Matt Savoie has played for five teams this season. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu (Rochester/Buffalo), Nick Pettigrew (Moose Jaw)

Following trade, Sabres prospect Matt Savoie on tear in Moose Jaw

BUFFALO – Six months, five teams and three leagues later, Sabres prospect Matt Savoie has settled into one place and can enjoy the final months of his junior hockey career.

A season that Savoie, 20, began injured in Buffalo has taken him to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, after stops in Rochester, Wenatchee (Washington) and Sweden.

Along the way, he showed he’s ready for the pros, made his NHL debut, represented Team Canada at the World Junior Championship and been a part of a blockbuster trade.

It has been dizzying, no doubt. But it has also been rewarding. The new and sometimes uncomfortable experiences have forced Savoie, the ninth overall pick in 2022, to figure things out. That has only buoyed his development.

“Bouncing around to different places and playing with new players and playing with different coaches … you have to adapt to it,” Savoie told the Times Herald by phone last Thursday as his new team, the Warriors, bused to Red Deer, Alberta.

Savoie fits in well with the Warriors. Having given up seven draft picks, including two first-rounders, to acquire him prior to the Western Hockey Hockey League trade deadline, they’re all in on trying to win a championship this season.

“He’s got aspirations to be a National Hockey League player, but in the meantime, he’s still got some junior hockey to play and he wants to be in a place that is competitive, and he’s a big part of it,” Moose Jaw coach Mark O’Leary said. “I think he’s real excited.”

Moose Jaw offers Savoie some familiarity. Prior to joining the Warriors on Jan. 4, Savoie played with three of his new teammates – Jagger Firkus, Denton Mateychuk and Brayden Yager – with Canada around Christmastime at the World Junior Championship in Sweden.

“It’s still been a blast since I’ve been back (from World Juniors),” Savoie said. “We’ve got a really good group of guys.”

He added: “I can come in, be myself and play my game.”

That game has traveled all over during his whirlwind season. After injuring his elbow and shoulder Sept. 19 in the Prospects Challenge rookie tournament, he missed all of Buffalo’s training camp and began the season practicing in the NHL.

While he was too young to play regularly in the AHL – the Sabres’ petition to the Canadian Hockey League for an exemption was denied – he spent six early-season games with the Rochester Americans on a conditioning stint, recording two goals and five points.

When the Sabres assigned Savoie to the Wenatchee Wild following his NHL debut Nov. 3, he knew he wouldn’t be in Washington long. After 11 games in which he scored an eye-popping 11 goals and 24 points, he left for Canada’s training camp.

During his stint with Canada, he heard other WHL teams had interest in him.

Savoie said “it was a pretty good feeling” when he unpacked his car in Moose Jaw and knew he would be staying in one place.

“When I got to Wenatchee after being in Buffalo and Rochester, I pretty much had my car still packed up because there was always that possibility I was gonna get traded,” he said.

O’Leary, who utilizes Savoie at least 20 minutes a game, wants to let him to take a deep breath and settle down. He has been careful not to overwhelm him.

“Just be a junior hockey player and get your feet on the ground,” O’Leary said. “I think this last week has been his best week. I think that’s a big part of it, he’s comfortable in Moose Jaw.”

How comfortable? Well, so far, Savoie has continued his dominance, compiling six goals and 17 points in 10 outings.

When O’Leary watched him play with the Winnipeg Ice – the franchise moved to Wenatchee this season – in previous years, he noticed the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Savoie possessed a special type of skill.

“For me, it’s competitive skill,” he said. “That’s what drew us to acquire him. … You watch the work that he does to get pucks back and … that’s a real big part of his success, and something that we’ve certainly seen here.”

Off the ice, in their brief time together, O’Leary said he has learned Savoie is “easygoing.”

“I just really enjoy the person, just having him in the coach’s office, just talking to him in game, talking to him about hockey in general,” he said. “I think that it’s refreshing.”

After walloping the Los Angeles Kings 7-0 on Tuesday, the Sabres had Wednesday off. They host the Florida Panthers tonight at KeyBank Center.

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