Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres didn’t win the 2023 Sabres Prospects Challenge thanks to their 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, but there was a lot to like during the three-game event.
Matt Savoie put on a good show for two sellout crowds before getting injured just 26 seconds into Monday’s game. The 2022 first-round pick scored two goals on Friday, and had a highlight reel goal as he took advantage of open ice, because of his speed and the way he reads plays.
We don’t know the severity of his upper-body injury, but he will miss some time at the start of training camp.
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams got to see some good progress from his young prospects like Isak Rosen, Zach Benson, Jiri Kulich, Ryan Johnson, Nikita Novikov, Norwin Panocha and Tyson Kozak. It’s obvious many worked hard to get better over the summer, with guys like Rosen and Kulich adding some muscle.
The guy I’d like to touch on is a player who is under contract with the Rochester Americans.
Defenseman Zach Metsa spent five years playing at Quinnipiac University, and last April captained the Bobcats to an NCAA championship.
The 24-year-old ended up earning a two-year deal from the Amerks, and head coach Seth Appert put him in for 13 games in the Calder Cup playoffs. He was so solid in both ends of the ice, Appert had to keep him in the lineup.
Metsa played so well throughout this past weekend. It seemed as though players could never beat him. While he’s only 5-foot-9, he wins battles with his angles and his tenacity, and always makes the right play to get his team out of the zone and into transition.
Appert described the blue liner as "dripping with moxie, presence and toughness." He also says Metsa has always been the underdog.
"He’s just a guy that everybody said isn’t going to be good enough, and then he just keeps proving everybody wrong," said Appert during the Sabres Prospects Challenge.
"He wasn’t supposed to be good enough to play triple-A hockey, and then he wasn’t supposed to be good enough to play in the USHL, and then he wasn’t supposed to be good enough to play in college, and then he was the eighth defenseman at Quinnipiac, and then he becomes the captain of a National Championship team, and then he wasn’t supposed to be good enough to get a NHL contract. And then we couldn’t take him out of the lineup, and I wanted to see him get 17 or 18 minutes per-game. I’ll never doubt that kid, because his inner drive and belief in himself is higher than other people’s doubt in him."
Metsa wore an "A" on his sweater for all three games of the tournament, and that’s not a surprise to Appert.
"Right away, you could see why he was the captain of a National Championship team," Appert said. "He just has that aura, that presence about him. The way he carries himself, the way he treats others, how he works. He’s a guy that commands respect right away."
Metsa says it was an honor to wear a Buffalo jersey and to have an "A" on it throughout the tournament.
While in Rochester last season, Metsa says to get those playoff games was a huge confidence boost for him.
"I proved to myself that I can do it at that level, and I know what I need to work on and the steps I need to take to be one of the best at the American League level. I felt pretty good about how I’ve been playing," said Metsa following Saturday night's win over the New Jersey Devils.
Metsa knows he’s been doubted through his whole hockey career, so it’s nothing new to him when he gets to a new place.
"I think it’s just normal at this point, and my mindset is you have to keep proving yourself," Metsa said. "Nothing’s ever given, and I don’t want anything given to me. I want to be able to earn it. I have confidence in my game and my abilities, so hopefully I can prove people wrong, or, at least, plant a seed of doubt so people give me the benefit of the doubt, and give me more opportunity. Then it’s what you do with it."
Metsa said five or 10 years from now, he wants to be able to say he gave everything he could. If it doesn’t work out, he gave it his all.
I think the Sabres should give this kid an opportunity and sign him to a NHL contract. At the very least, he would provide depth on the defense.
If he keeps trending the way he is now, and has his whole life, this weekend wouldn’t be the last time he pulled a Sabres sweater over his head.