The youth movement is in full swing in Buffalo, and general manager Kevyn Adams has a lot of future talent to sort through in order to build his team over the next few years. Names like Owen Power and Jack Quinn already have shown the value of a first-round pick, and players like Mattias Samuelsson and Jacob Bryson have shown how rewarding it is to see a non-first-round pick grow. This season will possibly feature the likes of Power, Quinn, and even JJ Peterka in the NHL spotlight, so they will not be included on this list, as it is reserved for a different type of prospect.
This list will be comprised of players with no NHL experience. These are the players that will need a season or more of development in order to strengthen their skills or body in order to make the NHL roster some day. Some are closer than others, and do have the ability to make the Sabres’ roster right away, but likely will not due to depth chart issues. All positions are being considered here, and the players’ individual talents, team fit, and gameplay are the main criteria for the rankings on this list.
10. Mats Lindgren – Defense
Lindgren was taken by Buffalo at this past summer’s draft in 2022 during the fourth round. Touted for his speed and offensive creativity, he projects to be a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and quarterback a power play. His skating is smooth and quick, but where he needs improvement is in his defensive awareness and size. He stands at 6-foot and weighs in at 176 pounds, so he will need to bulk up a bit in order to compete properly at the NHL level.
9. Ryan Johnson – Defense
The offensive defender has some of the best vision from the back end, and he has had plenty of time in college to get even better. He chose to return to play his fourth season at the University of Minnesota, and will have to make his choice whether or not he wishes to be a part of the Sabres organization at the end of his season. Johnson has a solid package of skating ability and playmaking vision to set plays up out of almost nothing. He is smart and responsible in his own end, and is the type of player the Sabres could rely on in the bottom half of their defensive lineup. Should he choose not to sign in Buffalo, their defensive prospect group would only grow thinner.
8. Alexander Kisakov – Left Wing
Kisakov continues the trend of speed within the Sabres’ prospect pool, and he adds in a scoring touch to go with it. He comes off a few successful years in the Russian junior league and will play for the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League (AHL) this coming year. He will be relied on for his offensive ability, but he will have plenty to work on while in Rochester. He will have to adapt to the North American style of play and gain some more strength. He has all the tools to be a steal of a pick, having been taken late in the second round in 2021, so seeing his development in the AHL will be exciting this season.
7. Prokhor Poltapov – Right Wing
Another one of the Sabres’ Russian second-round picks from the 2021 Draft, Poltapov is a different kind of player that the Sabres really need. He plays both an offensive scoring game, and still tends to be on the physical side of the puck as well. His power-forward style of play is something that lacks on the current roster, but he will continue to develop his skills in Russia as he plays for CSKA Moskova in the KHL. He does not have a large frame as he stands at 6-foot, but he plays bigger than he is, and that’s something to look forward to.
6. Tyson Kozak – Center
As a seventh-round pick in the 2021 Draft, this ranking may seem a little bit high, but there is some justification to it. Kozak had a monumental breakout season in 2021-22 with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL and really took a leap forward in his development. He found a consistent scoring touch, proved he could be a reliable two-way center, and provided leadership as the team’s captain.
He will likely go back to the WHL to be their captain again and continue to hone his skills, but there is a chance he impresses the AHL coaching staff and Kevyn Adams enough that he could earn himself a spot on the Rochester Americans for this upcoming season. He impressed in the Sabres’ first Prospects Challenge game against the Montreal Canadiens, and having seen him in action gives good enough reason to put him at this spot on the list.
5. Jiri Kulich – Center
Kulich was ruled out for the Sabres’ Prospects Challenge with a lower-body injury, but that does not take away from what he brings to the top end of the prospect pool. He plays a strong two-way game and has arguably the best overall shot in the Sabres’ system. He was the 28th-overall pick in the 2022 Draft and will jump right to the AHL to play in Rochester if he does not miraculously make the Sabres’ roster out of training camp. While it isn’t impossible for that to happen, he is not likely to jump over other players on this list right away. He is much more suited for the AHL and will be one of the top offensive options down there for the season.
4. Isak Rosen – Left Wing
The Swedish winger had a slow season in 2021-22 as he was only able to muster up two goals and two assists in 28 games with his Swedish Hockey League (SHL) club Leksands IF. Despite that, he still possesses all the tools to be a high-end offensive player. Rosen has a great shot and some solid skating ability and will be among the young group of forwards that migrates to Rochester this year. He is a great power-play option with his scoring ability, and his playmaking is underrated. Expect to see him do some real damage in the AHL and get a callup to the NHL at some point this year once he has acclimated himself properly.
3. Noah Ostlund – Center
Ostlund will play out his season in Sweden this year, and he will get to show what he can do against other men in the SHL. He is one of the most creative and smooth puck handlers that has come through the Sabres organization, and he has a lot of talent to be excited about. His skating ability is smooth as freshly made butter, and his vision is next level. On top of all that, he has the speed and puck-handling ability to make plays happen himself if need be.
He was the 16th-overall pick in the 2022 Draft and has a deserved high pedigree. He will not see NHL action for a couple of seasons, but when he does, it will be a treat to see what he can do. He has “No. 1 center” written all over him, and has the playmaking ability to complement that potential.
2. Devon Levi – Goaltender
The Sabres’ top goaltending prospect will play another college season for Northeastern University as he looks to compete for a second chance at a national title. Levi has only one big limitation to him and that is his size. He stands at 6-foot, which is shorter for a goaltender, but that has not stopped his stellar play. He has the speed and vision to make up for his lack of height, and will have every chance to compete for the starting netminder position in Buffalo in a couple of seasons.
He has some of the quickest reflexes a goalie can have, and he reads plays better than most. He is easily the second-best prospect available to them, and another successful college season this year will prove that. The Sabres got a potential steal here in their trade that they made with the Florida Panthers that sent Sam Reinhart away.
1. Matthew Savoie – Center
Savoie is a complete package of a player. He has the speed, skill, two-way ability, scoring touch, and the leadership qualities that any team would dream of having in a top prospect. Drafted ninth overall in 2022, he was the Sabres’ top pick this year and will have every chance to make the team out of training camp.
He certainly has the skill and ability to do so with the quality of the current roster, but the odds point to him being sent back to the Western Hockey League (WHL) for another season as the new development plan in Buffalo is about not rushing young players to the NHL. Savoie has everything except size. He stands at a meager 5-foot-9, but has one of the hardest working motors of any player. He will not be kept out of the NHL for long, and when he arrives, he will make a definitive mark.
The Positives of the Sabres’ Deep Prospect Forward Pool
The Sabres have not had much luck developing players of the last few years, so it is refreshing to see them take a step back and truly let their young forwards learn and grow before being forced in the NHL. They have some of the best center and forward prospects in the league, and it is a fantastic problem for Kevyn Adams to have. Odds are that not every one of these players will pan out as expected, but as things are now, they all show a lot of promise. There will be competition in the near future, especially for the center position, so it will be exciting to see which one of these incredibly talented individuals takes the spotlight and becomes the next Sabres’ superstar. Savoie is the best option, but any one of these players could do it.