Shortly after Ralph Krueger awarded rookie Victor Olofsson the coveted spot beside captain Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart out of training camp, the coach broke up the Buffalo Sabres’ top line.
“We did not play too well together,” Reinhart acknowledged on a Zoom call last week. “Maybe the first couple we played well, and then (Olofsson) actually moved away from us for a game or two.”
When Krueger moved Olofsson back to the top left-wing position, the Swede’s quick transformation stunned Reinhart. Olofsson, for example, started playing more aggressively. In a matter of days, he had made the adjustments necessary to entrench himself on the Sabres’ No. 1 line.
“What shocked me and surprised me and really impressed me was how really quickly he learned,” Reinhart said. “His smarts kind of played out and he realized kind of what he needed to do to be that much more effective, and when he came back, obviously he took off.”
Olofsson, 24, enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign, scoring 20 goals and 42 points in 54 outings. His goal total ranked second among rookies, trailing only Chicago Blackhawks winger Dominik Kabulik, who scored 30 times.