Sweden coach Magnus Havelid met Noah Ostlund in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and quickly learned of his love for the game of hockey and his ability to positively influence those around him.

Ostlund was just 17 years old when he first played under Havelid on Sweden’s U-18 team, but Havelid’s initial impression of Ostlund never wavered as the pair went on to compete together in the 2022 IIHF U-18 World Championship, the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, and most recently, the 2024 World Juniors in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“On and off the ice, he’s a very positive guy,” Havelid said. “I’ve never seen him have a bad practice. Sometimes we have an optional warmup – I’ve never even seen him have a bad optional practice. I think that’s one of his special qualities. … He loves hockey, he loves to practice hockey, and loves to learn. So, it’s all hockey, all the time. He loves the sport and that’s the picture I have of Noah when I think of him.”

Over the last few years, Havelid has watched the forward go through the natural phases of a young hockey player. The coach has seen an abundance of growth in Ostlund, who continues to play against men in Sweden’s top hockey league this season.

Ostlund has recorded 18 points (9+9) in 26 games for the Vaxjo Lakers of the SHL, after spending last season playing in Sweden’s second-tier Allsvenskan league.

Havelid was excited to see Ostlund play in this year’s World Junior Championship based on his performance in Vaxjo prior to tournament play, which featured the 19-year-old’s strong hockey sense and playmaking ability.

“Noah has a great hockey sense,” Havelid said. “The way he plays, he plays the same way he did when he was 17 because he’s always had a great hockey sense – both with the puck and without the puck – and he has a great effort and work ethic.”

Ahead of the World Juniors, Havelid named Ostlund an alternate captain for Team Sweden largely because of his personality and leadership qualities. Ostlund produced for his team, tallying 10 points (3+7) in seven games to help lead Sweden to a silver medal.

Ostlund was also named Sweden’s Player of the Game for his performance in the championship contest, with one assist, three shots, and 10 shot attempts in Sweden’s 6-2 loss to the United States on Jan. 5. Havelid lauded Ostlund for his play and ability to help lead the team throughout the tournament.

“He’s a team player – 100 percent,” Havelid said. “He makes other players better and that’s part of the way he plays of course, but also his personality. I think other players like to be with him on the ice and off ice. He had a top performance, a great tournament. He was one of my key players.

“I know he was disappointed in himself and that we lost the game, but I think he did everything for the team. He had a great effort, and he gave 100 percent. He was great and he has a great future as well because his attributes help the team.”

Selected by the Sabres with the 16th-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Ostlund had the chance to join the Rochester Americans during their Calder Cup playoff run last season, following his own season with Djurgardens. He did not practice with the Amerks due to an injury but was able to use the time to get acclimated to the American Hockey League and become familiar with the players, coaches, and staff in Rochester.


Ostlund chose to return to Sweden in 2023-24 rather than play in Rochester because he said he felt his path to the NHL would be quicker by gaining experience in the SHL. Havelid has seen the young forward reap the benefits so far as Ostlund has recorded 11 points (5+6) in nines games for Vaxjo since his return from the World Juniors.

“He has the capacity to be a really, really good NHL player,” Havelid said. “But he’s still young. Of course, he needs to get stronger to protect himself from the big guys, so that he can play every night. I think that’s a challenge for all those young players coming up in the NHL. But I think how Noah plays, that would not be any problem because he has a lot of skills there that he would use. ... He is a great prospect for Buffalo. They are lucky to have him in the system.”

Here’s a look at five more Sabres prospects who saw success in January.

1. Goaltender Scott Ratzlaff (fifth round, 2023) has posted a 4-2-0-0 record in his last seven appearances for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, stopping 249 of 268 shots, including a career-best 62 saves in a 3-1 win over the Everett Silvertips last Saturday.

Ratzlaff was named the WHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending Jan. 28, 2024, after going 2-0-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .960 save percentage. In addition to his stellar performance against Everett, the 18-year-old recorded 34 saves in a 6-3 victory over Wenatchee last Friday to help him earn the league honor.

2. Rochester Americans forward Lukas Rousek (sixth round, 2019) logged a career-best 13-game point streak from Dec. 20, 2023 through Jan. 20, 2024, which was the longest point streak by an Amerks skater in 24 years.

Rousek tallied 14 points (4+10) in those contests, including the game-winning goal in Rochester's 2-1 win over Utica on Jan. 19. He recorded seven points (1+6) in 10 games during the month of January and is currently tied with Isak Rosen for the team lead in points, with a total of 26 (7+19) in the 2023-24 campaign.

3. Defenseman Vsevolod Komarov (fifth round, 2022) has recorded 24 points (5+19) in 17 games since being traded from Quebec to Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Dec. 3.

Komarov tallied at least a point in nine consecutive games from Dec. 31, 2023 through Jan. 26, 2024, including three multi-point performances and a total of 15 points (3+12). 

His 43 points (8+35) in 2023-24 for Quebec and Drummondville are tied for fourth on the team while his 35 assists rank first on the team and tied for seventh in the league.

4. Red Deer Rebels defenseman Mats Lindgren (fourth round, 2022) posted seven points (2+5) in seven games in January, including two power-play goals. He added a total of 19 shots on goal and a plus-6 rating to round out the month as the Rebels currently sit in second in the WHL’s Central Division standings and third among Eastern Conference teams.

The 19-year-old has recorded 29 points (6+23) in 41 games for the Rebels this season while serving as an alternate captain.

5. Forward Matt Savoie has tallied 12 points (4+8) in six games since being traded from Wenatchee to Moose Jaw of the WHL in exchange for seven picks on Jan. 4.

Savoie has amassed 36 points (15+21) in 17 WHL games this season, recording at least a point in 15 consecutive contests.

Moose Jaw sits in second in the East Division standings, behind only Saskatoon.