Rochester Americans lineup looking strong early on
The Sabres may not look spot on right now, but the way things are playing out fans in Rochester could be in for quite the treat.
At many points I've felt bad, especially last season, when the Sabres call up most of Rochester's best, or most promising, players at once. On some occasions last year the Sabres had multiple Amerks defensemen up, which led to quite the shortage down in the AHL. However, the way next year's Amerks roster is looking right now may make up for that.
With the recent addition of Henrik Tallinder and the decision to keep Alex Sulzer in the fold the Sabres now have some real defensive depth, which will push some guys back down to Rochester. Mark Pysyk is the player most expect to make the Sabres roster, but with Tallinder, Sulzer, Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, and Jamie McBain all in the organization it may be hard for another younger player to squeeze his way in.
Due to this fact, Rochester likely will be enjoying two solid defensemen in Brayden McNabb and Chad Ruhwedel. In addition they will have Drew Bagnall, who despite not being the incredible pickup some hoped for, is a solid AHL veteran who brings much needed experience. He served as the Houston Aeros captain last season, a team that finished one spot ahead of Rochester in the standings.
On offense, it's a little less flashy but there are still some players worth watching. One of the Amerks top scorers )Mark Mancari) leaving will be a big blow, but there are others who could possibly pick up the slack. Corey Tropp will be back after missing much of last season due to injury, and its fair to assume isn't a lock for the Sabres lineup. Johan Larsson, who the Sabres acquired in the Jason Pominville trade, should be a guy to keep your eye on.
Dan Catenacci, the Sabres' third round pick in the 2011 draft, had an excellent last year in juniors and scored right away once he was brought up to the Amerks at the end of the season. The gritty but fast forward scored three points in only two AHL games. Speaking of gritty, Justin Kea is a player that reminds many of Zack Kassian when it comes to physicality. At 6'4'' he's a big kid, and prides himself on his defensive skills, despite scoring 22 goals last year in junior.
Many hope this will be the year that Zemgus Girgensons makes the big squad, but at 19 years old that's not a lock. He was voted the Americans most improved player and by the end of the year really began to flourish. Girgensons was a boy playing with men after deciding to forgo the University of Vermont and go straight to professional hockey. After one year of adjusting, this season should be a good one for Girgensons.
Leading the offensive unit will be captain Matt Ellis, who returns for his sixth year in the organization. Although he is no offensive phenom, he's always one of the hardest workers on the ice and a good role model for the Sabres' young guns.
In goal will be Matt Hackett, who also was acquired in the Pominville deal. He has big shoes to fill after David Leggio, but he is a younger and more promising young player in the Sabres eyes. He won all three Americans games he started last season.
This early on, its very unlikely that Darcy Regier is done building Rochester just yet. With Leggio, Mancari, and Nick Tarnasky all leaving the Americans have room for a few more veteran players on the roster, as there's a limit for how many you can have in the AHL. So, the roster may look even stronger by opening night.
There's a great deal of promise down on the farm, as should be expected with the Sabres just recently being declared as the team with the third best prospect pool. There are some interesting story lines to follow come next year. The real question as of now is who will be coaching all these young players, as all that's been announced is that Chadd Cassidy is returning to the team in some shape or form. The head coaching position should be filled at some point in the coming weeks.