BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — An injury to one of the top young Sabres tarnished what was to that point a sterling prospects tournament performance by the host club.
Matt Savoie, the centerman selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, sustained an upper-body injury within the first 30 seconds of Buffalo’s 3-0 loss against Pittsburgh on Monday in the closing contest of the weeklong rookie camp that featured three games in four days at HarborCenter.
The severity of Savoie’s injury is not yet known. Rochester Americans coach Seth Appert said 19-year-old will be evaluated on Tuesday, but it is expected that Savoie will miss “a little bit of time” at the start of Buffalo’s training camp, which opens Thursday.
Savoie had been a standout for the Sabres in two previous victories during the tournament, building momentum to try and make the NHL roster in training camp. He got hurt when he skated into Penguins winger Jagger Joshua in front of the Sabres night and went down on the ice at the back wall. Watch the play here.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Savoie, who injured his shoulder in May of his draft year, clutched the left side of his upper body as he skated to the bench. He went to the dressing room and was walking around the concourse in street clothes before the end of the first period.
“It’s a contact sport,” Appert said. “You hate seeing it to any player, whether it’s a first-round draft pick, or an invite. It’s a great opportunity at at rookie camp and earn an NHL jersey and all that. Obviously with Matthew, there’s NHL training camp and bigger things ahead. So you definitely hate to see it there.”
Savoie had 38 goals and 95 points in 62 junior hockey games this past season. He scored twice in a 6-3 win against the Canadiens on Friday. Ineligible to play for Rochester in the AHL as a teenager, Savoie will be returned his junior club in Wenatchee, Washington if he does not make the Sabres roster to start the season.
Appert has praised Savoie as an “elite competitor,” impressed by the hustle displayed back-checking on the play that injured Savoie.
“A lot of high-end skill, smart players that are drafted as high as he is aren’t as hungry to go get the puck back as he is,” Appert said this week.
The Sabres already will be without promising winger Jack Quinn for at least the first half of the season after the 22-year-old injured his Achilles tendon during summer training.
Two of Buffalo’s five first-round picks on the prospect roster, Juri Kulich and Isak Rosén, were held out of the final tournament game. Both have played full seasons in the AHL and showed the Sabres enough in two games to merit rest ahead of training camp.
“They did what they did last year, a full year of pro hockey, great playoff run,” Appert said. “And then they also did what they did the first two games, not only how good they played but how they did it, how competitive they were, that they played the right way. They didn’t try just to play on skill. They played on habits and work ethic and competitiveness.”
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.