Future NHL stars are developing in the Canadian Hockey League this season. Each week, NHL.com will highlight a few of the top NHL-affiliated prospects in the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League.

Vsevolod Komarov's upward climb could land the Buffalo Sabres defenseman prospect atop the QMJHL scoring leaders and earn him another chance to play for the Memorial Cup.

The 20-year-old, selected in the fifth round (No. 134) of the 2022 NHL Draft, had a season-high four points (one goal, three assists) for Drummondville in a 5-4 overtime win at Gatineau on Jan. 26, including assists on Drummondville's final three goals to complete a comeback after trailing 4-2 in the third period.

That gave Komarov 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) during a nine-game point streak that ended in a 4-0 win against Baie-Comeau on Thursday. It was the longest in his three QMJHL seasons and the second-longest in the league by a defenseman this season (Mathis Gauthier, 10 games). He is also tied with Rouyn-Noranda's Jeremy Langlois (Arizona Coyotes) for the QMJHL scoring lead among defensemen with 44 points (nine goals, 35 assists) in 40 games. That exceeds the 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) Komarov had in 62 games for Quebec last season.

Komarov said the offensive side of his game is just part of his growth as a two-way defenseman, which includes a plus-27 rating.

"I love to play offensive and defensive," he said. "I want to be a two-way defenseman. I'm trying to progress everywhere, [defensive] zone, offensive zone, everywhere. I'm trying to be good on offense and same thing on defense. Last year I think I played well in the offensive zone but I'm trying to be an all-around player."

The Sabres certainly are happy with what they've seen so far.

"I think that his poise with the puck and his ability to find the right play in all three zones, that's what's been really impressive," Buffalo director of player development Adam Mair said. "I don't know if he projects to be an offensive-type defenseman at the next level, but he is a guy that you're going to trust with the puck and someone that can navigate pressure and situations that are tight for him. 

"That's a very important skillset to have as a defenseman, the ability to get the puck up the ice, into the forwards' hands, and he's done an excellent job of that. There's been a lot of growth in that part of his game."

The area of growth the Sabres would like to see the most from Komarov (6-foot-2, 182 pounds) is off the ice, as he tries to add strength.

"The main area we've been focused on with him has been just building his body," Mair said. "He's a very big kid, but he's still underdeveloped, didn't have a lot of training exposure over in Russia.

"We've talked to him a lot about improving his foot speed, and that's an area that is probably tied to his overall body, strength and explosiveness as a young player. So that would be the one area that we're continuing to talk to him about and solving and finding ways to do that in the season."

Komarov says skating is one of the big areas of focus for him, and feels it has improved during his three seasons in the QMJHL.

"My legs are stronger," he said. "I feel like I'm pretty fast. I remember I came the first year (2021-22), I was pretty slow, no legs, not a lot of muscle. My skating was pretty good, but I'm trying to change some things and working on my muscles for the legs to be faster to be better able to come to the NHL."

He'll likely have more time this season to develop following the Dec. 3 trade that sent him to Drummondville, tied with Rouyn-Noranda for first in the Western Conference, from Quebec, tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference after winning the Memorial Cup last season.

"For any young player that gets a chance to go deep in the playoffs, potentially win a championship, I think that's just something that you can't replicate in terms of your development," Mair said.

Komarov's trajectory the last few seasons has Buffalo excited by the defenseman's future with his move to pro hockey next season.

"He's a player that's just continued to improve over the last couple of years," Mair said. "A guy that has been a big surprise for us in terms of where he's at with his game, where he still has to go with his body. The potential for growth there is very exciting."


Gavin Hayes, RW, Sault Ste. Marie: The Chicago Blackhawks prospect scored the game-winning goal in a 5-3 come-from-behind win at Saginaw on Wednesday. It was the second game-winning goal in three games for the 19-year-old, chosen in the third round (No. 66) of the 2022 draft. He has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in nine games since being traded to Sault Ste. Marie by Flint on Jan. 7, and 53 points (28 goals, 25 assists) in 36 games this season.

Ethan Gauthier, RW, Drummondville: The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect had two assists, including one on an overtime goal by Alexis Gendron (Philadelphia Flyers) in a 5-4 overtime win at Gatineau on Jan. 26 that extended his point streak to 15 games (23 points; 14 goals, nine assists), the longest of his three-year QMJHL career. The point streak ended Thursday, but the 19-year-old, selected by the Lightning in the second round (No. 37) of the 2023 NHL Draft, is second on Drummondville in scoring with 51 points (27 goals, 24 assists) in 43 games.

Matt Savoie, C, Moose Jaw: The Buffalo Sabres prospect has a 15-game point streak (34 points; 14 goals, 20 assists) end in a 3-1 win against Prince Albert on Friday. The No. 9 pick of the 2022 draft, Savoie has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in seven games since being traded to Moose Jaw by Wenatchee on Jan. 4. The 20-year-old has 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in 18 games this season, with at least one point in 16 of them.

Related Content