JJ Peterka went into last year’s offseason with a goal of becoming a better hockey player by focusing on the smaller details of his game. The Buffalo Sabres' forward had surpassed the 30-point mark in his rookie campaign, but was determined to take his game to the next level in 2023-24.

Peterka went on to have a dynamic offseason, including 12 points (6+6) in 10 games at the 2023 IIHF World Championship, where he led Germany to a silver medal while being recognized as the tournament’s top forward and being named to the Media All-Star Team.

He carried that success into the 2023-24 season, setting new single-season career highs in goals (28), assists (22), and points (50), which he attributed to improvements in those smaller details.

“… I think this year just being more of a pro, being in better position – I think that helped me then on the other end, on offense, to score more goals,” Peterka, who was the only Sabres skater to appear in all 82 games, said.

“I think I was paying more attention in the D-zone. I think just being more responsible on the ice, [knowing] who [you are] against, and [knowing] what time [is] on the clock and stuff like that. Just like little things.”

JJ Peterka addresses the media

Peterka opened his second NHL season in a similar fashion to his rookie year by scoring in Buffalo’s season opener. He then recorded a career-best five-game point streak from Oct. 27 to Nov. 4, tallying three goals and three assists in that span.

By Nov. 24, Peterka had posted 15 points (8+7) in the first 20 games of the season and appeared in his 100th NHL game. While he began to establish himself as one of the Sabres’ most consistent players on offense, his teammates recognized how his movement off the puck and play in the defensive zone had contributed to his scoring success.

“You saw him produce at a really high pace. You saw him score a lot of goals,” forward Alex Tuch said. “He was out there in tougher situations, and that was because he earned it. He started playing a lot better defensively, he started playing better away from the puck, started being a little bit more physical and harder to play against and doing the right things.”

Peterka scored his 12th goal of the season in Buffalo’s 5-2 win over Arizona on Dec. 11, matching his goal total from his rookie campaign, which he set in 77 games.

JJ Peterka's top goals from 2023-24

The 22-year-old recorded the first multi-goal game and the first three-point performance of his career to lead the Sabres to a 5-3 win in Los Angeles on Jan. 24 before scoring twice in the following game against San Jose. Peterka’s teammates were not surprised by his production based on the work they have seen him put in to continue to be the best he can be.

“He holds himself to a high standard,” Dylan Cozens said during his end-of-season media availability. “He just wants to score, and he did that a lot. So, it was awesome to see him take that next step, and he’s not even close to playing how good he can be. He’s going to be a great player and a great goal scorer for a long time, so it’s fun to play with him and be a part of that.”

Jack Quinn, who has frequently skated alongside Peterka dating back to their days in Rochester, echoed Cozens’ statement.

“Really impressive. He’s such a good player and honestly, not surprised at all he put up the numbers he did,” Quinn said. “You know, I’ve been able to play with him the last couple years. So, I know how special he is, and I think he kind of showed everyone this year.”

Peterka reached the 20-goal mark in March before being moved to Buffalo’s top line alongside Tuch and Tage Thompson ahead of Buffalo’s game against the Edmonton Oilers on March 21.

The Munich, Germany native scored twice in Edmonton and in each of the next three games, recording the longest goal streak of his career and becoming the youngest Sabres player with goals in four consecutive games since Donald Audette in 1991.

Peterka ended his season ranked second on the team in goals (28) and game-winning goals (5) while reaching the 50-point mark. He skated a career-high 23:11 in the Sabres’ season finale in Tampa, but Peterka knows there is more he wants to achieve come next season.

“I think I know what I personally need to work on and how to get ready,” he said. “I'm looking forward [to] training camp, obviously, but it’s a long time till then and long summer before, so gonna be working hard.”

“I don’t think he’s even come close to reaching his full potential,” Tuch said. “And I don’t even think he’s even close to scratching the surface either.”