After a strong year in the USHL, the tall goaltender heads to Michigan
The Top 20 Under 24 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of five staff writers and over 300 readers that ranked prospects under the age of 24 and have played less than 125 NHL games.
With the NCAA season just getting underway, one of the nation’s top programs in Ann Arbor, Michigan is the new home for the Buffalo Sabres’ former third round pick, Erik Portillo. The Swedish goaltender is coming off a strong campaign in 2019, where he backstopped the Dubuque Fighting Saints to second place in the USHL.
Measuring at six feet, six inches tall and 224 pounds, Portillo fits the prototypical profile of today’s NHL goaltender. That, combined with strong numbers in the Swedish U20 league, vaulted his profile as a prospect and put him on NHL teams’ draft radar.
Drafted in 2019, Portillo was selected in the third round by the Sabres despite not making central scouting’s final rankings list. So far, he has proven worthy of that selection, as he was awarded the USHL’s Goaltender of the Year award after posting a .915 save percentage in his rookie year.
Now with the Michigan Wolverines, Portillo faces some stiff competition in net for playing time. Junior all-conference goaltender and team co-captain Strauss Mann is presumably the team’s starter, although Portillo projects to push Mann for significant playing time. It will be interesting to follow along throughout the season to see if Portillo can supplant Mann as the team’s starter, or at least perform admirably in the time given.
As far as his NHL prospects, the Swede has a stronghold on second place in the Sabres’ organizational prospect ranks at his position, trailing only Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen on the depth chart. Once deemed somewhat of a longshot, Portillo’s back-to-back league-topping performances have many charting his potential to become an NHL regular. If he can settle in at Michigan, you should see him transition to the professional ranks in about three seasons, and, along with Luukkonen, push for a spot with the big club.