In 2022-23 the Buffalo Sabres knocked on the door of getting into the playoffs. If they want to bust through that door and end a playoff drought that goes back to 2011, the Sabres may have players on their roster next season that are benefitting from their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Rochester Americans, going deep into this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
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Rochester is currently in the Eastern Conference Final after defeating the Syracuse Crunch and Toronto Marlies in the first two rounds. The Americans beat the Hershey Bears 5-1 in the first game of the best-of-seven series on Tuesday night (May 23), which extended their win streak to seven-straight games.
Overcoming Playoff Adversity
The playoffs did not start so well for Rochester. After losing Game 1 of their first-round series to Syracuse in overtime, Rochester was shut out in Game 2 to go down 2-0 in the best-of-five series. Rochester struggled in that game, as Syracuse became the first team in six years to allow zero shots on goal in a playoff period. Even after that tough first period, the Americans could not take advantage of nine minutes on the power play in the second period. Facing elimination, Rochester turned things around in Game 3 behind the play of goaltender Malcolm Subban and forwards Michael Mersch and Brett Murray.
In forcing a Game 5 on the road at Syracuse, the Americans jumped out to a quick lead but squandered their three-goal advantage when Syracuse tied the game with 30 seconds remaining, forcing overtime. However, the Americans kept their composure, and defenseman Lawrence Pilut took advantage of a Syracuse penalty to score the game and series-winning goal. Rochester has been able to learn from this adversity, which has led to this team playing their best hockey of the season at the right time, something that could carry over to the Sabres for some of their players expected to compete for roster spots next season.
Prospects Gain Valuable Experience
Three of the Sabres’ top prospects are not only being up valuable experience, they are also playing very well in these playoffs. After missing the first two games due to an injury, Jiri Kulich is currently on a seven-game point streak. The 2022 first-round pick has 10 points in those seven games, making it the first time a nineteen-year-old has had that many points in the AHL postseason since 1944. Kulich is currently averaging the most points per game of any draft year plus one player from the last 10 playoffs (minimum five games played), according to ahltracker.com.
Isak Rosen, selected 14th overall in 2021, is making significant contributions in the playoffs. Rosen was outstanding in the Game 3 clincher against the Marlies, as he ripped a one-timer from the right circle past Marlies/Maple Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll for his first goal of the game. He added his second of the game, the fourth of the playoffs, by capitalizing on a loose puck in the crease to give the Amerks a three-goal lead in the third period (Jiri Kulich, Isak Rosen help Rochester punch ticket to AHL conference finals, The Buffalo News, May 21, 2023).
Savoie Assigned to Rochester
On Sunday, May 20, the Sabres announced that they have assigned forward Matt Savoie to Rochester. The 19-year-old tallied 95 points in 62 games this season for the WHL’s Winnipeg ICE. He added 29 points in 19 playoff games to fuel Winnipeg’s run to the league championship series, which ended with a loss in Game 5 on Friday. The ninth-overall selection in 2022 has 192 points in his three seasons with the ICE.
Savoie has an intriguing skill set with elite speed, an effective right-handed shot, and a relentless drive to get the puck. He can play center or wing and will fit in nicely with the Americans after some downtime following a very hectic past few days. It will be a valuable experience for Savoie as he makes the transition from Junior to Professional Hockey.
Related: 3 Rochester Americans to Watch in the AHL Playoffs
The Sabres have done an excellent job with the prospects in Rochester. In addition to the players mentioned earlier, Brett Murray, Linus Weissbach, Mason Jobst and Lukas Rousek have a chance to make the Sabres roster within the next couple of years. This playoff experience will be very valuable in helping them make the roster and preparing them to help the Sabres become a playoff team in the very near future.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.