The Buffalo Sabres had high hopes for J-J Peterka after an excellent rookie season, but after being named the top forward of the 2023 World Championships and leading Team Germany to a silver medal, the club has to be encouraged that the 21-year-old winger can step into a larger role in his sophomore NHL campaign.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 28, 2023
After averaging nearly a point per game in his first season in North America with AHL Rochester, Peterka graduated to the Sabres and posted 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) as a rookie. At the Worlds, the youngster took a leadership role, but not before some prodding from German head coach Harold Kreis.
After not liking what he saw from Peterka in an early game against Austria, Kreis benched the forward to send him a message. In the next game against Hungary, he scored a goal and three assists.
“That was an extra boost of motivation,” Peterka said to a German news outlet. “I was motivated against Hungary to show what I can do.”
Peterka finished the tournament second in scoring behind Rocco Grimaldi and Dominik Kubalik with 12 points (six goals, six assists), leading Germany to a semi-final upset of an unbeaten Team USA before losing 5-2 to Team Canada in the gold medal game.
Germany Becoming A Hockey Power
“Things are changing,” Peterka said after the tournament. “If you look back ten, fifteen years, we tried not to fall. Now our goal is to reach the quarter-finals and then move on. It’s good to see how German hockey is growing and how we are improving as a country.”
The feat of Peterka and the Germans was made even more impressive by the fact that their best forward, Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl did not come over to play after the Oilers were eliminated by Vegas in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
— Buffalo Hockey Moments (@SabresPlays) November 3, 2022
Buffalo’s aim of breaking their 12-year playoff drought will depend on a number of factors. There are expectations that GM Kevyn Adams may go shopping in the trade market or free agency for a veteran defenseman and might look to add some experience between the pipes after giving up 300 goals against last season. Just as important to their pursuit of the playoffs will be the continued growth of young forwards like Dylan Cozens, Jack Quinn, Peyton Krebs, and Peterka to provide secondary offense and relieve some of the burden from top liners Alex Tuch, Jeff Skinner, and Tage Thompson.