The Buffalo Sabres announced the signing of defenseman Oskari Laaksonen to a three-year contract, per the team. Laaksonen joins Buffalo on an entry-level contract after the team made him a third-round pick in the 2017 draft.
Since being drafted 89th overall by the Sabres, Laaksonen, 20, has spent the past three seasons with Ilves of the Finnish Elite League. Laaksonen recorded 12 points for the Ilves over 46 games this past season. He also won a gold medal with Team Finland at the 2019 World Junior Championship while skating alongside another Sabres’ youngster, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Laaksonen’s stock jumped shortly after the draft, and the young puck-mover has continued to impress during his time in his native Finland. He had signed a two-year deal with the Ilves, putting doubt into whether he’d be ready to make the jump to the NHL. But evidently, he’s ready.
The deal comes on the heels of the Sabres learning that they’d lost defenseman Lawrence Pilut to the KHL. Pilut, 24, looked like a potential building block for the Sabres, who instead now transition the future of their defence to Laaksonen. Included in the press release announcing the signing was a comment from Sabres’ GM Jason Botterill, who said, “The work Oskari has put in to improve his game has paid off during his last two seasons. His success on the international stage and what he’s done as a 19- and 20-year-old playing in a professional league is impressive.”
The Sabres finished the year in sixth place of the Atlantic Division, on the outside looking in for the upcoming 24-team playoff. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2010-2011 season, the second of back-to-back losses in the quarterfinals to the Flyers and Bruins, respectively.