By Ian Oland
HERSHEY, PA — Matthew Savoie, one of the top prospects not playing in the NHL, made his professional debut for the Buffalo Sabres’ AHL affiliate on Thursday night.
Savoie, the Sabres’ first-round pick, ninth overall, in the 2022 NHL Draft, suited up in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Rochester Americans and Hershey Bears at Giant Center — the 500th all-time meeting between the two teams.
The Americans announced the news earlier in the day after the team’s morning skate.
Savoie wore number 93 in the game and skated on the left wing on a line with Brendan Warren and Kohen Olischefski.
He first joined the Amerks on Sunday after his junior hockey league team, the Winnipeg Ice, were eliminated in Game Five of the WHL Finals by the Seattle Thunderbirds. Savoie, who the Ice drafted first overall in the 2019 WHL draft, led Winnipeg in postseason scoring, tallying 29 points (11g, 18a) in 14 games — good for second-most in the WHL overall.
Matt Savoie, the ninth overall pick by the @BuffaloSabres in the 2022 NHL Draft, is making his professional debut tonight, playing left wing on a line with Brendan Warren and Kohen Olischefski.
— Amerks PR (@AmerksPR) May 25, 2023
“He’s pumped,” Amerks head coach Seth Appert said. “He’s such tremendous competitor. It’s the thing that just jumped off the page at Dev Camp and Rookie Camp: his pace and his natural competitiveness.”
Are you excited!? pic.twitter.com/vSWIXP27bN
— x-Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) May 25, 2023
Savoie scored 95 points in 62 WHL regular season games, ending the season as the league’s seventh-best scorer (Connor Bedard led everyone with 143 points in 57 games). Savoie’s 38 goals gave him a tie for 13th-most in the league.
The 19-year-old centerman, born on New Year’s Day in 2004, has incredible hands and NHL speed. He could play an oversized role in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bears, depending on how quickly he acclimates, and will likely push for a full-time roster spot next season in Buffalo.
Matthew Savoie, everyone. #RallyTheStorm | #FeedingTheFuture pic.twitter.com/3rzQKLh7g6
— Winnipeg ICE (@WHLWpgICE) April 6, 2023
“I just describe him as a Sabre and the kind of things we talk about being a fit for the type of players we like to have,” Sabres director of player development Adam Mair said in March per the team. “He’s tenacious on pucks. He’s competitive, he plays fast, he’s dedicated to his craft. He loves hockey. He asks questions. He’s aware of himself. That’s really exciting when I talk to him and watch him play.”
Savoie does have some experience, albeit minor, against some of the Hershey Bears he’s playing against in the Eastern Conference Final. Savoie suited up for Buffalo in the September 25, 2022 preseason game against Washington. The Capitals roster that night included Connor McMichael, Vincent Lapierre, Vincent Iorio, Garrett Pilon, Aliaksei Protas, Joe Snively, and Zach Fucale. Hunter Shepard, who started for the Bears on Thursday, backed up that night.
Headline photo: Tori Hartman/Hershey Bears
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