Jul 2, 2024

1.pngBy Andrew Mossbrooks | @Mossbrooks48


The Buffalo Sabres’ annual development camp is an opportunity for several teenage players to get their first taste of what it’s like to eat, sleep, and breathe the world of professional hockey. In the case of Viktor Neuchev, however, it’s an opportunity to turn the page and start chapter two of his personal journey.


“I’m just looking forward to getting back to playing hockey and starting the season,” said the 20-year-old prospect.


Neuchev enters development camp as one of four 2023-24 Rochester Americans on the roster, but he is the only player who spent the entire season in the AHL. In 57 games, Neuchev scored 11 goals as part of a 28-point (11+17) rookie campaign. It was an up and down season for Buffalo’s third-round draft pick from 2022, but one he feels positive about overall.


“I started last season playing kind of 50-50 hockey. It was a challenge dealing with the adaptation of playing in the American Hockey League, but then I found myself adapting towards the middle of the season. I thought I was playing well and had a good compete level, so by the end of the year, I thought overall it was a good season, but there’s room for improvement and I’m working hard every day to keep getting better.”



Neuchev showed flashes of brilliance last season. At one point, he posted 11 points (4+7) over eight games. Later in the year, he amassed seven points (3+4) over a six-game span. He was a rookie in multiple ways. A first-year pro in North America and a first-year resident of the United States.


He calls Chelyabinsk, Russia home. English is far from their primary language. His English has improved as time has passed, but he never let it deter him or affect his process.


“I honestly don’t think it played a big role,” said Neuchev on learning English. “I was just trained to understand what the coaches say when it comes to hockey. If I didn’t understand, the coaches and I would use google translator. Plus, all my teammates in Rochester were helping me throughout the season to learn some English here and there.”


It's worth noting the quotes in this story came from a sit-down interview with Neuchev where google translator was used for most of the conversation. Questions were asked into his phone, and he would produce a response in Russian, then translate that back to English.



There were some things where translation was not required, however. Food was one of those things. Neuchev isn’t American, but he does love the stateside cuisine.


“Ribeye steak,” he said without hesitation. “Delicious.”


Neuchev is coming off a multi-week stay in Dubai, enjoying his summer vacationing while playing soccer and fishing back home, but coming back to North America and joining the Sabres once again for development camp has fueled the fire that the soon-to-be second-year pro wants to have burning throughout the season.


“I want to become stronger. I want to be an iron player for our team and do everything to help the team be successful.”


That team could be the Amerks for a second straight season, but for now, Neuchev can be seen at LECOM Harborcenter wearing a Sabres jersey. The dynamic winger would like to keep it that way.


“Last season, coach (Seth) Appert told me that I have to work hard and be dedicated to the process to get to Buffalo. I’m working on all components of my game. I get ready and prepare myself for the day before I have breakfast. Then, I’m in the gym before getting on the ice, then I’ll watch video, get on the ice, then back in the gym for a second time that day. I think I’m working on all the components of the game every day to be better for myself and for my teammates.”

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