Draft Buffalo Sabers Matthew Savoie 9th overall
With the 9th pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabers selected Matthew Savoie from the Winnipeg Ice of the Western Hockey League (WHL)
About Matthew Savoie
When it comes to offensive potential, no player in the 2022 NHL Draft is as talented as Matthew Savoie. Although considered undersized at 5-foot-9, Savoie understands his role on the ice as he uses his speed, agility and offensive instinct to create scoring chances for his teammates. He’s one of the best skaters in this class, if not the best, and he’s already proven he can keep up with NHL-caliber players in an off-season 4-on-4 tournament.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft: Live Tracking
Offensively, Savoie is the complete package, as he has a strong and accurate shot, incredible hockey IQ and a (mostly) excellent passing that can set up an easy goal for his teammates. He is also dominant with the man advantage, as he is an elite producer while his team is on the power play. Overall, in 65 games with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, he had 35 goals and 90 points, which was good for seventh in the league.
Although there are some questions about Savoie’s defensive abilities, this part of his game can be refined over time. Given his toolbox, he should be able to become a top-six striker, with the potential to be an undersized but dominant front-row center player like Brayden Point.
Excerpt from THW prospect profile
“Without a doubt, Savoie is a top threat with the extra man as his elite vision often finds a teammate’s stick. While he’s been known to pass more often than shoot (maybe too much at times), his wrist shot is hard and accurate, which only adds to the threat he already poses on the power play. He’s going to generate the most points in the NHL on special teams, but he’ll have to continue to develop his even strength game to maximize his potential when he gets there.
“Proof of his superior skills was demonstrated during the on-ice testing portion of the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on March 23 when Savoie led the 36 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) skaters in the 30m forward with puck, Weave Agility with puck, Transition agility and reaction drills with puck. Obviously, he’s one of the best skaters in the draft when it comes to the best players in the CHL.
“In the game itself, Savoie showed his quality and willingness to go to the net when he burst past Mats Lindgren and got a good shot on goalkeeper Tyler Brennan. When you watch a video of him, you can easily see that he is not afraid of the crease or the middle of the ice. Even though he’s only 5-foot-9, he uses his speed and agility, not his size, to create chances in and around the blue paint. Basically, he’s a multi-faceted weapon that will be hard to contain when he ever arrives in the NHL.
Related: THW’s 2022 NHL Draft Guide
“The fact that he’s already done it against NHL players (albeit in a 4-on-4 tournament in the offseason) like Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Hagel and Jordan Martinook bodes well for his future. In this tournament, he looked comfortable, especially in the semi-finals when he was one of the most outstanding players on the ice.
“’La Savoie has just exploded’, declared Tyrel Spitzer, his former coach and organizer of the event. “He just went to a whole new level. He was so dynamic with his speed, his shooting, his ability to play. He was relentless… I’m used to seeing that against his peer group or maybe the junior level players. All of a sudden, he’s doing that against NHL and AHL level players. It was like, ‘Oh my God. This is amazing.’ Athleticism03/24/22).
“It’s very impressive for a 16-year-old playing in a tournament full of veteran players. He now dominates the Western Hockey League (WHL) with Winnipeg ICE where he’s on pace for an impressive 33 goals and 91 points in just 65 games. With his skating, his edges, his work ethic and his ability to play, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he posted those kinds of numbers with an NHL team. Whoever doesn’t get Cooley or Wright will get a heck of a prize, that’s for sure.
The full player profile can be found here
How this affects the Sabers’ plans
For a team in Buffalo’s position, Savoie may be a perfect long-term fit. In recent years, the smaller players have found their place in the league, and given his potential, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to take the best ice time in a few years.
Now, that’s not to rush him onto NHL ice just yet. Savoie still needs more time to continue developing his game and could use at least another season in the WHL to focus on cleaning up his passing and his defensive zone structure. Luckily, the Sabers won’t need to rush him, as they aren’t expected to make the playoffs for another two or three years.
This schedule aligns well for the player and the team, as it could be the perfect time to start working Savoie in a mid-six role with protected ice time on the power play. In this role, he could adapt to NHL play while racking up a few points along the way. It would be a win-win, as he could become a cornerstone around which the franchise is built for years to come.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He’s written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. Although he’s happy from pretty much talking cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.