has been fun to see,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said. “His habits, his daily work ethic, just all of that stuff has been on-point. You form your habits in practice and we’ve (the coaching staff) have been seeing it for two months now with him and now more often it’s coming out in games.

“We’ve seen this with Rosie (Isak Rosen) and Kulie (Juri Kulich) about this time last year; Peterka about this time two years ago where those lightbulb moments are flickering and he’s starting to put the pieces together.

“The guys are pulling for him—he’s really won over the locker room because of the work he’s put in. When you get rookies in and they’re pretty high draft picks, the older guys in the room are watching what’s the attitude, what’s the work ethic, what’s the daily habits. Is this a guy that we want to root for and Neuchev has won them over.

The 5’11”, 171 lb. Russian native played last season in the KHL and has obviously had difficulty with the language both on and off the ice.

“At the beginning of the season it was difficult,” Neuchev said via Google translate. “In principle to adjust to life in America…but by November it became much easier. I get used to this hockey; I begin to train more off the ice which leads to results.”

“He’s a young kid; I think he’s done a really good job translating his habits from practice to a game and he’s become much more consistent in practice, and it shows with how well he’s been playing as of late,” veteran forward Graham Slaggert said about his teammate.

In late January, Neuchev was elevated from the fourth line to the top line due to an injury and responded with a two-point effort including his sixth goal of the season and fourth in eight games.

“He’s earned that with two months of practice habits, daily habits,” Appert added. He’s one of the first three or four guys here every day. He’s in the shooting room early every day and he’s one of the last guys out.

“The majority of practice days he’s here probably from eight to two o’clock in the afternoon and working most of the time and not just hanging around watching highlights.

“It’s good to see him get rewarded with a promotion and it was good to see him take advantage of that promotion on a line.”

Neuchev is still sometimes a healthy scratch—the coaching staff calls them rest days with his adjustment to the number of games in a season—but is just beginning to show what Sabres scouts saw in him prior selecting him 74th overall after his 40 goal, 67-point 2021-22 campaign with Avto Yekaterinburg. A six-game point streak Dec. 29-Jan. 20 this season is one indicator.

“It’s not a coincidence…he works extremely hard every day on his game whether it’s the shooting room or video,” veteran teammate Brett Murray said. “It doesn’t surprise me that pucks are starting to go his way and he’s starting to score and get points. He’s a great player and it was fun to be on his line.”

(Photos provided by Rochester Americans Hockey/American Hockey League)