PITTSBURGH – With a full roster a week or two ago, coach Don Granato said the Buffalo Sabres figured only an injury would create a spot for forward prospect Matt Savoie.
When forward Brandon Biro went on injured reserve Monday, the Sabres had a place for Savoie, who had just completed his 14-day conditioning loan in the minors.
Savoie, 19, made his NHL debut in Friday’s 3-2 home win over the Minnesota Wild, skating just 3 minutes, 55 seconds. He did not have a shift after turning the puck over late in the second period.
On Saturday, the Sabres sent Savoie, the ninth overall pick in 2022, back to the Wenatchee Wild, his junior team.
“We were lucky to have the opportunity to have Savoie come in,” Granato said prior Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Penguins in PPG Paints Arena.
The Sabres used the roster spot to activate defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, who missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, from injured reserve.
As a teenager whose rights are owned by a Canadian Hockey League team, Savoie can’t play regularly in the AHL until his junior season ends. The Sabres tried to get him an exemption from the Western Hockey League because he played parts of four seasons with the Winnipeg Ice. His first year, however, he was loaned to the Ice.
Last week, he completed an assignment with the Rochester Americans in which he compiled two goals and five points in six games.
“I thought he had a real good six games in Rochester,” Granato said. “Our hope and intent was to have him at least play in Rochester. Rules are we couldn’t get that done. So it was a bonus to have him play those six games and play last night. And a couple weeks ago, we were worried we wouldn’t have that opportunity.”
Savoie hasn’t played junior hockey since last season, before the Ice moved to Washington State. He enjoyed a dynamic campaign in 2022-23, scoring 38 goals and 95 points in 62 games.
The Wild recently hired Roy Sommer, a renowned talent developer during his 24-year run as coach of the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliates, as coach.
“Lots of comfort,” Granato said of Savoie playing for Sommer. “Roy’s a very good man. He’s been in hockey a long time and developed lots of prospects. So for me, on a personal side, that’s a good guy to be sending your player.”
Savoie was expected to compete for an NHL roster spot this season, but he injured his elbow and shoulder Sept. 18 in the Prospects Challenge rookie tournament finale. He missed all of training camp before he began practicing with the Sabres in October.
“I believe the longer we were able to keep him around here, the more insight he could get, the more hindsight he could get as well,” Granato said. “He took a lot of hindsight from camp last year, he came back better, and I’m certain this will help him.”