After Sabres forward Drew Stafford left Friday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Buffalo Sabres made a call up for Rochester Americans’ forward Tim Schaller. While he was a -1 in the game, Schaller made several contributions during his first game with the Sabres. Schaller won 31% of his faceoffs and he was on the ice for more than eleven minutes in Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
Schaller isn’t the first player Buffalo has called up this season. Johan Larsson is another Amerk who has spent time in Buffalo this season. Larsson made an impact in Rochester by maintaining a spot at the top of the Amerks’ scoring lead this season. However, he wasn’t able to generate much offense for the Sabres at the NHL level during his call up. In four games with Buffalo this season, Larsson managed just one shot and he was a -1 over this stretch.
Buffalo Sabres management has done it’s due diligence to ensure a decent stock of prospects in Rochester and elsewhere within Buffalo’s prospect system. Recent acquisitions such as William Carrier, Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Zac Dalpe as well as draft picks Jake McCabe, Mark Pysyk, and Andrey Makarov have become regular contributors in Rochester. With many other notable prospects in tow, the future not only looks bright for the Buffalo Sabres but it also does for the Rochester Americans.
As injuries continue to surface in Buffalo throughout the 2014-2015 NHL season, opportunities will present themselves for members of the Rochester Americans to be called up to the Sabres. Here is a look at four players who haven’t yet appeared in any games for the Sabres during the 2014-2015 season but their game in Rochester warrants consideration for a call up if an opportunity presents itself.
Phil Varone, C, Rochester Americans
A native of Vaughan, Ontario, Phil Varone has spent the majority of the past four seasons playing with the Rochester Americans. He made his Sabres debut last season against the Carolina Hurricanes. Varone got an assist in this game and would register his first NHL goal against the Washington Capitals.
— Kevin Oklobzija (@kevinoROC1) November 24, 2014
Varone has continued to develop as a member of the Rochester Americans this season. Through twenty-two games, Varone has managed to generate more than a point per game on offense. The AHL veteran has scored six goals and sixteen assists and is currently tied for second place in the AHL in scoring.
Despite Buffalo’s 5-1-0 record over the last six games, the Sabres have struggled on offense this season. Varone has a history of excelling on offense at the AHL level and this trend has continued so far this season. While he has a smaller build that might limit what he can do at the NHL level, Varone certainly deserves a shot when an opportunity presents itself with the big club. Look for Varone’s game-clinching breakaway goal towards the end of the highlight reel below from Rochester’s recent game against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Chad Ruhwedel, D, Rochester Americans
Sabres fans are familiar with Chad Ruhwedel who spent time in Buffalo during the last two seasons. Through that span, Ruhwedel played in twenty-eight games for the Sabres and had just one assist that he recorded on the power play. He finished last season as a -3 in twenty-one games which isn’t too shabby considering Buffalo’s historically bad season.
In addition to the games he played in Buffalo last season, Ruhwedel played forty-seven games for the Rochester Americans. He found more success in the AHL where he notched four goals and twenty-eight points last season. Of his twenty-eight points, fifteen of them came on the power play including three goals.
If I was the Detroit Red Wings, I'd trade for Chad Ruhwedel, not Tyler Myers.
— Matthew Coller (@MatthewColler) October 10, 2014
Ruhwedel has picked up where he left off in Rochester so far this season. The defenseman has tallied thirteen points in twenty-0ne games played. He has four goals on the year and all of these were scored on the power play. Ruhwedel has spent just six minutes in the penalty box on the season and he is currently a +5. While Ruhwedel struggled to get on the score sheet in his prior stints in Buffalo, he deserves a chance if an opportunity presents itself especially given the Sabres’ struggles on the power play this season.
Joel Armia, RW, Rochester Americans
Armia was drafted by the Sabres in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The forward has spent time playing for Assat in Finland. While playing for Assat, Armia appeared in one hundred and forty-nine games in which he scored fifty-five goals and one hundred points.
Joel Armia has 1+1 as Rochester leads UTI 3-0 end 1st. His next-level development is the biggest prospect story thus far this season.
— Kris Baker (@SabresProspects) November 22, 2014
Last season, Armia appeared in fifty-four games for the Rochester Americans. While he finished the year with a -6, Armia scored seven goals and twenty-seven points. Eight of his twenty-seven points last year were scored on the power play. More impressive were Armia’s statistics in the playoffs. He appeared in five playoff games for the Amerks last year scoring three goals and six points.
The forward suffered a recent injury otherwise he may have already found his way to Buffalo through a call up. In nineteen games with Rochester this year, Armia has six goals and fifteen points. Armia is a +5 and has contributed a power play goal as well as two short-handed goals. His 6-3, 187 lbs. frame may help him translate his game more readily to the NHL level and he has definitely earned a chance should an opportunity present itself.
Mikhail Grigorenko, C/LW, Rochester Americans
After a few tough years and some off-ice drama, Grigorenko seems to have turned a corner so far this season. In his forty-three games in Buffalo during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons, Grigorenko scored just three goals and eight points.
Grigorenko was reassigned to Quebec of the QMJHL last season and didn’t immediately report. He ultimately returned to his junior club and then spent some time in Rochester at the end of last season. In nine regular season games in Rochester, Grigorenko registered four assists and finished the year with a +1 rating.
Nolan on Grigorenko: "The No. 1 thing is how is his attitude? How does he take criticism? The things that aren't in scouting reports"
— WGR 550 (@WGR550) April 1, 2014
Since then, Grigorenko has refocused and seems to be embracing his assignment in Rochester. His attitude appears to be better than it was in the past and so far this has translated into a better on-ice product for the youngster. Fans in Buffalo got to see Grigorenko first-hand in the Queen City when the Amerks played at the First Niagara Center earlier this season.
In twenty-one games, the forward has scored seven goals and fifteen points for the Americans. More time in Rochester might be the best thing for the young forward since it seems to be helping him refocus. However, if an opportunity comes along in Buffalo, giving Grigorenko a few games with the Sabres might make him even hungrier to earn a role with the Sabres.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW