Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres had a nice start to the 2023 Sabres Prospects Challenge on Friday, beating the Montreal Canadiens by a 6-3 score.
Buffalo will host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday after not having a morning skate.
In the game on Friday, Matt Savoie and Isak Rosen were far-and-away Buffalo’s best players. Savoie has two goals, including a highlight film goal in the third period.
The Sabres' 2022 first-round pick was exciting to get back in action wearing a Sabres sweater again.
"It was nice to get back out there," said Savoie after Friday's win. "I felt a lot more comfortable and confident this year compared to last year, which was my first camp. The confidence I had this go around helped me a ton."
Savoie was flying throughout this game, along with his linemate from juniors, Zach Benson, who notched an assist in the win. Savoie was able to find open ice, and use his speed to create offense at the net.
Head coach Seth Appert talked before the game about playing fast, and Savoie got the message. Appert says he saw that from many of the players.
"I thought you saw that as the game went on," the Rochester Americans head coach said. "We started forcing more turnovers with our tracking, and we showed we could be getting pretty quick into transition."
Rosen had a goal and an assist, and has shown so much improvement in his game in just one year.
"I thought Rosen was excellent, and a real dominant player from the drop of the puck," Appert noticed of the 2021 first-round pick.
The thing that stuck out to me wasn’t how good Rosen was offensively. He was very good getting back and breaking up plays in the defensive zone too. Appert says it’s been a real focus for the winger.
"I thought his backchecking was fabulous," he said. "I thought his want to be on the puck, which is something that grew so much for him last year, he became a very consistent, hard defensive player, and a guy that I trusted to put on the ice in all big situations in the playoffs."
I was really looking forward to seeing defenseman Nikita Novikov. Not only did he have three assists, but he wasn’t afraid to just settle in and play his game.
The 2021 sixth-round pick used his size to win battles along the wall, he had a big hit in the neutral zone, and he seems to have a very good mind for offense and senses where things open up.
"That was the best he’s looked, and I think there’s a real competitor in there," Appert said of the Russian blue liner. "During drills with the language barrier, it can be tough, but when he gets to play, you can see the natural instincts."
It really showed on Tyson Kozak’s breakaway goal, as it was Novikov that jumped into the neutral zone and made the play to send Kozak in.
Another player I was looking forward to seeing was defenseman Ryan Johnson. Johnson played a ton on Friday, and he surprised me with how solid he was in his own end and along the wall. We know he can skate well and get a puck out of the zone. He also didn’t back down from anything either.
Join me, Brian Koziol and Brayton Wilson at 7 p.m. ET for all the action on WGR Sports Radio 550.