ROCHESTER – Earlier than winger Victor Olofsson emerged as one of many Buffalo Sabres’ high prospects, their 2014 draft ranked among the many worst in franchise historical past.
Aside from Olofsson, a uncommon seventh-round gem, solely winger Sam Reinhart, the second general decide, has paid dividends.
Within the final 5 years, the Sabres have traded or let go of six different alternatives. None of them ever performed in Buffalo.
Nonetheless, that weak 2014 class may produce yet another NHL participant.
Goalie Jonas Johansson, 24, has quietly developed into a robust prospect, beginning eight of the Rochester People’ first 18 video games this season.
The affable Johansson has carried out so effectively, he has stolen a little bit enjoying time from veteran Andrew Hammond.
Proper now, the Amerks don’t have a chosen No. 1 goalie.
“It’s laborious to say a No. 1 or 2 or 1A, 1B,” stated assistant coach Gord Dineen, who served as interim coach for seven weeks. “The nice factor I like to see is that Jonas is absolutely getting a chance on the American League stage, and he’s made probably the most of it.”
Johansson’s alternative materialized, partially, as a result of high goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 20, wasn’t able to play till earlier this month after present process hip surgical procedure in April. Luukkonen has been with the Cincinnati Cyclones, their ECHL affiliate, to proceed his restoration.
In the meantime, the 6-foot-5, 219-pound Johansson has seized his probabilities in Rochester, profitable his final three begins.
In 10 complete appearances, he has compiled a 5-2-2 document with a 2.35 goals-against common and a .916 save share.
“He’s regular,” winger Andrew Oglevie stated. “He’s by no means too excessive, he’s by no means too low. He’s been making some fabulous saves. For probably the most half, I feel he’s doing job of simply staying targeted.”
Consolation and familiarity within the AHL have helped buoy Johansson’s success.
“You understand what to anticipate,” stated Johansson, who performed 19 AHL video games over the earlier three seasons. “I simply know the way it works, I’d say. That’s an enormous deal.”
Johansson, who got here to North America late within the 2016-17 season, has spent the majority of his profession with the Cyclones, enjoying 54 video games. Whereas Luukkonen is considered the Sabres’ goalie of the long run, the group views Johansson as a prospect.
They awarded him a interval of NHL motion in every of the final two preseasons. Final 12 months, he was enjoying so effectively within the ECHL that he earned a recall to AHL when the Amerks had two wholesome goalies.
“I like to see his improvement,” Dineen stated. “The one factor about him is he’s actually motivated and he actually works his tail off. So I like to see him garner extra alternative due to that.”
Johansson may need performed extra AHL video games final season if he hadn’t undergone season-ending surgical procedure in February to restore a torn meniscus.
“It was not one particular state of affairs to the place it occurred,” Johansson stated. “It was extra nagging over time, and instantly it was torn.”
Johansson, who had absolutely recovered by coaching camp, stated he set a purpose of enjoying as many AHL video games as attainable this season.
“It made it actually easy to only slim it down and concentrate on myself,” he stated.
A few of Johansson’s success might be traced to his persona. He at all times appears to be smiling.
Hammond stated he has by no means seen him in a foul temper.
“That displays on the ice that he simply has the identical strategy each day,” he stated. “He’s been very constant from Day One.”
The connection Johansson and Hammond, 31, have shortly established has additionally helped.
“He’s precisely such as you need your goalie accomplice to be – supportive, aggressive and only a good man,” Johansson stated.
The duo usually spends time on the ice collectively earlier than observe.
“We each get pleasure from the additional stuff, the main points of getting out earlier than observe and dealing on our skating,” stated Hammond, who has compiled a 7-1-1 mark with a 2.63 goals-against common, a .902 save share and two shutouts in 9 video games. “It’s undoubtedly loads simpler. It’s virtually like within the health club having a exercise accomplice.”
However how for much longer will they be companions? The Sabres need to take their time with Luukkonen, so he may keep within the ECHL a little bit longer.
In some unspecified time in the future, the Amerks will summon Luukkonen. When that occurs, they may have downside.
“You take care of it when it comes,” Dineen stated of presumably having three goalies.
Nelson finds his groove
After Casey Nelson spent a season and a half in Buffalo, the Sabres waived the defenseman on the finish of camp and despatched him to the Amerks.
Straight away, Nelson, 27, tried to embrace the demotion.
“I’m simply glad and enjoying – enjoying the sport that we love,” he stated. “That’s all that issues.”
Nelson adjusted slowly – “He was feeling his method again into it,” Dineen stated – earlier than discovering a groove.
“Typically it’s tougher to play at this stage, particularly for a defenseman,” Dineen stated. “It’s possibly not as structured. (It’s) extra frenetic, (there’s) extra motion. The NHL is usually a little extra positional. …
“It took him a short while to get again to his sport.”
Nelson has developed a extra offensive fashion this season, frequently shifting the puck.
“I’m utilizing my toes increasingly and simply getting up main the frenzy,” he stated.
Nelson, who has a knack for getting pucks on web from the purpose, additionally stated he’s capturing extra usually.
“You simply get extra comfy with pretend pictures and shifting laterally,” he stated.
Nelson has scored three targets and 9 factors in 16 video games.
After spending almost two months within the NHL, the Sabres assigned John Gilmour to the Amerks on Saturday after he cleared waivers. Gilmour, who recorded an help in Saturday’s Four-2 street win over the Binghamton Devils, offers the Amerks 10 defensemen. … Accidents pressured the Amerks to make use of two defensemen – Brandon Hickey and Nathan Paetsch – as wingers of their Three-2 time beyond regulation win towards the Cleveland Monsters on Nov. 15. Whereas Paetsch has frequently performed ahead throughout his profession, Hickey stated he hadn’t performed up entrance since a short run when he was 15. “I simply sort of tried to not suppose and simply go on the market and play,” stated a smiling Hickey. … With 5 forwards injured, the Amerks signed Brady Vail, 25, to a professional tryout on Thursday. Vail performed 18 video games with Rochester in 2016-17. … The Amerks host Toronto at Blue Cross Area on Friday, their first have a look at the Marlies since coach Sheldon Keefe was promoted to the Maple Leafs. The Amerks then journey to Cleveland on Saturday.