The Buffalo Sabres have made headlines today for news involving two of their young goalie prospects. Jonas Johansson, a 21-year-old Swede drafted in 2014, has been signed to a three-year entry-level-contract.
Meanwhile, Cal Petersen, a 2013 fifth round draft pick, has decided to forgo his senior season at the University of Notre Dame and enter professional hockey. The Sabres own Petersen’s rights and have the ability to sign him uncontested for the next 30 days. If they do not sign him by the deadline, he would become a free agent.
Buffalo Sabres Goalie Prospects Making Moves
The Sabres currently face a lot of questions in the crease. These young netminders provide a hint of optimism and excitement for Buffalo.
The Sabres were one of the worst teams in the NHL this past season. That comes as no surprise due to their young team and lack of experience. There are some bright spots for the team including Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen. The team has some talent but there continues to be questions in goal.
Robin Lehner, the team’s number one, had a sub-500 win percentage and an atrocious goals against average of 2.68. He did have a good save percentage at .920. His backup, Anders Nilsson, had a 2.67 goals against average, .923 save percentage and only ten wins on the year.
Neither of these goalies are under contract for next season. While the Sabres will likely re-sign one of two, if not both, or find someone in free agency to be their starter next year, it is unclear how much of a commitment Lehner, Nilsson, or a new goalie might get. Building up the next crop is essential. Whatever is done at the NHL level, the Sabres will have room on their AHL and newly affiliated ECHL team for both Johansson and Petersen.
Jonas Johansson earned his contractafter a short tryout with the Sabres AHL team the Rochester Americans at the end of this season. He went 3-3-1 with a 2.85 GAA and an .892 save percentage. This short stint in the minor leagues came after three seasons with Swedish team Almtuna in the Alvsvenskan (Swedish second division). There, he had an impressive 47 wins and solid save percentage of .912.
Johansson is a big goalie who plays a largely instinctual game with strong reflexes and a knack for the desperation save. He showed flashes of potential in his short tryout and will benefit greatly from a full season in the AHL.
Cal Petersen opting to leave the college ranks and pursue a professional career provides the Sabres with a great opporunity to get another solid young goalie in their system. The 22-year-old from Notre Dame leaves the esteemed program after 90 straight starts. He also finishes with a slew of top five all time records in save percentage, goals against average, and shutouts. Petersen has a lot of potential that the Sabres desperately need and want.
Buffalo standout Jack Eichel, who played with Petersen in the World Championships this May for Team USA, has already begun recruiting him. Eichel told the Buffalo News earlier this week that he “told him that we’d love to have him. I just kind of gave him a bit of an earful about what Buffalo is like, how passionate the people were here and how great an organization it is.”
Eichel said that he understands that Petersen must do what is best for him and his career. However, he is there for him to answer any questions and help him along his journey. The Sabres will do all that they can during these next thirty days to sign Petersen and secure his talents and potential. There are currently many mixed reports on what he will do.
If the Buffalo Sabres are able to sign Petersen they would be faced with a good “problem” that many NHL teams desire; strong goaltending prospects. Johansson and Petersen could both see time at a very young age for either minor league team. They will gain valuable experience that can only help them to get them better. Both have the potential to at least back up Lehner if he emerges as a more consistent starter and could even blossom into solid number ones.
It will be interesting to see what Petersen decides to do and if Buffalo management will be able to lure him into their organization. Should they be able to sign him, he and Johansson will provide Buffalo fans and management with some excitement.