The Buffalo Sabres continued to be proactive in getting last year’s draft class under contract, as the club signed winger Viktor Neuchev to a three-year entry-level deal on Tuesday. The contract has an average annual value of $870,000, with an AHL salary of $82,500, and potential performance bonuses of $80,000 per season.
Neuchev was the Sabres third-round selection (74th overall) at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal after scoring 40 goals for the KHL’s Avtomobilist Yekaterinberg’s junior-level MHL. The 19-year-old winger was promoted to the minor league level VHL for a short stint last season, before being promoted to the KHL. In 57 games, the 5’11”, 165 lb. winger scored 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists).
Hockey Prospect.com’s Black Book describes Neuchev as showing “a better understanding of how to stay in motion, seamlessly maintaining his stride as he works in unison with his hands. His playmaking, and willingness to attack angles in high danger areas, and un-telegraphed, yet inventive thinking make it very difficult for defences to adjust to his game.” The young Russian is “not the most precise shooter or technically gifted shooter in some areas though. He’s a shot-generation machine, who had some of the highest shot rates out of any draft-eligible player (in 2022).”
There is no definite indication of what the Sabres intend to do with the young Russian, but if they follow the blueprint of 2022 first-rounder Jiri Kulich, they could bring Neuchev over to North America to serve his apprenticeship in the American Hockey League instead of remaining for another year in the KHL.
Neuchev is the fourth Sabres 2022 draftee to sign his entry-level contract with Buffalo. First-rounders Matthew Savoie, Noah Ostlund, and Kulich were all locked up to their rookie contracts last summer.
Savoie (9th overall) had a second straight 90+ point season with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and is expected to get a long look at training camp next September. The 19-year-old is ineligible to play in the American Hockey League next season, which would force Savoie to return to the WHL for a third year or stay with the Sabres. This could result in a scenario similar to Seattle’s Shane Wright. The Kraken’s fourth-overall selection played eight NHL games, so as to not burn the first year of his entry-level deal. He played in the AHL on a conditioning stint before being loaned to Team Canada for the 2023 IIHF World Junior and was then sent back to OHL Windsor.
Ostlund (16th overall) played for Sweden at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championships, and scored 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists) in 37 games with Djurgardens (SHL) last season, while Kulich scored seven goals for Czechia at the World Juniors and tallied 24 goals for AHL Rochester.