Victor Olofsson was a seventh-round draft pick by the Sabres in the 2014 NHL Draft and one of the team’s few late-round success stories in recent years. Olofsson has carved out a role for himself in the NHL as a streaky scorer who has one of the better shots in the league. His development has been a great story for the Sabres, and his offensive contributions have been what the team has lacked throughout their playoff drought. The 2021-2022 season was his best year statistically, but it was a winding road for him to get there.
2020-2021 Season Was a Down One for Olofsson
Olofsson was known mostly for his offensive ability, yet there was concern about his possible impact because of an off-year last season. With his shooting ability, he is a tremendous threat on the power play; he can shoot from anywhere in the offensive zone. He leaves you wanting more in terms of playmaking and defensive play, but he is far from a defensive liability, and he sees the ice relatively well in the offensive zone.
In 2020-2021, Olofsson suffered a bit of a sophomore slump. After breaking out with 20 goals and 22 assists in his rookie season, he followed it up with just 13 goals and 19 assists last season. He needs a playmaking center who can get him the puck to be effective, and after Jack Eichel missed most of last season, Olofsson struggled to contribute consistently. However, it seems that was a down year for just about everyone on the team, and Olofsson was no exception. Yet, there were expectations for him to develop at 26 years old (to start the season), heading into his third season as a full-time NHL player.
Slow Start, Strong Finish for Olofsson
Olofsson has his share of ups and downs last season. The Swedish forward scored five goals in October before going on a goalless streak of 30 games that lasted until mid-February. He really picked it up toward the end of the season, scoring 13 of his 20 goals from March 2 onward. It was his best statistical campaign, and he finished with a career-high in assists and points and tied his career-high goal total from his rookie season. The final totals for him were: 20 goals and 29 assists in 72 games.
He found success on a line with Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Asplund. The trio played 19 games together, scoring 11 goals, and were on the ice for only four against. The line works well because Olofsson can shoot and finish, Asplund is a tremendous defensive player who transitions well to offense, and Mittelstadt is proficient at seeing the ice and making passes to get the puck to his wingers. They all bring something to the table and are effective in all three zones.
The Olofsson we saw at the end of the season is likely who he is as a player. Goal scorers have a tendency to be streaky, but the stretches at the beginning of the season were more bad luck than anything else. He also suffered an injury to his wrist on Halloween, and that could have been a major impediment to his goal-scoring early in the season before he started producing consistently. Having a three-season sample size now gives the Sabres what they need to know to make a decision on him, as Olofsson will become a restricted free agent this offseason.
Future Look & Final Grade
The Sabres have a ton of cap space and can sign Olofsson if they desire. The more interesting question is what his next contract will look like and how the Sabres see him in relation to their future plans. He will be 27 when next season starts, so he still has a lot of hockey left in him, but the Sabres have been reluctant to give long-term deals in recent offseasons. They opted to give Mittelstadt, Rasmus Dahlin, and Henri Jokiharju short-term contracts recently, and it is hard to see them changing that trend with Olofsson. The Sabres lack depth on both wings, so they need to seriously consider re-signing Olofsson.
As far as a grade goes, this one is difficult because of the early season struggles and then the late-season surge. Because of Olofsson’s career-highs in multiple categories, and the player he was late in the season is a better indication of where his development is at, he earned a B grade for the 2021-2022 season.
Zach Rohde is a Buffalo Sabres Contributor for THW. Growing up in the Buffalo area during the late 2000s, the Sabres success fueled his passion for hockey. He has written about the Sabres for another site in Buffalo previously, and covered Buffalo Sports for a brief time as a freelance sports assistant for Spectrum News Buffalo before moving to a full time position in general news. Twitter: @ZachRohde