Sep 19, 2022

By Suzie Cool


Rochester Americans defenseman Oskari Laaksonen was a third-round selection (89th overall) by the Sabres in the 2017 NHL Draft. The defenseman signed his three-year, entry-level contract with Buffalo on July 17, 2020, and has taken part in the last two Buffalo Sabres Prospects Challenges.


This year, though, it seems Laaksonen has taken on a leadership role at the annual event showcasing the top prospects in the organization, looking to help anyone, and everyone, that comes to him for advice about what it takes to be a pro.


Especially when it’s game time.


“I'm just trying to help everybody,” stated Laaksonen when asked how he’s turned his role into a veteran like presence at Prospects Challenge this year. “Then in the game, when the game time comes, just trying to calm everybody down. Linus (Weissbach) and I trying to be the guys that everybody can kind of lean on and if they have questions or anything we’re there to help everybody.”


Now, this newfound role could be because Laaksonen is going into his third professional season in North America.



Last year in Rochester, Laaksonen posted career-highs in all offensive categories, including 29 assists and 34 points while appearing in 71 games. In Laaksonen’s first year with the Amerks in 2020-21, he appeared in all but one game with Rochester, was named to the 2020-21 AHL North Division All-Star team and was the team’s recipient of the Fairand/O’Neil Sportsmanship award.


Despite a 2021-22 campaign that marked offensive highs, and a condensed AHL season in 2020-21 that led him to an All-Star nod, Laaksonen knew he had a lot of work to do off the ice to better his game over the offseason.


“A lot of gym work and some skating, but mostly strength – lifting, strength and conditioning wise. I did a lot of stuff,” commented Laaksonen when asked what he dedicated his summer to working on.


Throughout the first two games of rookie camp, you can tell that Laaksonen is taking his work from the offseason and his new role within the organization seriously. In just the second game against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night, Laaksonen posted two assists in leading Buffalo to its second straight win of the tournament.


“This is a good opportunity for me,” explained Laaksonen when asked what this year’s Prospects Challenge means to him headed into the 2022-23 campaign. “It gets me into a rhythm for the games and I can try to show everybody that the parts of my game that were lacking last year have been going forward and I’m going to have a good start to the season.”



From 2017-21, Laaksonen played three seasons with the Ilves Tampere in SM-liiga before playing a partial campaign with the Pelicans in 2020-21. Following his first three pro seasons in SM-liiga from 2017-20, Laaksonen ranked in the top 20 in league history for most assists (35, 5th most) and points (40, 8th most) among defensemen prior to their age 21 seasons.


Internationally, Laaksonen won a gold medal with Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships with fellow Sabres prospect, goaltender Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen, alongside him.


Once again, we’ll more than likely see Laaksonen on a top pairing on the blueline here in Rochester, at least to start the season.

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