This move comes amid widespread speculation that Portillo would opt to test the college free-agent market rather than sign with the Sabres, who drafted him 67th overall at the 2019 draft. The Sabres have arguably the best goalie prospect in hockey, Northeastern University’s Devon Levi, so it’s possible that the presence of Levi in Buffalo’s pipeline played a role in Portillo looking elsewhere for his NHL future.
Important to note is the fact that this deal does not guarantee that Portillo will end up signing with the Kings. The Buffalo Sabres traded a third-round pick for the rights to Jimmy Vesey in the summer of 2016, only for him to sign with the New York Rangers shortly afterwards.
But while the Sabres already have Levi in their pipeline, The Kings don’t have quite the same big-name goalie prospect already in the mix for Portillo to have to contend with for “goalie of the future” status.
If the Kings do end up signing Portillo, they’ll land a quality prospect who The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler recently ranked as the seventh-best prospect in a talented Sabres system. (subscription link) Portillo is a six-foot-six netminder who has been the starter at Michigan for the past two seasons. Last year, Portillo posted impressive numbers, going 31-10-1 with a .926 save percentage and 2.14 goals-against-average. His numbers have suffered a bit this season, but scouts remain impressed with his imposing size, quality puck-handling ability, and sneaky athleticism.
This is the second trade of the day where the Kings acquired a netminder. While today’s acquisition of Joonas Korpisalo was about helping their organization’s goalie situation in the short-term, today’s deal is designed to give them a potential long-term solution. It’s a worthy investment of a third-round pick assuming they get his signature on an entry-level deal, and a nice refund for the Sabres who likely weren’t signing him anyway and already have Levi, Luukkonen, and others to focus their developmental efforts on.