Buffalo hired Jason Botterill and Phil Housley to lead the Sabres this offseason. However, Botterill made it a point to improve the Amerks just as much. Change was prevalent in Rochester after the team missed the playoffs once again.
Botterill hired former amateur scouting director, Randy Sexton as the new general manager of the Americans. Sexton then hired former Amerks captain Chris Taylor to be the new Head Coach in Rochester. As a new season draws closer, Taylor will look for leadership from veteran players such as Kevin Porter, who played in Buffalo from 2012-14, as well as Nathan Paetsch, drafted in the seventh round by Buffalo in 2003 and played for both the Sabres and Amerks from 2003-10. Already familiar with the organization, they will be called to lead a young team with a rookie head coach that aspires for a positive season.
Along with veteran presence in Rochester, young prospects like Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste and Alex Nylander will be key to their team’s on-ice performance.
Bailey, coming off a 25-goal season, along with Baptiste, who earned a second consecutive 20-goal year for Rochester, will look to be the building blocks this year. Perhaps the most significant member of the roster will be last year’s first round pick, Alex Nylander. Coming off a disappointing rookie year in which he only scored 10 goals for a total of 28 points with a -24 in 65 games last season, Nylander will need to have a bounce-back year in order to still be viewed within the organization as a top talent for the future.
Linus Ullmark will also be looked to for improvement off a productive year in which he played 55 games for the Amerks, finished with a 26-27-2 record with a .909 save percentage and 2.87 goals against average. Heading into his third year as a starter in Rochester, Ullmark will look to use this season as a way to showcase his talent to the new regime, along with the hope of leading Rochester to a successful campaign.
There are also new names on their roster to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
C.J. Smith, signed as an undrafted free agent last March, will begin his first pro season in Rochester. Brendan Guhle, who finished his junior career last year, will start in Rochester this season. Another is Hudson Fasching, who will look for a fresh start after suffering through an injury-riddled first pro season. Last year, he played in 37 games, scoring eight goals for 12 points.
Along with intriguing prospects to watch for the Amerks, it will be interesting to see how Taylor performs as the Amerks’ head coach and if he can achieve more success than those who recently preceded him. Botterill pointed out in his first days as Sabres GM that success starts from the bottom up and that success in the minors will translate to the NHL. As important as it is for the Sabres to succeed this year, it’s also important for Rochester to do the same and show progress throughout the season.
The Amerks open their season tonight vs. the Syracuse Crunch.