In what has been one of the worst kept secrets this spring, Viktor Antipin will indeed join the Buffalo Sabres for next season. He confirmed to Alexei Shevchenko of Sport-Express that he will head to Buffalo on May 29th to sign his deal and is excited to get started in the NHL. The 24-year old just completed the World Championships for Russia where he won his second straight bronze and third medal overall. Like many other players at the tournament, he’ll look to North America for the next opportunity in his hockey career.
Antipin has been one of the more consistent defensemen in the KHL for several years, scoring at least 15 points for the past five seasons. He logged more than 20 minutes a night for Magnitogorsk this season, leading them to the finals against St. Petersburg. Named the best defenseman of the final series, he still couldn’t contain Ilya Kovalchuk and the rest of the super-powered SKA team, losing in five games. Overshadowed offensively at times by Chris Lee a former AHL wash-out that suited up for Canada at the recent tournament, Antipin can play successfully at both ends of the rink. He has the ability to work on a powerplay and will likely get a chance to contribute significant minutes for the Sabres as they try to rebuild their defense corps.
Beyond Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres have had trouble finding much consistency on the back end, with even Zach Bogosian facing injury and performance troubles at times. There may be more success coming though, as Ristolainen (22) will likely see Jake McCabe (23) and Brendan Guhle (19) take on a bigger role in the next couple of seasons.
Good for Buffalo. I’m excited to see them starting to compete more regularly.