Which Buffalo Sabres prospects are playing in the 2024 World Juniors?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Seven Buffalo Sabres prospects will represent their home countries during the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship, which begins Dec. 26 and concludes with the gold medal game on Jan. 5 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

While some Sabres draft picks will make their first appearances at the World Juniors, a tournament open to players under 20 years old, others are expected to be integral pieces of their respective squads. Here’s the full list:

Matthew Savoie, F, Canada

Draft: 2022 first-round pick, 9th overall
Current team: Wenatchee Wild (WHL)
Stats: 11 goals, 24 points in 11 games played with Wenatchee. Tallied two goals and five points in six games with the Rochester Americans.

Arguably the most touted Sabres prospect playing in this year’s World Juniors, Savoie will likely play a crucial role for Canada as it seeks a third consecutive gold medal. The 19-year-old made his NHL debut with Buffalo on Nov. 10 against the Wild, but logged just under four minutes and did not register a point before being reassigned to Wenatchee shortly after. Savoie skated on Canada’s first line during a Tuesday pre-tournament game.

Jiri Kulich, F, Czechia

Draft: 2022 first-round pick, 28th overall
Current team: Rochester Americans (AHL)
Stats: 16 goals, 22 points in 22 games played

Kulich was a force during last year’s World Juniors, leading Czechia with seven goals in seven games and coming away with a silver medal after the Czechs fell in overtime to Canada in the gold medal game. With the 19-year-old averaging a point per game in the AHL, another standout World Juniors performance could certainly be on deck.

Noah Östlund, F, Sweden

Draft: 2022 first-round pick, 16th overall
Current team: Växjö Lakers HC (SHL)
Stats: Four goals, seven points in 17 games played

Östlund is one of two Swedes the Sabres will boast at this year’s World Juniors, alongside Anton Wahlberg. The 19-year-old tallied a goal during a 4-2 Sweden victory in a pre-tournament game against Switzerland on Tuesday and should play a big role for the Swedes as they seek their first gold medal since 2011.

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Anthon Wahlberg, F, Sweden

Draft: 2023 second-round pick, 39th overall
Current team: Malmö Redhawks (SHL)
Stats: Three goals, seven points in 23 games played

Wahlberg possesses size at 6-foot-3, 191 pounds that most other top Sabres prospects don’t and will likely be a regular in Sweden’s lineup during his first World Juniors. During Tuesday’s pre-tournament game, Wahlberg played wing on Sweden’s first line alongside Östlund. Should that trio stay intact, it should be a treat for Sabres fans to watch as the tournament progresses.

Maxim Štrbák, D, Slovakia

Draft: 2023 second-round pick, 45th overall
Current team: Michigan State Spartans (NCAA)
Stats: One goal, five points in 15 games played

Štrbák is a sizable defensive prospect, standing at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and is the lone defenseman on the Slovakian roster who’s been drafted by an NHL team. The 18-year-old, appearing in his third World Juniors, will likely see heavy minutes on one of Slovakia’s top pairings.

Norwin Panocha, D, Germany

Draft: 2023 seventh-round pick, 205th overall
Current team: Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
Stats: 11 assists and no goals in 30 games.

Germany is not expected to make much noise at this year’s World Juniors, but Panocha should still see quality minutes as the only defenseman with an NHL affiliation on the team’s roster. As a squad likely to spend a lot of time in its own end, the play of Panocha and the German defense will be crucial if they wish to advance to the quarterfinals.

Scott Ratzlaff, G, Canada

Draft: 2023 fifth-round pick, 141st overall
Current team: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Stats: 8-10-1 record, .889 save percentage, 3.39 goals against average

The youngest goalie in Buffalo’s pipeline has had a poor start to the 2023-24 season with Seattle after looking dominant a year ago. He will likely be Canada’s third goalie at the World Juniors and it’s tough to foresee him getting multiple starts, if any, barring an injury.

When will Sabres prospects play each other?

Here are the group-stage games in which Sabres prospects will square off against one another. Each game will be broadcast on NHL Network. You can view the full World Juniors schedule here.

Slovakia (Štrbák) vs. Czechia (Kulich) – 6 a.m. Dec. 26

Germany (Panocha) vs. Sweden (Wahlberg, Östlund) – 1:30 p.m. Dec. 28

Canada (Savoie, Ratzlaff) vs. Sweden (Wahlberg, Östlund) – 1:30 p.m. Dec. 29

Canada (Savoie, Ratzlaff) vs. Germany (Panocha) – 1:30 p.m. Dec. 31

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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