The Sabres have made a great start to the campaign and find themselves sitting in pole position of the Atlantic Division after five games but what individuals have impressed the most in the opening stages of the season?
Olofsson has already endeared himself to the Sabres fan base, who now call him ‘Goal-ofsson’, since joining the side 18 months ago after a five-year stint in Sweden’s top tier. Although just 24 years old, Olofsson is considered an older than usual rookie, and it hasn’t taken him long to make up for the lost time. He’s put his name into the NHL history books with his early-season displays.
After scoring two power play goals at the back end of last season, he’s got off to a fast start this year and his crucial opening strike against the Montreal Canadiens in game four saw him become just the fourth player – and the first in 30 years – to record their first six goals on a power play.
Olofsson is seen a huge offensive asset but he’s pretty handy when his side doesn’t have possession of the puck, too, with an impressive work rate earning him praise from his coach alongside his scoring contribution. It’s important to remember that he is a raw talent but if he can find some consistency throughout the campaign then boy do the Sabres have a real weapon in their arsenal.
Jokiharju has always had potential – hence he was a first-round pick in 2017 – but despite being a regular feature for the Chicago Blackhawks at the start of last season, when he was shipped out to the AHL by Jeremy Colliton question marks over his future amongst the elite arose. The Sabres, however, saw an opportunity and out went Alex Nylander and in came Jokiharju.
The move turned a few heads at the time, but the 20-year-old has proven to be a great signing so far. The youngster is mature beyond his years and provides a calming presence alongside his elder partner, Marco Scandella, who has been known to be a little erratic at times in the past, but his real benefit is on the puck.
He’s constantly available and happy to hold possession in all areas with his ability to play forwards into the offensive zones a huge plus. If he can add a goal to his name, then it’s fair to say he would have ticked every box.
Unlike Olofsson and Jokiharju, Johansson arrived in Buffalo as an experienced head with his leadership qualities instantly recognized as he was named alternate captain to Jack Eichel and the former Washington Capitals man has made an immediate impression on the ice, too.
Although Johansson has been used as a winger for the best part of eight years now, the decision to start him in a central role – a position he last played in the 2011-12 campaign – has proved a smashing call as he’s contributed two goals and a further two assists – coincidentally both laying on goals for Jeff Skinner – in the first five games.
There you have it, three players who have made a decent impact in the early games of the season, but can they keep their standards up to give the Sabres a chance of a successful campaign? Ultimately, time will tell but the signs are certainly promising and if they maintain their form throughout the remainder of this month then they’ll go into the early November games on 1st and 2nd of November – the same dates as the Breeders Cup Classic – with the Capitals and the Islanders well and truly in the race for glory.