By Warren Kozireski —
Following an unpredictable early first round with several trades, the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal settled down when it came time for Buffalo to make their three first round selections and they went with three forwards that all have played both center and the wing starting with Matt Savoie ninth overall.
Savoie had a breakout season offensively for the Winnipeg Ice in the Western Hockey League with 90 points 65 games playing both center and wing.
“From a confidence standpoint it just skyrocketed,” Lavoie said about his past season. “I felt more comfortable with the puck on my stick, felt more comfortable taking checks and reading plays.
“I was a bit nervous coming into the day; it can be a lot of pressure sometimes, but now that I finally got picked and have a destination, I think you can set your eyes on a goal and really start to get to work.
“I am super-excited to be a part of the Sabres organization and I can’t wait to get to work down there.”
The Alberta native stands only 5’9” and 179 lbs. but has the speed and skill level to compete.
Savoie is recovered from a shoulder injury suffered very late in the season, but it is unknown if he will be a full participant in the upcoming Prospect Camp.
With their second first round selection acquired from Vegas in the Jack Eichel trade, the Sabres again tapped a forward in center Noah Ostlund from Djurgarden in Sweden 16th overall.
At 5’10” and 164 lbs. he registered 33 assists and 42 points in 32 games with the J20 program this past season and added a gold medal with two goals in the title game when his team defeated Team USA in the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.
“I had great meetings with Buffalo and I really like the staff and I fell pumped to get started,” Ostlund said.
“I’m a player with a good hockey IQ and my skating is one of my best assets, so I would describe myself as a small, two-way centerman.”
With their third first-rounder, 28th overall, acquired from Florida in the Sam Reinhardt trade, the Sabres selected 5’11”, 178 lb. center Jiri Kulich from HC Energie Karlovy Vary in the Czech Extraliiga. He was named MVP and to the All-Tournament Team for the 2022 U-18 World Junior Championships.
“I have always been a center, but now I think I’m a better left wing, which I think is much easier for me (because) the center must be in the defensive zone more,” Kulich said.
Buffalo General Manager Kevyn Adams was all smiles after the first round.
“We are really excited about our day,” Adams said. “We feel really strongly that we got players that we believe in; they all have different attributes but very, very competitive players with speed…I like the way guys compete and play direct and play fast and that’s what this group does. It was a good day for us.”
Buffalo has selections remaining in each rounds two-five and with two selections in rounds six and seven when the draft resumes Friday starting at 11am.
(Photos by Koz)