Nov 7, 2023

1.pngBy Andrew Mossbrooks | @Mossbrooks48


Matt Savoie’s time as an Amerk has come to an end. At least for now.


On Monday, the 19-year-old was recalled from his conditioning stint and made his way to Buffalo for the Sabres to see what they have in their 2022 ninth overall draft choice.


It’s a day that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The rules were laid out ahead of his conditioning stint. Savoie was given 14 days to go from a major junior forward to a top-tier pro athlete in the American Hockey League. It’s a daunting challenge, but one, like many, that Savoie thrived in.


“We’d love to have him (in Rochester) for the year,” said Amerks head coach Seth Appert.



“I wish he was able to be here all year,” said Amerks captain Michael Mersch. “He’s a great hockey player.”


Savoie made an instant and lasting impact during his half-dozen game stint in the Flower City. While skating on a line with fellow prospects (and first round draft picks) Isak Rosen and Jiri Kulich, Savoie converted for two goals while adding three assists. He posted a five-game point streak and finished with an even plus/minus over his two-week stay in Rochester.


Rosen and Kulich rank as the top two scorers on the Amerks. Perhaps this line will play together at KeyBank Center in the not-too-distant future.


“I think we played a fast game,” said Savoie when speaking on his line. “I felt comfortable out there. They’re both really smart players.”


Savoie showed flashes of what the Sabres hope to see for years to come during September’s Prospects Challenge. After impressing during the first two games, Savoie suffered an upper-body injury during the final game of what has become an annual event, sidelining the St. Albert, Alberta, native for nearly a month before his arrival in Rochester.



“He was coming off an injury and coming from junior hockey,” said Appert. “He got a couple games in with us last year, but that’s not a lot. It’s a big jump. He’s been thrown right into the fire playing 18-19 minutes a night on a line with some of our top players while playing against the other team’s top players. He’s performed extremely well, created offense, and played the right way.”


During Savoie’s time as an Amerk, the team went 4-1-1-0. Rochester heads into the second weekend of November with the second-most points in the Eastern Conference.


“Everyone in the locker room takes a lot of pride in playing for the Amerks,” said Savoie. “This is one of the closest teams and group of guys I’ve ever seen. We continue to get better together. Everyone in that room has a collective goal to not only get to that next level but have success while we’re here.”


Savoie is an easy player to like on paper. He was drafted by Buffalo after scoring 35 goals and posting a 90-point campaign with Winnipeg of the Western Hockey League in 2021-22. After being drafted, Savoie’s development continued to progress. He exceeded his point total from a year prior, scoring 38 goals and 57 assists for 95 points in the WHL last season. He finished tied for sixth in league scoring, trailing only a handful of players, including fellow Sabres draft pick and teammate, Zach Benson, along with first overall pick and leading scorer for the Chicago Blackhawks, Connor Bedard.




The stats don’t lie, but they showcase the player rather than the person. Character goes a long way in the Amerks locker room. It’s part of the culture Appert and his coaching staff look to instill from day one. Savoie passed the stats test, but after seeing him up close and in-person for two weeks, he passed Appert’s character test, too.


“His attitude and work ethic were awesome,” said the Amerks bench boss. “People think that should be a given, but it’s not. When you’re a really high draft pick, sometimes those things aren’t given. He’s a great teammate, his attitude’s amazing, his work ethic is awesome, and he competes his tail off. I thought he got better as both weeks went on. I’m excited for him about his opportunity in Buffalo, and hopefully he can show what he needs to show to continue to stay there.”


After six games in Rochester, Savoie has earned an opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream: play in the National Hockey League. The Sabres will give him nine games. Nine games to prove he is ready to step in as one of the youngest players on the roster and help the Sabres bring the playoffs back to Buffalo for the first time since 2011.


If Savoie passes the litmus test, he will remain a Sabre. If the organization believes the teenager will benefit from more development, then he will return to the WHL for what would be his final season of junior eligibility.



Regardless of the outcome, the future looks bright for the talented forward. Savoie is 19 years old. He’ll remain a teenager until his birthday on Jan. 1. The hope is he’ll be celebrating the new year and his 20th birthday off the heels of a Sabres win in Buffalo’s scheduled New Year’s Eve matchup with Ottawa.


Savoie could go on to play the rest of the season in Buffalo. He could find himself skating as a 30-some-year-old in his 1000th NHL game someday. Ultimately, he hopes to be a player with his name etched on the sport’s ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup.


Buffalo Sabres. The NHL. That is Savoie’s destination.


At the end of the day, it’s all about the journey.


The journey began in Rochester.

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