Buffalo Sabres Top 25 Under 25: #23 Lukas Rousek

The winger from Czechia overcame ACL reconstruction last season to impress in AHL playoffs

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of staff writers and over 600 readers that ranked Buffalo Sabres players under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2022. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.

The road to the NHL for most drafted players is a tough one. Some first-round picks can have a fight on their hands to reach the highest level, but for guys taken later in the draft, particularly older players, it can turn into a journey that leads other places than the NHL. In the case of Lukas Rousek, No. 23 on Die By The Blade’s Top 25 players under 25, his path to the show started with an extra roadblock that he’s cleared and looks ready to race forward.

At 23 years old, Rousek is three years past when he was taken sixth in the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver. As an over-age player, it caused some quizzical looks shot Buffalo’s way for taking him, but Eastern European scout Frank Musil watched Rousek play in Czechia for HC Sparta Praha and came away impressed enough to advocate for taking him. As a junior player, Rousek posted outstanding numbers but moving on to the men’s pro league caused him to slip out of focus, but his skill and ability to drive the net and handle the puck well stood out.

Last season was his first in North America, but it was nearly over before it began when he sustained a knee injury that required a full reconstruction of his ACL ahead of training camp in September. An injury like that would usually mean missing the entire season, but Rousek worked extremely hard with Rochester coach Seth Appert and assistant coach Michael Peca to get in position to play. He impressed immediately with his ability to rush the puck and make outstanding passes. In 19 regular season games he had one goal and three assists, but in the Americans’ playoff run, he was outstanding.

Rousek joined Brian Duff and Martin Biron on Sabres Live during the recent development camp—hear from him about recovering from his knee injury:

In Rochester’s 10 postseason games, Rousek had two goals and four assists and looked impressive in how he was able to find open areas of the ice to receive passes as well as distributing the puck to his teammates. He dazzled even more during Sabres development camp in July showing off his creativity and finishing ability and providing hope that he’ll be able to be a big contributor to the Amerks and get his name into the mix for a Sabres call-up during the season.

Being an older prospect getting a later start on the North American pro game just means he’s got more seasoning to make an impact right away. The Amerks and Sabres brass will be hoping to see another evolution to Rousek’s game this season.