Welcome to the return of the Sabres Prospect Notebook! Many of the European prospects have been playing since Fall of 2020 but there have been several who have yet to play a single game this year, most notably guys who are slated to play in Rochester.
The organization has added some intriguing prospects since the 2020 NHL Draft, such as forwards Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka. There are also existing prospects who look to either continue their development from the past season, or turn things around for those that struggled.
In this weekly edition for The Charging Buffalo, we will cover the development of prospects in the system and draw attention to those that are both exceeding expectations, and those that need to improve.
There’s going to be some new faces in Rochester such as Ruotsalainen and Laaksonen who are more than ready to take the next step in their development. These players are making the jump from playing over in the professional European leagues where they succeeded and played prominent roles on their respective clubs.
Generally speaking, the Sabres have a very wide range of prospects representing different leagues all over the world. No two prospects have the same path to the NHL, which makes tracking them both fun and a challenge. As the year progresses and prospects develop their game, TCB will be here with updates on Twitter and our website.
Below you will find a summary of how prospects performed in the past week, their stats, and even some highlights of goals and assists that were scored. There’s a link to the Prospect Stat Tracker which includes an NHLe score for how their production compares to an NHL level. At the bottom of this page is also a list of TCB’s Prospect Crew and their Twitter handles. Feel free to gives us a follow and reach out with any questions that are prospect or Sabres related.
Games Below From 1/11/2021 – 1/17/2021
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.
Prospect of the Week: LW – Linus Weissbach
Wisconsin (NCAA) – 2 GP | 1 G | 3 A | 4 PTS
After an underwhelming Junior season with Wisconsin, Linus Weissbach has been extremely consistent this year, compiling 7 goals and 10 assists in just 14 games this year. This pace puts him on track for a career year and his best season since his first with Wisconsin since 2017-18. Weissbach put up 1 goal and 3 assists this week and earns the “Prospect of the Week” honors.
On his goal, Weissbach took the puck from the half wall on the powerplay and skated to the middle of the point. He then let off a quick and accurate wrist shot that found it’s way through bodies in front of the net. Weissbach has historically been a playmaker with good vision. He had one primary assist this week where he set up a one timer goal from the point.
A smaller forward with good speed, Weissbach has been very consistent this year, tallying at least one point in 11 of 14 games this year. Playing alongside Cole Caufield has helped but it’s the development of Weissbach’s game with the puck that has enabled him to be more of an impact on a nightly basis compared to prior years. With 14 games remaining in his season, Weissbach should continue to make an impact for Wisconsin and
Weekly Prospect Updates
- While Cozens has graduated to the NHL level, I feel it is appropriate to keep him on the prospect list so as to further watch his development at the next level. It was a solid start for Dylan Cozens in his NHL debut as he played just over 12 minutes of ice time, including on the powerplay. While it’s clear that Cozens needs to add more strength to his game, his quickness and talent with the puck will enable him to do well in his rookie season. Cozens picked up an assist in his 1st NHL game which was a direct result of his ability to win a battle for the puck. Cozens will now see some action on the 2nd line wing with Eric Staal and Victor Olofsson. His speed and creativity should blend well with these two players and have a positive impact on puck possession.
- One of the best surprises for the Sabres prospects this year has been the left shot defenseman Ryan Johnson. Unfairly critiqued for how high the Sabres selected him in the NHL Draft, Johnson was always known as a good skater, solid in transition, and a good defender. The knock on Johnson was his lack of production in the offensive zone but he has made some great strides in that area with Minnesota. Johnson has been very patient with the puck in the offensive zone and has shown great awareness for setting up teammates. It’s exactly how he picked up a primary assist this past weekend as his vision and confidence to make a cross ice pass led to a goal.
- Technically in his DY+2, Aaron Huglen has played his first games as a Sabres prospect since being drafted in the summer of 2019 and missing his entire DY+1. It was a long road to recovery for Huglen who finally has shown Sabres fans why the organization drafted him. The skilled forward has made an immediate impact for Fargo of the USHL and picked up 1 goal in 3 games this past week. Huglen on his off wing, took a few steps towards the net from the top of the circle and ripped a quick and accurate wrist shot past the goalie. The hope is that he continues to dominate at this level but expectations should be tempered to some degree as he missed a key developmental year last season. Huglen is expected to join Minnesota in the NCAA next year.
- Matteo Costantini made the move South to the USHL due to the uncertainty surrounding the start of the BCHL season. He made his debut for the Sioux City Muskateers and picked up his 1st career USHL goal in his 3rd game. Known for his high compete level and offensive skills, Costantini drove to the front of the net and made himself open for a pass which he quickly tapped in. As one of the younger players in the 2020 NHL Draft, Costantini will gain some good experience in the USHL prior to joining one of the best college programs in North Dakota next year.
- Lukas Rousek has been very strong for Sparta Praha in Extraliga this year and doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves as a prospect. While not overly flashy, Rousek has the speed and skillset to be a high energy 4th line player in the NHL. Again, this isn’t a grand projection for him but his game is relentless and he could carve out a role someday should the Sabres choose to give him an Entry Level Contract. Rousek picked up a beautiful assist this past week which showcased his speed.
- Playing for one of the top teams in Liiga, Miska Kukkonen has been a pleasant surprise this year. Averaging around 17 minutes a night in the first half of the season, the right shot defenseman has seen his minutes reduced lately and had been in a bit of slump on the scoresheet until this past week when he picked up his 1st career goal in Liiga. Kukkonen snuck down low from the point and finished a one timer which was nice awareness of utilizing the open ice in a high danger area. It was Kukkonen’s first point since the end of October and hopefully a sign that he trends back upward.
- Sitting behind Strauss Mann on the depth chart for Michigan, it’s unclear just how much work Portillo will get for the remainder of this season. He did however get his 1st NCAA start after making some brief appearances in 2 other games earlier in the year. Portillo was strong for Michigan, picking up the win and turning away 19 of 21 shots he faced. The door is wide open for Portillo to take over the top spot on the goalie prospect depth chart though he may not get the opportunity to claim that title until next year.
- Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen hadn’t seen action for TPS Turku in quite a while but showed very little rust in a 5-1 victory in which he made 18 saves. Shortly after this game completed, it was announced by Kris Baker that UPL would be headed to North America to join the Rochester Americans. UPL finishes his Liiga season with a 6-3-4 record, 2.52 GAA, and a .908 Save %. While he currently is the highest ranked goalie in the Sabres pipeline, Luukkonen will need to have a much stronger showing in the AHL than he did last year with Rochester where he notably struggled.
C Dylan Cozens (Buffalo)
2 GP | 0 G | 1 A | 1 PTS
🚨 Rieder! His first goal as a Sabre.— The Charging Buffalo (@TheChargingBUF) January 15, 2021
Cuts the lead to 4-2. Nice shift by Cozens as well. pic.twitter.com/dQuRLm3eci
Cozens makes a nice pass to Rieder for chance pic.twitter.com/AHvnOflEeb— Ben Mathewson (Optimistic Sabres Fan) (@Ben_Mathewson) January 15, 2021
RD Miska Kukkonen (Lukko)
2 GP | 1 G | 0 A | 1 PTS
LW Lukas Rousek (Sparta Praha)
3 GP | 0 G | 1 A | 1 PTS
Lukas Rousek picked up a nice primary assist today for Sparta Praha in their 5-3 win. He uses his speed to get open and enter the zone before threading the needle to the front of the net for a goal. #Sabres pic.twitter.com/FgoXiZlBAu— Curtis (@CurtisTCB716) January 15, 2021
LD Lawrence Pilut (Traktor)
3 GP | 1 G | 0 A | 1 PTS
🚨 Lawrence Pilut 🚀— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) January 17, 2021
3-0 Traktor pic.twitter.com/nQC5Zxi7rl
C Aaron Huglen (Fargo)
3 GP | 1 G | 0 A | 1 PTS
Aaron Huglen with a power play goal his 3rd goal in 5 games🔥 Assisted by Ryan Siedem and newcomer Bear Hughes! pic.twitter.com/kiAycw53xQ— Fargo Force (@FargoForce) January 15, 2021
C Matteo Costantini (Sioux City)
3 GP | 1 G | 0 A | 1 PTS
First career USHL goal for Matteo Costantini. Welcome to the show! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/Q0bhuayBvm— Sioux City Musketeers (@Musketeerhockey) January 17, 2021
LW Linus Weissbach (Wisconsin)
2 GP | 1 G | 3 A | 4 PTS..
LD Ryan Johnson (Minnesota)
2 GP | 0 G | 1 A | 1 PTS
Patience is a virtue. pic.twitter.com/W1qY5LFyas— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) January 17, 2021
LW Filip Cederqvist (Tingsryds)
3 GP | 0 G | 3 A | 3 PTS
G Erik Portillo (Michigan)
1 GP | 1 W | 2.00 GAA | 19 SVS | 0.905 %..
G Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (TPS Turku)
1 GP | 1 W | 1.00 GAA | 18 SVS | 0.947 %
Not Active – Injured
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