Victor Olofsson is feeling like himself again.
A wrist injury that caused the sharp-shooting winger to score zero goals in a 30-game stretch is healed. His return to form was key in the Sabres’ late-season turnaround.
Olofsson, 26, totaled nine goals and 20 points over the final 18 games. He used his prolific left-handed shot to score on 20% of his shots on goal. A healthy Olofsson helped Buffalo field two effective power-play units that combined to rank second in the NHL from March 27 until season’s end.
“I’ve never had a stretch in my career where not only did I not score, I didn’t play well,” Olofsson told reporters during his end-of-season press conference Sunday. “I didn’t play with the confidence that I usually have. It was a good learning experience, and I feel coming out of it I probably played my best hockey here at the end.
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“I’m really excited bringing that into next season, for sure.”
Olofsson’s forgoing the IIHF World Championship in Finland this month to rest following the long season and because of his status as a restricted free agent. The two-year, $6.1 million contract he signed in October 2020 has expired.
Olofsson is arbitration-eligible and acknowledged that a resolution won’t come anytime soon. He waited almost eight months for a contract following the 2019-20 season because of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the NHL offseason.
This is the first season through this entire playoff drought that players, coaches, fans and even media are bummed we've hit a finish line and aren't saying good riddance to it all.
“I learned I’ve got to stay patient,” said Olofsson, who had 20 goals and 49 points in 72 games. “It’s probably going to take some time, especially last summer was the first time Covid hit, too. ... I’m not worried about signing a deal here quick. I know it’s going to probably go all summer maybe before we figure something out. I’m all good with that. I know what it’s like now and there’s nothing that needs to be rushed.”
Olofsson is in line for a raise. His qualifying offer will be $3.25 million, according to CapFriendly.com. The Sabres have ample cap space to afford that figure, but teams typically want to avoid an arbitration hearing. And it’s unclear if Kevyn Adams, the Sabres’ general manager, would be willing to give Olofsson term on the contract.
After all, the Sabres need to prepare for prospects Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka to take top-six spots on the wing. Although there’s bountiful cap space in the short-term, Adams must prepare to give raises to Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens, among others. It’s a good problem for the Sabres to have.
While Quinn and Peterka had outstanding rookie seasons in Rochester, the Sabres know what they’re going to get in Olofsson. He’s a development success story for the organization. A seventh-round draft choice in 2014, Olofsson has 55 goals and 127 points in 188 games with Buffalo. This was Olofsson’s first full season in the NHL, as the previous two were shortened by Covid-19. He’s expressed a desire to be part of this team long-term, a trait Adams wants in the dressing room.
And Olofsson accomplished his goal to improve his game at 5-on-5. He ranked fifth on the Sabres in on-ice shot differential in those situations and 13 of his 20 goals were scored at 5-on-5.
“Maybe it was a little bit experience, maybe it’s a little bit change of mindset, too, that I am good enough skill-wise to be a guy that can put up goals and points in this league,” said Olofsson.
Sabres forward Peyton Krebs and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson confirmed they will join the Rochester Americans for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.
Samuelsson is dealing with a minor foot/ankle injury that he told the media is “day to day” and isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to play when the Amerks host the Belleville Senators for Game 1 of the best-in-three play-in series Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
Rochester coach Seth Appert revealed Sunday that goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s lower-body injury will prevent the 23-year-old from playing in the Amerks’ series. Luukkonen is expected to be out a "few weeks," according to Appert.
Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju revealed to reporters Sunday that he’ll represent Finland at the IIHF World Championship in his home country this month. The tournament will run from May 13-29 – Tampere, Jokiharju’s hometown, is one of two host cities – and he won a gold medal with Finland at worlds in 2019.
Additionally, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and winger Rasmus Asplund will represent Sweden at the tournament, according to reports out of Sweden. Defenseman Owen Power won't play for Canada in what he called a "mutual decision" between he and Hockey Canada.
Thompson, the Sabres’ leading goal scorer this season, hasn’t decided if he’ll join Team USA in Finland.
Sabres coach Don Granato will be an assistant coach for Team USA.
"Having Donny there would help, and it would be a deciding factor," said Thompson, who competed in the tournament in 2021. "It was great for me last year and a confidence boost coming into this season going there and getting opportunities there."
Andrew Poturalski, a Williamsville native, became the first AHL player in 12 years to reach the 100-point milestone when he captured the league’s scoring title with 28 goals and 101 points for the Chicago Wolves this season.
Poturalski, a first-team AHL all-star, is just the fifth player ever to win back-to-back AHL scoring titles and the first since Peter White accomplished the feat in 1998. A sixth-year pro, Poturalski has 105 goals and 327 regular-season points in his career.