The Buffalo Sabres might have missed the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but their American Hockey League (AHL) Affiliate Rochester Americans are headed to the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. For the first time since the 2018-19 AHL season, the Amerks will have a chance at the Calder Cup, and will face off against the Belleville Senators in this week’s play-in qualifying round. The Amerks roster, which spent much of the regular season seriously depleted for various reasons, will be getting a boost both at forward and on defense just in time for the playoffs, in the form of two Sabres regulars: Peyton Krebs and Mattias Samuelsson.
Sabres Re-Assign Krebs & Samuelsson to Amerks
The Sabres announced on Sunday that the team had re-assigned Krebs and Samuelsson to the Amerks, shortly after the conclusion of the NHL regular season. Samuelsson, who is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury, will continue his recovery in Rochester and is expected to suit up at some point. Krebs should be ready to go right away.
Krebs, acquired by the Sabres in last November’s package deal that sent former captain Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights, is just 21-years-old, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a legitimate point-scorer. He actually started the 2021-22 season with the Amerks at the AHL level, and tallied four goals, 11 assists, and 15 points in 18 games with them before being called up by the Sabres. He played the final 48 games of the season with the Sabres, tallying seven goals, 15 assists, and 22 points.
Samuelsson also started this season with the Amerks, and scored two goals, 13 assists, and 15 points in 22 AHL games. The 22-year-old then played the final 42 games of the season with the Sabres after being sent up, scoring 10 assists and establishing himself as a defensive powerhouse, even earning the chance to play alongside Rasmus Dahlin on the top defense pair.
“We just can’t put too much of that pressure on ourselves that as soon as we get down, all of a sudden things are going to be amazing,” Krebs said after Sunday’s roster moves were announced and he and Samuelsson were on their way to Rochester. “It’s a really good league, there’s a lot of good players. Obviously, we want to make the most of this opportunity to be the best we can.” (From ‘Sabres assign Krebs, Samuelsson to Amerks’ NHL.com, 5/1/2022)
Amerks Season Came Down to the Wire
The Amerks made the playoffs, but it was no cake walk to get there. They had to battle injuries, COVID protocol, recalls to the Sabres, and even the implementation of the NHL’s taxi squad system, effectively leaving some players in limbo between two teams for a period of time. With so many challenges, it was no guarantee this season was going to be successful, and it came down to the very last day and fortunate outcomes from other team’s games to punch the Amerks’ ticket to the playoffs.
“When you look three months ago at where our roster was, we had about half of our current roster,” said Amerks head coach Seth Appert after the team clinched its playoff spot last week. “Even in mid-March, I was looking at a lineup card and there’s like seven guys on that roster that aren’t even here right now. Our lineup was so beat up three months ago that we were in playoff survival mode, trying to scrap and claw for wins to stay in the mix.” (From ‘AFTER STRESSFUL FEW DAYS OF WAITING AND WATCHING, AMERKS READY FOR POSTSEASON RUN’ amerks.com, 5/2/2022)
Team captain Sean Malone said he’s happy that the Amerks have a full, healthy roster that’s ready to go full throttle. “We’re just happy to have a second life. We’re going to try and make the most of it.”
The Amerks’ playoff berth came on the final day of the AHL regular season, thanks to the Senators beating the Toronto Marlies in regulation – exactly what needed to happen for the Amerks to get in. Defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, who was sent down from the Sabres and arrived in Rochester the previous morning, notched three assists in the Amerks’ win the day before the final day, helping them keep their hopes alive. All in all, it came down to the wire, and made for an exciting and satisfying outcome in the end.
Sabres Will Be Watching Key Players During Playoffs
Aside from Krebs and Samuelsson, who are sure to make an impact in the playoffs for the Amerks, there are a number of players and prospects that Sabres general manager (GM) Kevyn Adams and company will be keeping an eye on, and Sabres fans should, too.
The Sabres’ eighth-overall pick in the 2020 entry draft, Jack Quinn, was second on the Amerks in points this season, scoring well over point-per-game (PPG) with 26 goals, 35 assists, and 61 points in 45 games played. Not to be outdone, 2021 Sabres draft choice J-J Peterka, taken in the second round of last summer’s draft, was first on the team in points: he scored 28 goals, 40 assists, and 68 points in 70 games played. Both of these young, budding stars are early candidates to crack the Sabres roster as NHL rookies next season, so this will be a big test for them.
Also to keep an eye on is Arttu Ruotsaleinen, who had 18 goals, 33 assists, and 51 points with the Amerks this season, and has been tried in the Sabres lineup before himself. Oskari Laaksonen, the big defenseman, put up 34 regular season points and has been flirting with a spot in the Sabres lineup, as well. And of course, I’d be remiss to leave out Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen, the young Finnish goaltender and potential future Sabres franchise goalie, who has perhaps the biggest of opportunities in front of him out of any of the players mentioned, as it relates to his future next season and beyond.
All of these players will have a chance to prove themselves and make a run at the Calder Cup, and it’s sure to make for some good hockey. The Amerks host the Senators in Game 1 of the best-of-three play-in round on Wednesday, May 4 at The Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester to kick off the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams in the postseason.
Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. He is an avid hockey writer and podcaster with prior work experience in the OJHL, NWHL, and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15