BUFFALO – Tyson Jost had no idea what to expect here. The center joined the Sabres at their nadir in mid-November, an eight-game losing streak. Having spent his entire career in the Western Conference, he wasn’t familiar with the organization.
Right away, Jost, a waiver claim from the Minnesota Wild, felt at home. The tight-knit group warmly welcomed him. The Sabres ended their skid in his first game and he quickly earned regular duty.
Following his first week, he told his mother he felt “like I’m part of the family already.”
“I was like, ‘Holy smokes, this is a really, really special group,’” Jost said April 16 as the Sabres held end-of-season meetings in KeyBank Center. “Yeah, it’s just cool. So much promise in the future here for the Sabres and I want to be a part of that.”
In his exit meetings with coaches and management, the 5-foot-11, 187-pound Jost, who can become a restricted free agent this summer, stressed he wants to stay with Sabres.
“I’ve definitely loved my time in Buffalo here and it’s been amazing,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for things to work out any better. I’m really, really happy that I ended up here. … I see such a bright future. Just like the locker room and the camaraderie and how everybody clicks here is just amazing.”
As the season progressed, Jost, 25, grew closer to his new teammates.
“I can call some of these guys my best friends now and I’ve only been here for whatever, four or five months,” he said. “I’ve created some pretty cool relationships. That’s just what you see in this locker room. That’s what makes a good hockey club, too.”
Having started his career with the Colorado Avalanche, Jost understands how a team can morph from an also-ran into a perennial contender. When he left North Dakota following his freshman season in 2016-17, he joined Colorado in the midst of a dreadful 22-win season. The Avalanche traded him late in 2021-22, months before its Stanley Cup victory.
“I can look back on Colorado, just the relationships I had with that team and kind of the dynamic of that team,” said Jost, the 10th overall pick in 2016. “There’s so many similarities here with Buffalo, so that’s really cool. It’s special, too. It makes it fun coming to the rink and everybody wants to enjoy their job. That’s something that makes it really easy to do here.”
When Jost hit waivers after playing just 39 total games with Minnesota, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams saw what he called “a really unique opportunity.” Jost had nearly 400 games of NHL regular-season and playoff experience with established teams.
“He had a lot of great learning opportunities and experiences that he brought here,” Adams said April 19. “… He’s versatile.”
His arrival helped solidify the Sabres down the middle, and he earned opportunities he couldn’t with the Wild. Before sitting out some late-season games, he was entrenched as the third- or fourth-line center.
Overall, Jost compiled seven goals and 22 points while averaging 13 minutes, 21 seconds of ice time over his 59 games with the Sabres. He often pivoted Casey Mittelstadt and Victor Olofsson and was utilized as a top penalty killer.
“There’s definitely another level I can get to,” Jost said. “I’ve never really experienced a coaching staff like this that’s so dialed in and in-tune with that side of the game, and it’s so, so important. I don’t think many people realize how important that is.”
Jost said prior to coming to Buffalo, he always played in fear and “worried about making mistakes and worried about the outside factors.” Sabres coach Don Granato and his staff settled him down and let him play freely.
“It wasn’t allowing me to get to my game,” Jost said of his worries. “That’s actually stuff that we just talked about with the coaches and myself, was I want to take that next step and that whole psyche and whatnot. I believe there’s a lot of potential I can still unlock.”
Jost is the Sabres’ biggest RFA. Right now, most of their forward corps appears to be set for next season. If they promote a center prospect like Jiri Kulich or add an established forward, Jost could be the odd man out.