On Matt Savoie's return to Wenatchee
The Buffalo Sabres' 2022 first-round pick is headed back to junior hockey after a tough injury, great rehab in Rochester, and a brief NHL debut.
PITTSBURGH — Buffalo Sabres 2022 first-round pick Matt Savoie is headed back to the Wenatchee Wild in the WHL.
Savoie was reassigned to his junior team on Saturday afternoon, a day after he made his NHL debut against the Minnesota Wild. Savoie’s debut was light as he played five shifts for 3:55 and didn’t see the ice again after he completed his final shift with under five minutes to play in the second period.
Savoie’s stat line Friday night was light. He was credited with a shot attempt that was blocked, but it was decision-making that led to him not playing much. He had passes cleanly intercepted by Wild defenders and, although he wasn’t credited with any giveaways, there were turnovers that the Wild took advantage of and ultimately led to him sitting out most of the game.
"We were lucky to have the opportunity to have Savoie come in,” Sabres coach Don Granato said on Saturday. “We had hoped a couple weeks ago—we certainly weren't hoping for injuries a couple weeks ago—but that was really the only way were going to get him on a roster and get him in a game. Fortunately, we were able to do that and get him that experience, but he had a really good six games in Rochester. Our hope and intent was to have him play in Rochester this season, and the way the rules are we couldn't quite get that done. So, it was a bonus to have him play those six games, play last night, and a couple weeks ago we were worried we might not have that opportunity.”
The Sabres had no choice of where to send Savoie. Since Savoie doesn’t turn 20 until New Year’s Day, the only options he had were to play in the NHL or go back to Wenatchee. Had he been born a day sooner he likely would have stayed in the AHL with Rochester. During his six-game conditioning stint with the Americans, Savoie had two goals and three assists and showed that the AHL is a level where he could have success and grow.
Unfortunately, the stone-aged agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League that’s more meant to protect CHL team interests than those of the players supersedes what’s best for players and NHL or AHL teams alike. That it hasn’t been amended in some way as the NHL gets younger year-by-year and teams would prefer to be more hands-on with player development of elite prospects is as backwards as it gets.
Savoie’s departure leaves some questions for him as well as for the Sabres when it comes to how their own roster shapes up with one fewer player under consideration for the lineup.
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