The NHL regular season is just around the corner, as all 32 teams prepare for training camp and preseason to narrow their roster down to their 23-player active rosters. In this edition of the Sabres Prospects Report, it’s a handful of 2021 NHL draft picks and Russian prospects rising to the top of the pipeline and making an impression for their respective teams. Isak Rosen, the Sabres’ 14th-overall selection in the 2021 draft, is playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), while Prokhor Poltapov, Alexander Kisakov, and Nikita Novikov are making waves in Russia’s top league and minor leagues. Catch up on how some of the top Sabres prospects are performing.
Rosen Playing in Second SHL Season
Rosen suited up with the SHL’s Leksands IF last month for the start of the preseason, potting one goal and one assist in a 6-5 shootout loss to Djurgarden. Considering he scored just one assist in 22 games last season, that was a good showing for him to start the 2021-22 season. He opened up the scoring less than a minute into the game, ripping home a power play goal (PPG) from the right faceoff circle. He added his assist in the third period helping to set up teammate Justin Kloos’ goal, skating along the wall before making his pass.
Since then, Rosen has played in three games at the SHL level and in two games with Leksands IF J20 in Sweden’s Nationell league, scoring one goal at each level for two total. Because Rosen is overseas, he didn’t participate in the Sabres’ recent Prospects Challenge held at LECOM Harborcenter, but fans should keep a close eye on him this season as he cements himself as one of the team’s top prospects.
Poltapov Shining With VHL’s Zvezda Moskva
Poltapov was the Sabres second round pick in the 2021 draft, taken at 33rd-overall. In four games with Zvezda Moskva in Russia’s Supreme Hockey League (VHL) so far in the 2021-22 season, he has scored three goals and two assists for five points, earning him a call-up to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) to play with HC CSKA Moscow at the Moscow Mayor’s Cup.
Poltapov earned 11 shifts in a 3-2 loss to Amur playing with CSKA at the Moscow Mayor’s Cup, and looked good skating with the best players in Russia. He played a simple game and didn’t try to do too much, which is usually a fatal flaw of younger players like himself. He got involved in the forecheck in the offensive zone, played a sound game in his own zone, and gave reason to keep him in the lineup throughout the season.
At the minor league level in the VHL, Poltapov would likely play more minutes, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were eventually sent down to play there. No matter what happens this season, though, the expectation for him to make an impact on the Sabres roster one day is there, and management will be keeping a close eye on his play.
Kisakov Splitting Time In KHL and MHL
Kisakov earned a spot in Dynamo Moskva’s lineup in the KHL, playing three games with them and recording no points to date. In preseason play with Dynamo, he helped his team to a 2-1 victory over Admiral Vladivostok, and stood out among the other skaters with his speed and skill. The Sabres were high on Kisakov heading into the 2021 draft, and ultimately decided to select him because of that speed and skill.
In Russia’s Junior Hockey League (MHL), Kisakov has one goal and one assist for two points, and is probably better-suited to play at that level than in the KHL this season to best serve his development. While he didn’t appear to look out of place in KHL action, even being tapped to play three-on-three overtime and creating some chances, he could benefit more from racking up the points at a lower level.
Novikov Thriving In Russia’s Top Hockey League
Out of the three Russians mentioned in this prospects report, Novikov is perhaps the best-performing player to date, and has been a mainstay with Dynamo in the 2021-22 season so far. In eight KHL games with Dynamo this season, he has one goal and two assists for three points, scoring the first goal of his KHL career last month. He jumped into the rush in the offensive zone and picked the corner with his shot, continuing his strong offensive play ever since.
Novikov was the sixth-round pick of the Sabres in the 2021 draft, and while late-round picks typically take a longer time to develop than players taken in the first two rounds, it’s a good sign that he’s playing so well and showing his skills so early in his development path.
Other Sabres Prospects Updates
Sabres 2021 first-overall pick Owen Power and goaltending prospect Erik Portillo are playing at the University of Michigan in the NCAA, hoping to win a collegiate hockey championship with a stacked roster. The Sabres Prospects Challenge took place this past weekend, as the Sabres hosted the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins for a round-robin tournament featuring each team’s top prospects. Notable players for the Sabres included goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and forwards J-J Peterka and Jack Quinn. Standout players from the games included Oskari Laaksonen and Mattias Samuelsson, who will likely start the upcoming season with the Sabres’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Rochester Americans.
Sabres Prospect Tracker (2021-22 Season)
If you’re like me and have trouble keeping track of where all the top Sabres prospects are playing during the NHL season, then not to worry – I’ve taken the liberty of compiling them into a nifty 2021-22 Sabres Prospect Tracker. Here is a list of all the prospects playing everywhere other than the NHL and the AHL.
|Owen Power||D||University of Michigan||NCAA|
|Prokhor Poltapov||RW||Zvezda Moskva||VHL|
|Alexander Kisakov||F||Dynamo Moskva||KHL|
|Isak Rosen||RW/LW||Leksands IF||SHL|
|Nikita Novikov||D||Dynamo Moskva||KHL|
|Lawrence Pilut||D||Traktor Chelyabinsk||KHL|
|William von Barnekow||RW/LW||Malmo Redhawks||SH|
|Albert Lyckasen||D||Linkoping HC||SHL|
|Vasili Glotov||C||HK Sochi||KHL|
|William Worge Kreu||D||IK Oskarshamm||SHL|
|Filip Cederqvist||LW/C||Djurgardens IF||SHL|
|Linus Cronholm||D||Linkoping HC||SHL|
|Jakub Konecny||C/W||HC Sparta Praha||Czech|
|Ryan Johnson||D||University of Minnesota||NCAA|
|Olivier Nadeau||RW||Shawinigan Cataractes||QMJHL|
|Aaron Huglen||W/C||University of Minnesota||NCAA|
|Matteo Constantini||C||University of North Dakota||NCAA|
|Vilijami Marjala||LW||Québec Remparts||QMJHL|
|Stiven Sardaryan||F||Youngstown Phantoms||USHL|
|Philip Nyberg||D||Lindlovvens IF||HockeyEttan|
|Josh Bloom||LW||Saginaw Spirit||OHL|
That wraps up this edition of the Sabres Prospects Report. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks as we move into the NHL preseason and approach the start of the 2021-22 regular season.