Noah Ostlund played five total games with Rochester late in the season. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Sabres prospect Noah Ostlund’s hockey sense stands out with Rochester: ‘Basically blows your mind’

ROCHESTER – The Calder Cup Playoffs can be unforgiving to a 5-foot-11, 163-pound neophyte like Buffalo Sabres center prospect Noah Ostlund.

Forget about the talent and supreme hockey sense the Swede, 20, possesses. He was the lightest player on either roster during the Americans’ North Division semifinal series. No one had played fewer games in North America.

So after playing the first three playoff games, Ostlund, the 16th overall pick in 2022, took a seat and watched the Amerks’ final two do-or-die contests against the Syracuse Crunch.

After scratching Ostlund for Game 4, former Amerks coach Seth Appert explained it had nothing to do with the rookie’s play. The Sabres, of course, view him as a special prospect.

Still, with the season on the line, Appert wanted to tailor his lineup to match a heavy, veteran Crunch team and even, believe it or not, the ice surface.

“The style of game that Syracuse plays, the ice conditions in Syracuse don’t lend itself to more skill,” said Appert, who was promoted to an assistant on Lindy Ruff’s staff with the Sabres on May 13. “We needed to put more size and grit and physicality into the lineup as possible.”

Ostlund joined the AHL team in April and played just five total games. Having spent his entire career in Sweden, he hasn’t developed that side of his game. He must pack on muscle, learn to play a grittier game and adapt to having less time and space on the smaller North American ice surface.

“What I see is a player that is going to be a really good centerman going forward once he fills in his body and gets used to the North American style,” Amerks assistant coach Vinny Prospal said. “The rinks are small and the tempo’s higher and physical play is a little bit more than what he was used to in Sweden.

“Like, not that they don’t hit there, but overall, you can call the European leagues like a love fest. Here, there’s a lot more physical contact. Once he gets used to it and, obviously, gets more acclimated with his teammates, he’s going to be a really good player.”

The Amerks eased Ostlund, who played with Vaxjo HC in the Swedish Hockey League prior to his arrival, into the lineup. He played left and right wing instead of center, a position with more responsibility.

He recorded his first point, an assist, in the regular-season finale. He scored his first goal, a power-play tally, in the postseason opener April 26 in Blue Cross Arena.

Ostlund’s second full pro season was a grind. It began in August in Sweden and ended May 10 when the Amerks lost Game 5 in Rochester. He also starred at the World Junior Championship, registering 10 points in seven games and earning a silver medal.

“You’re coming over here from a long year in Sweden … and you’re stepping right in during the last couple of games during the season where the division standings are on the line and they’re in their playoff series against Syracuse. That’s a lot, and I thought he’s handled it really well,” Appert said.

Ostlund briefly joined Rochester during its playoff run last year but did not play because of an injury. After playing 2022-23 in Allsvenskan, the second-highest men’s league in Sweden, he said he wanted to spend one season in the SHL “because it’s one of the best leagues in the world.”

“It’s a big difference from SHL to Allsvenskan, the league I played before,” Ostlund told the Times Herald. “So I wanted to take a step in my development, and I think I did that, too.”

Ostlund compiled 12 goals and 23 points in 38 games with Vaxjo, where he was teammates with former Sabres winger Tobias Rieder and Lancaster native Dylan McLaughlin, who played four years at Canisius University.

“The start was very good, and then I get down a little bit,” Ostlund said. “Especially after World Juniors I think I played my best hockey and the same during the playoffs, so I think it was a great experience.”

Now, Ostlund’s career has shifted to Western New York. He will likely begin next season with the Amerks, where he could be teammates with Matt Savoie and Jiri Kulich, the other centers the Sabres drafted in the first round two years ago.

Ostlund’s terrific hockey sense should help him acclimate during his first full season in Buffalo’s organization. Right away, his ability to process the game at an elite level grabbed Prospal’s attention.

“That’s the first thing that stands out, because that’s where you separate players from wannabe players, because you can’t teach the hockey sense,” he said. “You either have it or not have it. You see the kid first once or twice on the ice, that’s the first thing that basically blows your mind, how he sees the ice, what kind of hockey sense he’s got, that he’s able to play both sides of the ice and stuff like that.

“You can teach the system, you can teach a shot or whatever, but you can’t teach the hockey sense.”

So where did Ostlund’s ability to think the game at such a high level come from?

“That’s a good question,” the youngster said. “I don’t even know that myself. But, yeah, I’ve been playing a lot of (different) sports, maybe that’s one reason. Trying to play as much small ice (hockey) games growing up.”

8 thoughts on “Sabres prospect Noah Ostlund’s hockey sense stands out with Rochester: ‘Basically blows your mind’”

  1. Quit drafting SMURFS !!!!
    Even if the Sabres made the playoffs, they would likely have been swept.
    This team is not built for the playoffs. The Sabres are undersized and soft.
    Trade Power.
    Trade Krebs.
    Trade Skinner
    Trade Adams.

    1. That’s just not true. Our D is Massive. Power 6’7”, Dahlin 6’3”, Samuelson 6’4”, Then we have monsters at Forward. Thompson, Tuch, Petreka, Greenway, and even Girgensons is a very physical player. I am sure there are more players I am forgetting. We have drafted a few highly skilled players that are fine when mixed in with the size we already have.

      1. Those players are no where near physical if you’ve been watching the NHL Playoffs this year !

  2. Don’t mistake tall and slender for big and strong.
    Owen Power? Tage Thompson? Greenway,Tuch and Mattias Fragilesson?
    Softer than blue cheese dressing…..and it shows.

  3. Been watch the sabres since I was 4,1971 72 season and the past couple years have been under sized , under weight and NOT UNDER LINDY RUFF!!! Get through training camp & I bet they are one with OBIE WON!! CHEMISTRY &TOUGHER, “ACCOUNTABLE& READY! GO SABRES!!

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