The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 500 readers that ranked players under the age of 25 by September 1st, 2019. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.
As the resident pest in the Sabres’ prospect pool, Matej Pekar pieced together a fairly strong 2018-2019 campaign after bursting onto the scene with a scrappy and noticeable development camp last summer. Pekar opted not to play collegiate hockey as originally expected, and instead chose to play for the Barrie Colts, becoming the first draft pick of Jason Botterill’s to play Canadian Junior hockey. His impressive season not only landed him number 19 on our list, but also earned him an entry-level deal with the big club.
Although most Sabres fans are familiar with Pekar due to his endless battles in last year’s development camp with Rasmus Dahlin, or his questionable run at Casey Mittelstadt during the camp’s 3-on-3 tournament, the 4th round pick has shown he can provide offense as well. He averaged over a point-per-game last season in Barrie, recording 14 goals and 24 assists in 33 games, before having his season cut short in January due to a broken collarbone. Prior to the injury, the Czech forward also represented his country at the under-20 World Junior Championships, appearing in all five games for his team in the tournament.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Pekar, including where he will play in the 2019-2020 season. Technically, he is on the Amerks roster since he shadowed in Rochester at the end of last season while recovering from the collarbone injury. He can be reassigned to the Barrie Colts as he maintains one more year of Canadian Junior eligibility, or, if he impresses enough, he can play professionally in the Sabres organization on the first year of his entry level deal.
It is believed that Jason Botterill and company are high on the young Czech and expect him to start in the AHL this season, but sights are unsettled as he was unable to attend this summer’s development camp due to a shoulder injury he deemed as “minor”. Pekar himself has stated his goal is to make the Buffalo Sabres, despite how much of a long-shot that may be. All-in-all, the front office and coaching staff will track Pekar throughout rookie camp and training camp, and let his play help determine where he begins the campaign.