The Buffalo Sabres need some goaltenders to fill their prospects pipeline, so don’t be surprised if they take multiple netminders in the 2023 draft.
The Buffalo Sabres have just one goaltender you can really consider to be a prospect in Topias Leinonen. Sure, they could always re-sign Malcolm Subban and Michael Houser and assign them to Rochester in the fall, but when it comes to young talent, the Blue and Gold are lacking.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen showed potential, but he’s not a surefire answer to partner with Devon Levi long-term. Eric Comrie is, at best, an AHL talent that makes a viable insurance policy should injuries strike the position.
Leinonen has yet to sign, and he also hasn’t been lights out over in Finland. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the Sabres fill the prospect pool with a pair of names in the upcoming draft.
While I’ve talked about forwards and blueliners extensively, I’ve spoken little about goaltenders other than Trey Augustine, who could be there when the Blue and Gold pick in the second round. Ranked 45th overall by Elite Prospects, Augustine is a smaller prospect, much like Levi at just 6’1, 179 lb. However, he put up Levi-like numbers with the US National U18 Team, racking up a 0.926 save percentage, a 2.33 GAA, and a 29-1-2 record.
He also played well with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL, ending the season with a 10-1-0 record, a 0.928 save percentage, and a 2.34 GAA. He also posted another shutout.
Buffalo Sabres could look for multiple netminders in draft
If the Sabres want to add more size to the pool, then Michael Hrabal could be their top prospect. Ranked 54th by Elite Prospects, Hrabal will be playing his college hockey at the University of Massachusetts, but he spent the 2022-23 season with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers.
He saw action in 31 games this past season. And despite his 9-13-4 record, Hrabal posted three shutouts, a 0.908 save percentage, and a 2.86 GAA. It was also his first season in North America, and it came following an epic career at the junior level in Czechia, when he posted a 2.14 GAA, a 0.936 save percentage, and an 18-3-0 record for HC Sparta Praha U20 in 2021-22.
At the international junior level this season, Hrabal also recorded a 0.927 save percentage, a 2.43 GAA, and a shutout in 13 games. So if the Sabres are looking for a goaltender that could be a strong consolation prize in the second round if Augustine is gone, Hrabal could be their guy.
If the Buffalo Sabres wanted to wait until the middle rounds for a goaltender prospect who has made recent headlines for all the right reasons, Adam Gajan could be a good fit. Gajan spent most of the 2022-23 season playing for the Chippewa Steel, posting a 19-12-1 record, a 0.917 save percentage, a 2.57 GAA, and a shutout.
While he finished 0-2-1 in the playoffs, Gajan still had a 2.85 GAA and a 0.908 save percentage. His performance for Slovakia in the World Juniors, however, is what really put him on the map. Although he finished with a 2-2 record, Gajan posted a 2.40 GAA and a 0.936 save percentage, along with another shutout.
Overall, the Sabres could snag a goaltender or two in the 2023 NHL Draft to help continue filling out their prospects pool at the position and perhaps find an eventual long-term partner for Devon Levi. All three of the netminders listed above could potentially fill the role in time.
(Statistics provided by Elite Prospects)