ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester Americans will have a different look when they take the ice for their season opener against the Utica Comets on October 17. Buffalo Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams and Rochester Americans General Manager Jason Karmanos have been busy this offseason, both inking players to contracts that could see ice-time in the Roc this season. Although some players may see more time in Buffalo or with ECHL-affiliate Cincinnati, some of these signings could impact the Amerks this season. As training camp nears, let’s take a look at the offseason signings and re-signings made by the Amerks this summer.
Goaltender Aaron Dell signed a one-year, two-way NHL/AHL deal with an AAV of $750,000 when free agency opened on July 28. Most look for Dell to be the backup for G Craig Anderson, who also signed with the Sabres at the start of free agency. Dell appeared in one game with the Binghamton Devils last season and has not played meaningful minutes in the AHL since the 2015-2016 season, where he posted a .922 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average in 40 games played. It will be interesting to see if G Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has anything to say about Dell being Anderson’s backup, but only time will tell if the Finnish goaltender is ready to make the leap to the NHL.
D Jimmy Schuldt signed a one-year, two-way NHL/AHL deal with an AAV $750,000 this offseason, and appears to be set to play a pivotal role on the Amerks blueline this season. It’s possible that Schuldt claw his way into a few starts with Buffalo, however, Schuldt has only one career game played in the NHL, where he registered an assist with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019. Schuldt has spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Wolves and the Henderson Silver Knights, playing in 90 AHL contests and registering 35 points (12G, 35A) and a plus-minus rating of 3.
Jimmy Schuldt goal.
— Vegas Knightly (@VegasKnightly) April 4, 2021
Center Sean Malone will return to Rochester on a one-year, two-way NHL/AHL deal after spending last season in the Nashville Predators’ organization, where he appeared in one game for the Predators and appeared in 23 games for the Chicago Wolves. Malone was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Sabres and appeared in 169 games for the Amerks from 2017-2020. Malone will be a useful addition to the Amerks center depth this season. Expect for him to have a meaningful role.
Defenseman Brandon Davidson re-signed with the Sabres on a one-year, two-way NHL/AHL deal when free agency opened. Although Davidson only appeared in two games with the Amerks last season, it appears that he may spend more time in Rochester than in Buffalo. Davidson has the most NHL experience out of the skaters that could play meaningful minutes in Rochester who signed this offseason, having appeared in 180 games at the NHL level. The Amerks blue line was exceptionally young last season, so Davidson would be a welcomed addition.
Defenseman Mark Pysyk signed a one-year, two-way NHL/AHL deal with the Sabres with an AAV of $900,000. Amerks fans will recognize Pysyk, the first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2010. Pysyk last played for the organization during the 2015-2016 season and has since spent time with the Florida Panthers and the Dallas Stars. With the movement on the Sabres blue line, I expect that he’ll spend most of his time in the NHL this season.
Defenseman Ethan Prow signed a one-year, two-way NHL/AHL deal and has the potential to be a bit of a wild card. Last season, Prow played for Munich EHC in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). His time on North American ice has primarily been spent in the AHL, playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Springfield Thunderbirds. He has found some success at the AHL level, recording 116 points (32G, 84A) in 220 games played. If Prow can find that level of productivity this season, he may make a case for himself to earn his first NHL appearance. Expect Prow to be a big contributor to the redesigned blue line in Rochester.
Center John Hayden signed to a one-year, two-way NHL/AHL deal the day after the free agency period opened. Hayden has played in 185 NHL games since entering the league in 2016-2017 and has only played 24 games in the AHL. Signing Hayden was a depth move for the Sabres at center, and I project that he will see some time in Buffalo and Rochester this season as a fringe NHLer on a weak Sabres roster. I could see him starting the season in Rochester and then spending a fair amount of time in Buffalo should injuries become an issue for the Sabres.
Center Ryan MacInnis signed a one-year, two-way NHL/AHL deal with the Buffalo Sabres following a stint in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization where he played in 26 NHL games with the Blue Jackets. Another depth signing for the Sabres, MacInnis could see some time in the NHL if the Sabres become riddled with injury. MacInnis plays a defensively sound game and will be a solid addition to an Amerks team that gave up 4.00 goals per game last season. I project that MacInnis will start the season with Rochester but having a taste of the NHL in recent seasons, he may get called up before some of the younger guys on the roster. Also, who could forget this glorious secondary assist? Potentially his shining moment in the NHL.
Me before this game: Who the heck is Ryan MacInnis? Apparently I've tracked three games from him & I have no idea who he is.
Me now: Oh. pic.twitter.com/fMdIsV1zYC
— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) April 11, 2020
Forward Michael Mersch returns to the Roc on a two-year AHL deal after a productive 2020-21 campaign. Mersch has experienced no shortage of success in the AHL, registering 264 points (130G, 134A) in 405 games played. During the shortened season, he was the second-highest scoring Amerk with 19 points, tied with F Remi Elie, one point behind the Amerks’ leading scorer, F Brett Murray. Mersch will continue to be a leader in the room, as he leans on eight years’ worth of professional experience and Calder Cup Playoff success.
Goaltender Michael Houser signed a one-year, two-way AHL/ECHL deal this offseason with the Amerks. Houser, a former ECHL goaltender of the year, returns to the team only a few short months after becoming the seventh goaltender in Buffalo Sabres history to record a win in his NHL debut. Sabres’ Head Coach Don Granato called Houser’s debut “a very special night” and described Houser as a “special person.” While this deal may not be with the big-league squad, Houser certainly looks to make an impact when the Amerks take the ice this October, as he started the last four games of the Amerks’ season, posting a 2.33 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. The Youngstown, Ohio native has experienced success in both the AHL and the ECHL – his most successful season came in 2018-19 when he went 29-7-5 in 41 games, leading the Cincinnati Cyclones to an ECHL-leading 51-13-5-3 record. He’ll have to compete with the likes of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for starts in Rochester but look for him to take the ice a bit for the Amerks. If that’s not enough to get you on the Michael Houser bandwagon, perhaps this clip from NHL Tonight will.
"This is about human perseverance." @KevinWeekes on the @BuffaloSabres' Michael Houser. #NHLTonight pic.twitter.com/2lQ6aRH9lx
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) May 5, 2021
Defenseman Josh Teves signed to a one-year, two-way AHL/ECHL deal. After spending the last two seasons with the Utica Comets, Teves will take a trip west on I-90 to add some depth to the Amerks’ blue line. In his last two seasons with the Comets, Teves has registered six points (1G, 5A) in 52 games played. While he spent last season in the AHL, Teves may spend some time in the ECHL this season with the Cyclones.
Forward Mason Jobst signed a one-year, two-way contract. Jobst experienced success in the New Jersey Devils’ system, posting a 5-3-8 stat line in 12 games played after being acquired as part of the trade that sent forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the New York Islanders. The former Ohio State captain registered 164 points (69G, 95A) in his 150 games played for the Buckeyes and will look to be a factor in the Amerks’ offense this season. Ultimately, he could end up splitting time between Rochester and Cincinnati.
Forward Ryan Scarfo is a familiar name for Amerks fans, as he is coming off of a professional tryout with the Amerks, where he registered two goals in nine games played. Scarfo has navigated movement between the AHL and ECHL fairly seamlessly, being productive in both leagues. Before COVID-19 shortened the 2019-20 season, Scarfo registered 29 points (13G, 16A) in 55 games played for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) and the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL).
F Lukas Craggs joins the Amerks on a one-year AHL deal after spending last season with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) and the Florida Everblades (ECHL) where he placed his name on the scoresheet frequently, registering 3-8-11 in 15 games played between the two clubs. Craggs will look to display his offensive capabilities in what could be his first full-length season since turning pro in 2019-2020.
Like Scarfo, F Brendan Warren returns to the Roc on a one-year AHL deal after scoring four goals and registering two assists in ten games played with the team during the 2020-2021 season. The 81st overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft also spent time with the Jacksonville Icemen (ECHL) last season, where he put up 22 points (9G, 13A) in 44 ECHL games played.
Forward Dominic Franco will return to Rochester on a one-year AHL deal, where he looks to increase the offensive production he found in his rookie season with the Amerks. Franco posted a 4-5-9 statline in 23 games played during his rookie campaign and will be an important piece of the Amerks offense in his second season. If Franco returns to his college productivity, where he registered 97 points (45G, 52A) in 141 games played, he has the potential to be a meaningful member of the Amerks offensive core.
Defenseman Peter Tischke will join the organization on a one-year AHL deal. In his first full-time AHL season, Tischke registered just two points (1G, 1A) in 16 games played with the Colorado Eagles. Although Tischke will not necessarily provide offensive firepower, he adds meaningful depth to the Amerks’ blue line.
Goaltender Mat Robson will make his return to the AHL with the Amerks this season after signing a one-year AHL deal with the organization. 2020-2021 was a rough season for Robson as he went 1-8-0 with the Straubing Tigers (DEL), where he posted a 3.61 goals-against average and .861 save percentage. Robson has fared better in the AHL, however, as he went 11-10-5 in 26 games with the Iowa Wild (AHL) where he posted a 2.97 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage, ninth-best among AHL rookie goaltenders.
Defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, one of the Amerks’ mainstays on the blue line last season, signed a two-way, two-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres, where he will look to make the leap to the NHL. He posted an impressive 11 points with the Amerks in 22 games played last season and is capable of being an offensive threat on the blue line. While Fitzgerald may not make the Sabres’ opening night roster, one can expect for him to get called up quite early in the season depending on how healthy the Sabres blue line remains.
We have signed defenseman Casey Fitzgerald to a two-year contract with an AAV of $750,000.
Details: https://t.co/yGDDe35Z6c pic.twitter.com/h5daMhHOu6
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) August 13, 2021
Defenseman Mitch Eliot signed a one-year AHL deal after spending last season with the Utica Comets, where he recorded four assists in 26 games. Eliot has spent some time in the ECHL as well and will look to solidify a spot on the Amerks blueline this season.
Defenseman Nick Boka signed a one-year AHL deal after playing his first AHL game by appearing in an AHL playoff game with the Ontario Reign last season. Boka is a Kelly Cup champion with the Fort Wayne Komets and has been a perennial ECHL player since being drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Boka has played in 77 ECHL games and has registered 30 points (5G, 25A). No matter where he plays, he will be a force to be reckoned with after posting 122 penalty minutes in 44 games last season.
Defenseman Matthew Cairns signed his first professional contract this offseason by signing a one-year AHL deal with the Rochester Americans after his senior season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. A strong defensive defenseman, Cairns looks to start his professional career.
It’s going to take some time to memorize the new faces in town, but as training camp begins and the NHL and AHL rosters begin taking place, look for some of these names to show up on the opening night lineup for the Rochester Americans.
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