Olofsson feels ready to make the jump to North America

February 12, 2018 - 2:24 pm

Over the course of the past four seasons, the Buffalo Sabres have been the lowest scoring team in the National Hockey League. Through 302 games, the Sabres have averaged a league-worst 2.26 goals per-game, while also averaging a third-worst 28.5 shots per-game in that span.

However, one of Buffalo's goal scoring prospects appears to be ready to make the jump to North America.

22-year old Victor Olofsson has spent parts of the last four seasons in the Swedish Hockey League since he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Draft. In 193 games played with MODO Hockey and the Frölunda Indians, Olofsson has scored 57 goals and registered 111 points. Olofsson has also scored 10 goals and averaged nearly a point per-game in 21 playoff and relegation games.

Through 43 games this season with Frölunda, Olofsson has scored a league-leading 24 goals and is second on the team with 37 points. Olofsson also leads the SHL with 13 powerplay goals, is second in the league with six game-winning goals, and is ranks fourth in shots on goal at 135.

#Sabres Prospects goals per game:
Olofsson .56 (SHL)
Glotov .51 (QMJHL)
Pu .42 (OHL)

Sabres Prospects assists per game:
Pu .89 (OHL)
Hagel .59 (WHL)
Bryson .58 (HE)
Mittelstadt .54 (B1G)

Full stats at the site

— Kris Baker (@SabresProspects) February 11, 2018

With his strong play this season and the growth he's had in his game since his draft day, Olofsson feels ready to make his jump to North America, maybe as soon as next season.

"I would love to come over next year. I feel like I'm starting to get ready for that," Olofsson said in a phone interview this past weekend. "I've been patient with going over because I felt like I wasn't ready, but I'm starting to feel ready now. I would say next year is probably the right time."

A lot has changed for Olofsson since being taken with the 181st overall pick in the 2014 draft. On draft day, Olofsson measured in at just 5' 7" and 157-pounds, but was coming off of a season where he scored 32 goals and 53 points in 44 games with the MODO Under-20 junior team in Sweden. Olofsson now stands at 5' 11" and is about 20-pounds stronger than he was as an 18-year old.

Aside from feeling stronger on the ice, Olofsson feels a lot more confident in his game since being drafted by the Sabres nearly four years ago.

"I just feel a bit more comfortable out there in every aspect of the game," Olofsson said. "I think I've become a bigger threat out there, maybe a better goal scorer too. I think everything has been better, and I'm developing every year."

While some may worry about Olofsson's size on the wing, he is a good skater with decent speed and crafty footwork. Olofsson possesses some good hands, and has developed his shooting skills from all over the ice. And although he has been more known for his goal scoring, the swifty Swede can also be a suitable playmaker to create scoring chances for his teammates.

THIS GUN FOR HIRE: Victor Olofsson connects for two more power-play goals in a Frölunda loss. That's his fourth two-goal game of the year. Olofsson's 24 marks lead the Swedish Hockey League. Of the 24, 13 have come on the PP and six have been game-winners. #Sabres pic.twitter.com/vv66yjoIZy

— Kris Baker (@SabresProspects) February 9, 2018

Olofsson joined Frölunda last season after the MODO Hockey club was relegated to Sweden's second-tier professional league following the 2015-16 season. In his two seasons in Gothenburg, Sweden, he has 33 goals and 64 points in 94 games.

At the start of the season, Olofsson felt that his season started off slow with seven goals and 12 points in the first 16 games of the season. However, Olofsson went on a tear shortly after, scoring eight goals and 12 points in eight games. Since then, Olofsson has tacked on 13 points, nine of them being goals.

The string of success that Olofsson has had and the production he has put up can be attributed to his shot mentality, a trait in which Sabres head coach Phil Housley has been looking for this season in Buffalo.

"I think getting more pucks to the net has been a big key and to take a lot more shots than I've been doing in the past," Olofsson said. "I'm just trying to shoot from different angles and trying to get some pucks through."

Last year, the Indians were one game away from playing for a SHL championship after losing in Game 7 of the semifinals to Brynäs IF. This season, Frölunda currently sits in fifth place in the standings, with a chance to automatically qualify for the quarterfinal round.

Olofsson hopes to be able to compete for his first SHL title, and knows that his team will have a chance to win their second league title in three seasons.

"It's a dream I've always had as a kid is to win a championship here in Sweden," Olofsson said. "We have a good team, and I think we can be up there fighting for the title. That's the main focus I have right now."

It would be quite the achievement for Olofsson to win a SHL championship before making the potential transition from Sweden to North America.

The Sabres have not made any formal contract offers to Olofsson yet, but that would likely happen at the end of his season in Gothenburg. It seems like Buffalo has remained interested in the 22-year old's progression and are keeping close tabs on him.

Olofsson knows that Buffalo has a keen interest in him and his play this season, but he's not looking to far ahead into the future.

"The main focus is here and now," Olofsson said. "They have been sending some guys over here to check out how things are going here, and I feel like we have a great [line of> communication, we're talking a lot. I feel like they are believing in me, and I feel like hopefully one day I can come over and play for them."

In Buffalo, the 2017-18 season has not gone as expected for the Sabres organization. The team currently sits with a record of 16-30-10 with 42 points, and are just six points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes for last place in the NHL standings. The Sabres have been the second lowest-scoring team in the NHL through 56 games, and me be in a worst spot now with leading scorer Jack Eichel out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

Despite the lack of results for the Sabres this season, Olofsson likes what he sees with the team and the future of the organization

"They have some really good players in Eichel, [Ryan> O'Reilly and Evander Kane. Those guys are top-league players, and there are some younger guys too coming up. I think there is a good mix there, and I would love to be a part of that in the future."

Looking ahead to the 2018 NHL Draft, the Sabres may have a good chance to pick with the first overall selection on June 22 in Dallas, Texas. The top-ranked prospect of the draft this year is 17-year old defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who happens to be a teammate of Olofsson's in Frölunda.

Olofsson sees the talent in Dahlin that will likely make him the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

"It's a lot of fun to play with a guy like that. He's a special talent," Olofsson said. "He does things out there that no one else can do. Even the most skilled forwards on our team can't do the stuff that he's doing. It's pretty cool to see. He's been great for us this year. He's taking steps in the right way. He's bigger, stronger, and I think he's good defensively too. He's just been great for us this year, and I think he's going to keep on improving."

The Sabres would have an 18-percent chance of winning the NHL Draft Lottery if they happen to finish in last place in the NHL standings this year. Currently, the Sabres' odds of winning the first pick in the Draft Lottery is 12.5-percent.

If the Sabres do happen to win the first overall pick in the NHL Draft, Olofsson says he would relish the chance to play with Dahlin in Buffalo.

"That would be awesome," Olofsson said. "Of course I have a dream of playing there some day, we'll see if that happens. If I got to play with 'Ras-ter' too, that'd be awesome."

At the moment, the Sabres have two other prospects playing in the SHL with Olofsson.

2016 second round pick (33rd overall) Rasmus Asplund is in the middle of his fourth season playing with Färjestad BK. The 20-year old is having another exceptional year in Sweden with seven goals and 27 points in 43 games.

This past summer at Sabres development camp, Asplund said his goal was to surpass the 30-point mark, which he is close to achieving with seven games remaining in the regular season. There is a chance that Asplund, like Olofsson, decides to leave Sweden after this season and sign his entry-level contract with the Sabres.

Olofsson enjoys playing against his younger counterpart, and has gotten to know him over the past few year from playing against him in Sweden and spending time together at development camp in Buffalo.

"It's always fun to play against him," Olofsson said. "Our team has a big rivalry going back, so they're really fun games to play. I've been getting to know Rasmus really well too. He's a fun guy, skilled player, good two-way centerman. He's been playing really good this year."

The other Sabres prospect playing in the SHL at the moment is Marcus Davidsson, who is in the middle of his second season with Djurgårdens IF. So far through 32 games, Davidsson has scored six goals and registered 14 points as a 19-year old in Sweden.

Davidsson was drafted by the Sabres this past year in the second round (37th overall) of the NHL Draft, and has not played too much against Olofsson over the past two years. However, Olofsson is familiar with the style of player he sees in the young Swede.

"I don't know him as well as I know [Asplund>, but I think he's a good player too," Olofsson said. "A little bit similar to Rasmus; I think he has good speed, hard worker, and he's got some skill too. I think he's a guy the Sabres can look forward to."

With Olofsson being a draft pick of the Sabres in 2014, he was part of Tim Murray's first draft class as general manager of the Sabres. Aside from first round pick Sam Reinhart, none of the players drafted by Murray that year have seen action with the Sabres. With the lack of success from a number of the prospects from that 2014 draft, it appears as though Murray whiffed big time in his first draft with the Sabres.

Olofsson will look to be an exception of that class and maybe get a chance to crack the NHL lineup down the road in Buffalo.

However, things have changed drastically in the organization since he was drafted in 2014. Murray is no longer the general manager in Buffalo, and Jason Botterill has come in from the Pittsburgh Penguins organization to take his place. Housley also comes in this season from the Nashville Predators to replace Dan Bylsma as the head coach of the Sabres.

Both men were in Buffalo for Sabres development camp this past year, but Olofsson did not get the chance to speak with either Botterill or Housley.

"I haven't met Housley yet, but I met Botterill this summer at development camp and I had a great first impression," Olofsson said. "I think he puts in a lot of time and wants to do a great job for a Sabres. He seems like a great person."

As for the city of Buffalo, Olofsson ays he has enjoyed his time here for the last four development camps. 

"I have nothing bad to say about Buffalo the few times I've been there. I'm looking forward to spending some more time there in the future."

Olofsson and Frölunda are off for the Olympic break in the SHL, but will be back in action on Saturday February 24th against Örebro. That matchup will kickoff their final seven games of the regular season before the playoff start in mid-March.

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