WASHINGTON – Victor Olofsson received the first award of his National Hockey League career Friday, when the Buffalo Sabres winger was named the league's rookie of the month for October.
Entering Friday, Olofsson led all rookies with six goals, all on the power play, and his 10 points were tied with three others for first. The 24-year-old also led all rookie forwards in ice time per game (17:27) and became the second Sabre in as many seasons to earn the honor.
Rasmus Dahlin was named the NHL's rookie of the month last November. Olofsson, a former seventh-round draft pick, has helped transform the Sabres' power play, which ranked second in the league entering their game Friday against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena.
Olofsson also plays left wing on the Sabres' top line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. While Olofsson's impact offensively earned him the award, coach Ralph Krueger and his staff have been impressed with the rookie's impact defensively.
"Victor has stepped into that role in a very strong way in that he gives us confidence without the puck and is able to play against the top lines of the other team and work together with Jack and Sam in being a very responsible line defensively," coach Ralph Krueger said before puck drop Friday. "Everybody is excited about his offense but for us, that's been primarily been generated on the power play. On the 5 on 5, he's still working on ways to get more opportunities and we see some adjustments that he can make. We're working with him on those on a daily basis and we're sure that there's still a lot of upside in Victor's game."
Olofsson made history last month when he became the first player in NHL history to score each of his first eight career goals on the power play, breaking the previous mark shared by Jeff Norton of the New York Islanders, Craig Norwich of the Winnipeg Jets and Sylvain Turgeon of the Hartford Whalers.
Olofsson, who was drafted 181st overall in 2014, scored 30 goals among among 63 points in 66 regular-season games for Rochester in 2018-19 -- his first year playing professionally in North America. He made his debut for the Sabres against the Detroit Red Wings on March 28, 2019, and scored two goals among four points in six games to finish the regular season in Buffalo.
Olofsson won rookie of the month over Toronto Maple Leafs winger Ilya Mikheyev, Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov, Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes and Colorado defenseman Cale Makar.
Sabres captain Jack Eichel played his 300th career game Friday night against the Capitals. The 23-year-old entered the game with 108 goals among 276 points, which puts him in elite company in franchise history.
Among all Sabres in their first 300 games, excluding Friday night, Eichel ranked sixth in points, 11th in goals, sixth in assists and only five players had more even-strength goals: Rick Martin, Alexander Mogilny, Danny Gare, Rene Robert and Dave Andreychuk.
Eichel’s 75 even-strength goals entering Friday were tied with Donald Audette, Gilbert Perreault and John Tucker.
"He's such a big, strong skater," Capitals winger T.J. Oshie said of Eichel following the team's morning skate in Arlington, Va. "He has great hands, sees the ice well. Anytime you have a guy of his size that's able to move like he does, it creates a lot of problems on the ice. He can create a lot of offense by himself and sometimes those are the most dangerous players."
Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour, who has yet to play in the regular season because of a hand injury, was out of the lineup Friday night against Washington. Montour, 25, returned to practice last Sunday and has only been able to use a stick for approximately two weeks.
Krueger said Montour and Jimmy Vesey (upper body) will be evaluated Saturday morning and a decision will then be made whether they can face the New York Islanders.
"There will be a very small pregame skate with three or four guys on the ice, but we'll make a decision then tomorrow if he's good to go," Krueger said. "But it's looking good. His curve is in the right direction and his hands are feeling much more natural again after four or five days, and we're optimistic about his next steps."
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen took one step closer to making his first start of the season Friday when the 20-year-old goalie was assigned by the Sabres to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.
Luukkonen underwent double-hip surgery in April and has practiced with the Rochester Americans since being assigned there last month. One of the sport’s top goaltending prospects, Luukkonen is expected to play multiple games for the Cyclones before returning to Rochester.
A second-round draft pick in 2017, Luukkonen stopped 32 of 34 shots for Rochester to earn his first professional win last April. Last season, he was named the Ontario Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player and top goaltender by posting a 38-11-4 record in 53 games for Sudbury. He led the league in wins and shutouts (6).
70s night in Buffalo
More than 20 alumni will be in attendance Saturday when the Sabres hold 70s Night for the team’s game against the New York Islanders in KeyBank Center.
Prior to the game, alumni will greet fans in the 100 Level and will then be welcomed onto the ice before the opening faceoff. Sabres equipment manager Rip Simonick, who is in his 50th year on the team's staff, will also be recognized. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a 1970s-themed Sabres pennant.
Alumni expected to attend include Robert, Gare, Gerry Meehan, Don Luce and Jim Schoenfeld.