Buffalo Sabres rookies held their first practice at the LECOM Harborcenter on Wednesday, in preparation for the first of three games of the 2023 Prospect Challenge on Friday, but while some of the group going through their paces are focused on making a good first impression, a number of forwards are looking ahead to the start of training camp next week and the battle for a roster spot created by the injury to winger Jack Quinn. 2022 first-rounders Matthew Savoie and Jiri Kulich are considered two of the leading candidates, but each will have to build on success last season at the junior level and in the American Hockey League.
Savoie, 19, is in an unusual spot where he cannot play in the American Hockey League because his 20th birthday is not before December 31 and has little to prove after posting a second straight 90+ point season in the WHL, but that might be where he ends up if he does not make a favorable impression over the next few weeks.
— Michael Augello (@MikeInBuffalo) September 13, 2023
“Obviously, it’s my goal to make (the NHL) right out of training camp. I feel like I’ve trained and prepared really well this summer to put myself in a position to be able to stick around and, you know, that’s my goal.” Savoie said. “You can always find ways to improve and work on your game and add elements to your game that weren’t there in previous years and if that’s the situation, I’m gonna go back and put my head down and work as hard as I can to just round out my game, continue to work on areas that maybe I wouldn’t have worked on in the past and just become more all-around player.”
The 19-year-old Kulich may have an upper hand after scoring 22 goals with the Amerks last season and one of Rochester’s top scorers in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Kulich indicated that he has put on 16 pounds of muscle since the end of the playoffs in May, but the key to his making the Sabres will be his ability to play at both ends of the ice.
Other possible options for head coach Don Granato could be Lukas Rousek (who led the Amerks in scoring with 56 points last season) and possibly 2023 top pick Zach Benson, but the 18-year-old would have to be spectacular in camp to forego another year in Junior and potentially a trip to Sweden as part of Team Canada’s World Junior squad this December.