Matt Duchene will land a huge contract in free agency. ©2019, Hickling Images

Trades, not free agents, likely Sabres’ best option for improving roster

BUFFALO – The Sabres must examine every option to improve their weak roster, so, yes, general manager Jason Botterill acknowledged, they’ve discussed some of the top free agents on the market.

It’s no secret center Matt Duchene would fill a glaring need as the No. 2 pivot behind Jack Eichel.

For a few years, even as the Sabres kept struggling, their greatest strength was up the middle.

Most teams are lucky to have one top ... Read the full article

Erik Portillo has some gaudy equipment. ©2019, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Sabres goalie prospect Erik Portillo stands out on ice

BUFFALO – You can’t miss Erik Portillo on the ice. In addition to being one of three Sabres prospects listed at 6-foot-6 on the roster, the Swede sports the gaudiest equipment of any of the six goalies in development camp.

European teams love plastering advertising everywhere, and Portillo’s Frölunda gear features plenty. Even the back of his pants have two McDonald’s logos.

But fans attending this morning’s three-on-three tournament, the conclusion of the four-day camp ... Read the full article

Oskari Laaksonen won a gold medal in January. ©2019, Hickling Images

Oskari Laaksonen quietly one of Sabres’ best prospects

BUFFALO – Barely two years ago, unless you had spent time scouring the Finnish junior leagues for draft talent, the name Oskari Laaksonen wasn’t familiar to you.

NHL Central Scouting and other notable services didn’t even rank the Finnish defenseman. Googling his name would return some stats, that’s about it.

So when the Sabres grabbed Laaksonen 89th overall at the NHL Draft in 2017, going way off the board in the third round, the selection ... Read the full article

Jason Botterill thinks Rasmus Ristolainen can keep developing. ©2019, Hickling Images

Sabres GM Jason Botterill knows teams will ask about Rasmus Ristolainen

VANCOUVER – Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill knows plenty of teams would like to pry away a 6-foot-4 defenseman capable of gobbling up minutes and producing points like Rasmus Ristolainen.

“We understand there’s going to be inquiries about him,” Botterill said Friday morning, hours before the NHL Draft inside Rogers Arena. “We’re open as an organization to continuing to try to find ways to improve our team. But we realize and we’re very ... Read the full article

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen turned pro last month. ©2019, Hickling Images

Sabres goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen named OHL’s MVP

Top Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen said his hip started bothering him at the World Junior Championship in late December and early January.

Playing so many games and practicing so often during the short tournament can be tough on players.

“That’s usually when you notice something isn’t right,” Luukkonen, 20, said on a conference call today after being named the Ontario Hockey League’s MVP.

Still, Luukkonen’s hip hardly affected his play.

The former second-round ... Read the full article

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was a star in Sudbury. ©2019, Gino Donato, Sudbury Wolves

Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen named OHL’s top goalie

Buffalo Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been named the Ontario Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Year, the junior league announced today.

The Finn, 20, quickly morphed into a star in his first North American season, compiling a sparkling 38-11-2 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and six shutouts in 53 games.

The Sudbury Wolves, meanwhile, enjoyed their best season since 1994-95.... Read the full article

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen enjoyed a stellar season in Sudbury. ©2019, Sudbury Wolves

Sabres goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen undergoes hip surgery

Top Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has undergone successful hip surgery and is expected to make a full recovery within six months, Rochester Americans general manager Randy Sexton announced this morning.

The could, of course, put the start of Luukkonen’s 2019-20 season in jeopardy. The Finn, 20, will likely be the Amerks’ starting goalie next year.

Luukkonen joined the Amerks earlier this month after a stellar junior season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury ... Read the full article

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen joined Rochester earlier this month. ©2019, Hickling Images

Sabres goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen learning pro game

TORONTO – On April 14 in Belleville, goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen played his 68th and likely final game this season, stopping 32 shots in the Rochester Americans’ 4-2 win over the Senators.

“It was a big thing for me, builds your confidence up a lot, especially looking to next season when you want to play in the pros,” the Buffalo Sabres’ top goalie prospect said of his pro debut.

Luukkonen, 20, has taken a backseat to ... Read the full article

Los Angeles could hire Todd McLellan. ©2019, Hickling Images

Report: Todd McLellan won’t be Sabres’ next coach

Todd McLellan won’t be the Buffalo Sabres’ next coach, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

The Sabres identified McLellan as a candidate and talked to him this week but never made an offer, McKenzie tweeted this afternoon. McLellan was in Buffalo to watch his son, Tyson, a junior defenseman with Denver, compete in the Frozen Four.

The Los Angeles Kings could be close to hiring McLellan, according to McKenzie.... Read the full article

Ryan O'Reilly spent three seasons in Buffalo. ©2018, Hickling Images

Former Sabre Ryan O’Reilly producing for Blues amid losing season

Not much has changed for ex-Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly in St. Louis. The Blues utilize him constantly, relying on him to play big minutes. Just like in Buffalo, the versatile center quickly seized his opportunities, morphing into perhaps his new team’s best player.

And just like in Buffalo, O’Reilly has endured a lot of losing.

The Blues, one of the NHL’s heavyweights for years, just missed the playoffs last season, earning 94 points. When they ... Read the full article