BUFFALO – By about 9:30 tonight, Sabres prospect Matt Savoie will have completed his sixth game with the Rochester Americans and his 14-day AHL conditioning loan will be over.
Savoie, 19, has fit in nicely, establishing himself as one of the Amerks’ top scoring threats while showcasing the talents that made him the ninth overall pick in 2022. Staying in Rochester would likely buoy the forward’s development.
But as a teenager whose rights are owned by a Canadian Hockey League team, the Wenatchee Wild, he’s not eligible to play regularly in the AHL until his junior season is over.
“He can’t be here,” Amerks coach Seth Appert said following Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch in Blue Cross Arena. “It’s too bad for his development, because he just is getting better and better right now.”
So the Sabres must decide whether to recall him or send him 2,500 miles away to Washington State, where the Winnipeg Ice franchise moved this season.
“The upside is hopefully I get a chance in Buffalo,” Savoie told the Times Herald on Wednesday in Rochester. “But, obviously, I was hoping to get the exception to play here all year. I felt like this was a good spot for me with where I’m at in my development, keep getting better every game.”
The Sabres tried to get Savoie an AHL exemption from the Western Hockey League because he played parts of four seasons in Winnipeg. His first year, however, he was loaned to the Ice.
If they award Savoie his first NHL game action, they could create a roster spot by sending one of their rookie wingers, Brandon Biro or Lukas Rousek, to the Amerks.
In his first taste of regular-season pro hockey – he played two games in the Calder Cup Playoffs last season – Savoie has excelled at right wing beside prospects Jiri Kulich and Isak Rosen. Entering Friday’s home game against the Utica Comets, Savoie had compiled one point in each game. He scored early in Friday’s contest, his second goal and fifth point.
“Matt’s been really good,” Appert said.
Savoie hadn’t played since injuring his elbow and shoulder in the Sept. 18 in the Prospects Challenge rookie tournament. He missed all of training camp and began the season practicing with the Sabres.
“The early success is just coming from building chemistry with my linemates and bearing on chances and playing fast,” Savoie said.
Savoie has enjoyed his time in Rochester, quickly meshing with the tight-knit group of players.
“I’m just allowed to be myself,” he said. “I was allowed to get comfortable really early here. The group they have is really inclusive. Veteran guys are so good to the young guys, and the young guys, they took me in as well. So it just felt really welcome really early on so I felt like could play my game and just play comfortable out there.”
The Amerks play a road game tonight against the Syracuse Crunch.
When the Sabres recently placed winger Zach Benson and goalie Eric Comrie on injured reserve, they recalled two young forward prospects.
Biro, 25, rewarded the Sabres by scoring his first two NHL goals in Wednesday’s 5-2 road win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Biro was joined by another rookie, Lukas Rousek, 24, in Friday’s lineup against the Flyers.
“It’s an opportunity for us to see what we have in our organization and two guys that were real good through camp and have been progressively real good in Rochester,” Sabres coach Don Granato prior to the game “So now is that window of opportunity to get a greater look at what we have depth-wise in our organization.”
As the youngsters earn a look, winger Victor Olofsson sat out his third straight game as a healthy scratch. Winger Tyson Jost was also scratched.
Defenseman Mattias Samuelsson suffered a lower-body injury in the first period and left the game.
With defenseman Connor Clifton back from a two-game suspension, the Sabres scratched Jacob Bryson.