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 485 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 10, 2021. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.
Buffalo Sabres fans finally got their first glimpse at Oskari Laaksonen playing North American hockey this past season, and he was fun to watch. Seventeen points in a shortened AHL season for a defenseman is nothing to scoff at, and Laaksonen will only get better as he further adjusts. His special teams play was notable, as both of his goals came on the advantage. (Unfortunately, the AHL does not make any ice-time stats public.)
The 22-year-old was loaned to the Pelicans overseas for the beginning of their season and had a respectable showing there before coming to the U.S. when the AHL and NHL seasons finally kicked off. Although the AHL didn’t have its annual All-Star Game, Laaksonen was recognized as a North Division All-Star, a well-deserved honor for the rookie.
The Amerks also honored him with a sportsmanship award at year’s end.
Here’s what he had to say after his first AHL season:
Laaksonen is one of six right-handed defensemen in the Sabres organization for the upcoming season. The other thing to keep an eye on right now is Laaksonen’s size. At 6’1” and just 172 pounds, he’s pretty lean - at least 13 pounds lighter than the other defenders in the Sabres system.
Initially, Laaksonen appears poised to spend most, if not all, of this season with the Amerks, pending any injuries at the NHL level, but spoke about his “hunger” to get to the NHL level in this Finnish interview. After a full, standard regular AHL season, he should see some positive growth and development in his game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets recalled for a chance at the big league if the opportunity arises.
(P.S. Look for him to be in attendance at the upcoming Sabres Prospects Challenge!)