Buffalo Sabres 2022 first-rounder Noah Ostlund came to North America after his season in the Swedish Hockey League was complete to observe the Rochester Americans during their Calder Cup Playoff run, but after watching the Amerks advance to the Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final, the youngster chose not to follow the same path as fellow first-rounders Jiri Kulich and Isak Rosen and play in the American Hockey League.
Noah Östlund gives Sweden their first lead of the game early in the 3rd period 🚨
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 5, 2023
On Monday, it was announced that Ostlund will return to the SHL next season and play with the league-champion Vaxjo Lakers.
The 19-year-old center was selected 16th overall at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal. Ostlund signed an entry-level contract last summer but was loaned back to Djurgarden. The Stockholm native had a productive year in spite of battling a foot injury during the season, scoring 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists) in 37 regular season games and five points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 12 playoff games. He also played for Team Sweden at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championships.
“It has been impressive to see all of Växjö’s success, both on the ice and all around. It also feels like a perfect place to be if you want to develop as a hockey player. So when the offer came, it was quite obvious to sign,” Ostlund said in a press release.
Sabres Embarrassment Of Riches
Buffalo’s top prospects appeared to benefit from an early indoctrination to the North American game. Kulich jumped from the Czech League and scored 24 goals in his debut season with Rochester and seven goals in the postseason. Rosen (who is a year older than Ostlund, and split time between two levels in Sweden in 2021-22) had 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in his first season in North America.
Ostlund’s decision may have come down to the opportunity to play an offensive role with the Americans next season. 2022 top pick Matthew Savoie cannot play in the AHL next season and will either be in the NHL or return to the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. Kulich based on his excellent year will get a long look at training camp in September but his chances of playing significant time with the Sabres may be affected by the Savoie situation and could have to wait another year.
By playing with Vaxjo next season, Ostlund will be free to play for Sweden in the 2024 World Junior, but will be able to come over to play after his season in Sweden is complete.