With the 9th pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, the Buffalo Sabres have selected Matthew Savoie from the Winnipeg Ice of the Western Hockey League (WHL)
About Matthew Savoie
When it comes to offensive potential, no player in the 2022 NHL Draft may be as talented as Matthew Savoie. While he is considered undersized at 5-foot-9, Savoie understands his role on the ice, as he utilizes his speed, agility, and offensive instincts to set up scoring chances for his teammates. He is one of if not the best skater in this class, and he has already proven that he can keep up with NHL-caliber players during an offseason 4-on-4 tournament.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft: Live Tracker
Offensively, Savoie is the total package, as he has a strong and accurate shot, an incredible hockey IQ, and a (mostly) great pass that can set up an easy goal for his teammates. He is also dominant with the man advantage, as he is an elite producer while his team is on the power play. Overall, in 65 games playing for the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL, he posted 35 goals and 90 points, which was good for seventh overall in the league.
While there are a few questions about Savoie’s defensive capabilities, that part of his game can be refined with time. Given his toolkit, he should be able to develop into a top-six forward, with the potential to be an undersized but dominant top-line centerman like Brayden Point.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
“Without a doubt, Savoie is a premier threat with the extra man as his elite vision often finds the stick of a teammate. While he has been known to pass more often than shoot (possibly too much at times), his wrist shot is hard and accurate, which just adds to the threat he already is on the power play. Special teams are where he’s going to generate most of his points in the NHL, but he will have to continue to develop his game at even strength in order to maximize his potential when he gets there.
“Evidence of his superior skills was on display in the on-ice testing portion of the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on March 23 when Savoie led all 36 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) skaters in 30m Forward With Puck, Weave Agility With Puck, Transition Agility and Reaction With Puck drills. Clearly, he’s one of the best skaters in the draft when it comes to the top CHL players.
“In the game itself, Savoie showcased his slick edges and willingness to go to the net when he busted in front of Mats Lindgren and got a good shot on goaltender Tyler Brennan. When you watch video of him, you can easily see that he’s not afraid of the crease or the middle of the ice. Even though he’s only 5-foot-9, he uses his speed and agility, not his size to create chances in and around the blue paint. Basically, he’s a multifaceted weapon that will be difficult to contain when he makes it to the NHL one day.
Related: THW’s 2022 NHL Draft Guide
“The fact that he’s already done it against NHLers (albeit in a 4-on-4 tournament in the offseason) like Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Hagel and Jordan Martinook, bodes well for his future. In that tournament, he looked comfortable especially in the semifinal when he was one of the most noticeable players on the ice.
“‘Savoie just exploded,’ said Tyrel Spitzer, his former coach and the event organizer. ‘He just went to a whole other level. He was so dynamic with his speed, his shot, his playmaking ability. He was relentless… I’m used to seeing this against his peer group or maybe the junior-level players. All of a sudden, he’s doing this against NHL- and AHL-level players. It was like, “Oh my goodness. This is incredible.”‘ (from ‘For 2022 NHL Draft ‘offensive dynamo’ Matt Savoie, stardom has always been inevitable’ Scott Wheeler, The Athletic, 3/24/22).
“That’s mighty impressive for a 16-year-old playing in a tournament filled with veteran players. He’s now dominating the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Winnipeg ICE where he’s on pace for a gaudy 33 goals and 91 points in only 65 games. With his skating, edges, work ethic and playmaking ability, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if he put up those types of numbers with a team in the NHL. Whoever doesn’t get Cooley or Wright will be getting a heck of a prize, that’s for sure.”
How This Affects the Sabres’ Plans
For a team in Buffalo’s position, Savoie can be a perfect long-term fit. In recent years, smaller players have been finding their place in the league, and given his potential, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t take on top ice-time in a few years.
Now, it isn’t to rush him onto NHL ice just yet. Savoie still needs more time to continue developing his game and could use at least another season in the WHL to focus on cleaning up his passing and his defensive zone structure. Fortunately, the Sabres won’t need to rush him, as they aren’t expected to be competing for the postseason for another two to three years.
That timetable lines up well for both player and team, as that could be the perfect time to start working Savoie into a middle-six role with sheltered power-play ice time. In that role, he could adjust to the NHL game while chipping in a few points along the way. This would be a win-win, as he could become a cornerstone that the franchise builds around for years to come.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.