Games Below From 12/9/2019 – 1/12/2020
NOTE: For recaps below, we are highlighting any prospects who contributed on the score sheet over the past week or did anything notable. For an overall view of Sabres Prospects and their stats, be sure to check The Charging Buffalo’s Prospect Stat Tracker which is updated daily here or clicking the image below.
The Prospect Notebook has returned after approximately a months long hiatus so I have decided to do a comprehensive recap of the production of each prospect over that span of time as well as a midterm grade for each player at this point in the season. The grade factors in how the player has produced statistically, how their overall game has grown based on their age and league of play, and how their development has progressed since the start of the season relative to expectations.
G – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen – Cincinnati (ECHL)
Recent Stats: 9 GP – 5-2-2 Record – 2.55 GAA – 0.906 Save %
Midterm Grade: A-
Notes: The consensus top goalie in the pipeline, UPL as he has come to be known didn’t get an ideal start to the season as he was recovering from off-season hip surgery. As the success of Rochester is very important to Botterill, UPL got sent to the Sabres’ ECHL affiliate Cincinnati to get back into game shape where he has been one of the top goaltenders in the league. Luukkonen has developed very well after dominating OHL play last year and being a major factor in Finland winning the Gold Medal at the World Junior Tournament in 2019. A recent call up to Rochester will see him get his first AHL start of the year tonight and while his short term development plan may not keep him up there long, he is looking like a lock to be a starting NHL goalie in the long term.
C – Casey Mittelstadt – Buffalo/Rochester – NHLe 20 Pts
Recent Stats (AHL): 11 GP – 3 G – 3 A – 6 PTS
Midterm Grade: D+
Notes: The once highest rated prospect in the pipeline just 2 years ago, Mittelstadt has gone from being the future 2nd line skilled Center to a player with concerns and stunted development. His regression both via the eye test and the underlying numbers (which weren’t good last year) showed a prospect that still needs a lot more time to develop. This saw him get demoted to the AHL in December where he struggled out of the gate and until recently, started playing much better scoring 6 points in his last 8 games. Physically, Mittelstadt needs to get stronger in my opinion and improve his speed while carrying the puck which shows a very noticeable drop off when he does carry the puck. While there is still time for him to turn into a respectable NHLer, the expectations for his ceiling need to be lowered as his year over year progress has plateaued and even regressed some when at age 21, he should really be showing large growth in his production. Finishing as a point per game player for the remainder of his time in the AHL is something that needs to happen to maintain any hope of him developing into a legitimate top 6 forward.
LW – Brett Murray – Rochester (AHL) – NHLe 20 Pts
Recent Stats: 14 GP – 2 G – 1 A – 3 PTS
Midterm Grade: B+
Notes: Murray joined Rochester on an Amateur contract as the Sabres own his rights until this summer (June). A big forward who dominated the USHL last year as one of the older players in competition, Murray doesn’t have blazing speed but has done better than I had expected in the AHL as he has been one of Rochesters better producers and consistent players. He was always a long shot to be an NHL player and I don’t think anything has changed in that regard but after his start to the season in Rochester he looks like he could be forward depth down there which was not the case when the season started.
C – Andrew Oglevie – Rochester (AHL) – NHLe 25 Pts
Recent Stats: 7 GP – 1 G – 2 A – 3 PTS
Midterm Grade: B
Notes: Currently sitting 2nd in goals for Rochester with 10, Oglevie has put his injury woes behind him and been a major contributor for the Amerks hot start. The former Notre Dame player has doubled his production from last year in 2 extra games played and offers some bottom 6 depth potentially in an organization that is starving for forwards and scoring help. He doesn’t project as a bottom 6 forward in the NHL at this point in time but he should offer some stability for Rochester in the future and be an emergency type forward in the event the Sabres really get hit hard with injuries.
LW – Victor Olofsson – Buffalo (NHL) – NHLe 68 Pts
Recent Stats: 11 GP – 4 G – 5 A – 9 PTS
Midterm Grade: A+
Notes: The Swedish sniper hit the ground running after a strong AHL season last year and even showing well in a few games with Buffalo at the end of the season. Olofsson dominated on the powerplay with his wicked release and appeared to be only able to produce with the man advantage until his 5v5 numbers started to improve playing on Buffalo’s top line with Eichel and Reinhart. For a 7th round pick, Olofsson has turned into a locked in top 6 forward for the Sabres and someone who they should be able to rely on in the future to score goals. A recent injury will keep him out of action for a few weeks but Sabres fans should be pleased with how this once long shot to make the league has turned into an almost point per game player in the best league in the world.
C – Matej Pekar – Sudbury (OHL) – NHLe 22 Pts
Recent Stats: 0 GP – 0 G – 0 A – 0 PTS
Midterm Grade: B+
Notes: Pekar made a name for himself in his first rookie camp a year ago by laying a big hit on Dahlin and hasn’t given any indication of giving up on being a pest type player. He had an injury shortened season last year and was around a point per game player in the OHL, something that has continued this year as he has already surpassed his goal total in 4 fewer games. Getting traded from Barrie to Sudbury recently, Pekar has already shown instant chemistry playing with the projected 2nd overall pick in the 2020 Draft, Quinton Byfield. Because of this upgrade in linemate, I full expect Pekar to further improve on his production for the remainder of the season and ideally, iron out some consistency issues with his game. His style of play is something Sabres fans would adore and I am optimistic that the former 4th round pick can play his way to an effective bottom 6 role in the next 2-3 years.
LD – Lawrence Pilut – Buffalo/Rochester – NHLe 27 Pts
Recent Stats (AHL): 11 GP – 3 G – 5 A – 8 PTS
Midterm Grade: B+
Notes: Pilut entered the season with a fair amount of experience in the AHL and NHL last year and due to the log jam at defense (and some oversight by the GM/coach), he began this year in Rochester when he was clearly ready to be a full time NHL player. Continuing to produce at a great pace for Rochester, the 24 year old has been labeled by some as being too young and needing more experience because apparently 191 games in the SHL doesn’t count towards development. Now up with Buffalo, Pilut has yet to register a point in 5 games but is the style of defender the Sabres need for the future and one whose game ultimately translates very well to positive puck possession numbers in the NHL.
G – Erik Portillo – Dubuque (USHL)
Recent Stats: 2 GP – 0-2-0 Record – 2.52 GAA – 0.914 Save %
Midterm Grade: B+
Notes: It has been a smooth transition to North American hockey for Portillo as he ranks top 6 in wins, GAA, and save percentage in the USHL. Playing for Dubuque in this league will prepare him well for the college ranks as he is set to join Michigan next year where he figures to be their starter for years to come. Portillo unfortunately did not get an opportunity to showcase his skills at this years’ World Junior Tournament as he was 3rd on their depth chart and saw no action. He is another big goalie in the pipeline who is a long term project and considerably further behind UPL and Johansson which is great for his development since he will never have to be rushed.
C – Arttu Ruotsalainen – Ilves (Liiga) – NHLe 36 Pts
Recent Stats: 5 GP – 4 G – 1 A – 5 PTS
Midterm Grade: B+
Notes: A small and skilled forward who got passed over in the NHL Draft 3 times, Ruotsalainen has been a dominant producer for Ilves in the top Finnish League Liiga this year. Clearly a late bloomer on the development curve, his performance this year (especially on the powerplay) shows that he has a skill set which could translate well to the NHL. His positioning in the offensive zone frequently puts him in great spots to score goals and though he is only listed at 5’8″, I believe he has sneaky middle 6 potential. He should be in a great position to receive top 6 minutes in Rochester next year if he continues the way he is playing and ultimately the chance to be one of the first call ups to Buffalo in 2020-21.
LW – Lukas Rousek – Sparta Praha (Czech) – NHLe 22 Pts
Recent Stats: 11 GP – 2 G – 2 A – 4 PTS
Midterm Grade: B+
Notes: I still don’t love his skating stride but the guy has wheels and can flat out score goals. Another late round flyer who is playing in a professional European league, Rousek has surprised me with how much he has been able to produce and has some untapped potential if like the guys at TCB have mentioned before, can create a more efficient stride. He is still a long shot to make the NHL but has been entertaining to watch this year and cannot be ruled out to potentially make a crack at a bottom 6 NHL role 3-4 years down the road.
LD – Mattias Samuelsson – Western Michigan (NCAA) – NHLe 5 Pts
Recent Stats: 2 GP – 0 G – 1 A – 1 PTS
Midterm Grade: C-
Notes: The hulking defenseman who was an extremely safe 2nd round pick in the 2018 draft with so much talent still available is exactly as advertised and hasn’t developed his offensive game at all which will limit his ceiling as he gets older. Known to be a true defensive player, Samuelsson plays a responsible style but is severely limited in the speed category which I believe will ultimately be his downfall towards NHL success. He was named captain of Team USA at his 2nd World Junior Tournament but failed to impress or showcase much skill in a weak effort by the Americans. Continuing to play regular minutes for Western Michigan, he will need to find a way to improve his skating or he is going to struggle as the competition gets more skilled and faster in the higher leagues. He still projects as a 6-7 defenseman as a best case scenario but I’m not overly optimistic about his future impact for the Sabres.
LW – Linus Weissbach – Wisconsin (NCAA) – NHLe 13 Pts
Recent Stats: 1 GP – 0 G – 1 A – 1 PTS
Midterm Grade: B
Notes: As a 7th round pick, having potential to be a bottom 6 NHL forward should be praised and Weissbach certainly has shown he is well on his way to being that type of player. He had a strong season at Wisconsin last year and continued that success into this season with the Badgers as he has played with some very talented players in Caufield, Turcotte, and Holloway. A great skater with very good offensive skills, Weissbach has shown growth in his defensive game which have him on track to be a complete 2 way player and one who should be given an opportunity to play in the NHL someday. I think it’s likely that he gets signed to an ELC at the completion of the NCAA season and get a chance to play in Rochester at the tail end of the year with him slated to be a full time AHL player in 2020-21. The Charging Buffalo’s own Bill is driving the Weissbach bandwagon which for him, left a long time ago so if you want to hop aboard, all are welcome.
LD – William Worge Kreu – Linkoping (SHL) – NHLe 5 Pts
Recent Stats: 5 GP – 0 G – 1 A – 1 PTS
Midterm Grade: C
Notes: Much like Cronholm, it was encouraging to see Worge get some SHL action this year and though it was short lived, it’s an indicator that while he may have a low ceiling as a prospect, Botterill seems to have a good eye for players who have a legitimate NHL future. I don’t think it’s wise to bank on Worge ever becoming an NHL player but with his size and development over the past year, he could catch the eye of another team and possibly be used as a sweetener in a trade. Again, I don’t want to overhype Worge but there is value in late round picks who show progress in the European leagues at such a young age and NHL teams are always looking for depth in that regard for players who offer long term potential, even if it comes with a lower ceiling.
Continue to check in every week for a weekly prospect update from The Charging Buffalo Crew.
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