Sabres’ Prospect Lucas Rousek Shines In Early Preseason

The Buffalo Sabres have had a successful start to their preseason by going 2-0 with their recent win Tuesday evening versus the Philadelphia Flyers. Both games have featured some of the presumed NHL roster along with some hopeful prospects on the cusp of making the big club, and it has been the kids that have been shining through early on. During their game against the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon, the Sabres completed a comeback win in overtime, featuring goals from Dylan Cozens, Tyson Kozak, Jack Quinn, and Vinnie Hinostroza, so it was primarily the “kids” getting things done for that game.

Throughout both games against the Flyers and Capitals, many young players put on great performances, but one stood out above the rest. Lucas Rousek has been put in every situation so far by coach Don Granato, and he has excelled. He has shown promise in his offensive and defensive game and is making a real case to be put on the Sabres’ full-time roster sooner than later.

Rousek’s Playmaking Ability

Rousek stands at a modest 5-foot-11, so he does not tower over anyone physically, but he plays bigger than he is. He has the ability to dig around along the boards and fish out pucks better than most and then still make a pass with perfect precision. Offensively, his numbers have not always been anything spectacular, but they have been consistently good.

He has had the opportunity to play with every type of player in the first two preseason contests and has shown he is best served as a setup man. He is the one who can start the play and get the puck to where it needs to be, but he does seem to need a finisher. During the game against the Flyers, he put every bit of this playmaking ability on display when he set up Brandon Biro for the first goal of the game.

The pass behind his back and through the defender’s legs was fantastic and took some incredible vision to pull off. It was just a flawless veteran play from a very promising young player.

Rousek’s Versatility is Invaluable

The Sabres have a couple of “utility” players like Vinnie Hinostroza and Zemgus Girgensons already, so adding another one to the mix right away is not needed. Where Rousek’s value comes in is the versatility of his game. Should any player on the Sabres roster go down with a major or minor injury, he has a better chance than most to be the first call-up, as he can be put in any situation.

He can contribute offensively and is responsible in his own end, so Don Granato has put him on both special team’s units during the preseason. While the power play has looked dismal overall, Rousek still has created some good chances when given the puck. When killing a penalty, he is relentless on the puck carrier and still is willing to put his body in front of pucks and block shots. Besides the preseason, he was one of the Sabres’ best overall players during their Prospects Challenge tournament in early September. They went 3-0 during that tournament, and Rousek was instrumental in creating most of the scoring chances in each game. He has been everything the Sabres could ask for and more.

Rousek’s Weaknesses are Few but Present

There is not much to dislike about his game based on his preseason performance, but there is still room for improvement overall. He has good speed to him but considering his size, there could be more of a jump to his step. He plays a very smart game but sometimes can overthink something when making a simpler play would be more beneficial. Getting out of his own head for a brief second and relying more on his vision would increase his scoring numbers dramatically.

Zemgus Girgensons Buffalo Sabres
Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He is yet to be tested against premier-level opponents, so it remains to be seen how well his talents truly translate to the NHL. He is definitely ready to best many other American Hockey League (AHL) players and prospects, but his creativity and playmaking may be stifled a bit against top-tier opponents. He is not known as much of a goal scorer either, so he needs to work on incorporating that into his game, or he will become predictable, and his passing ability won’t be worth much. NHL opponents are faster and smarter, so being one-dimensional offensively is not great for scoring points. He still would have his defensive ability, but without the offensive side of the puck, he would be losing half of what makes him a great prospect for the Sabres.

Rousek’s Future on the Sabres

He will definitely see time in the NHL this season, but the majority of this year will be spent in the AHL. He had a short stint in Rochester last year, playing just 19 games, so he will look to build on his four points scored during that time. His playoffs in Rochester were much better when he put up six points in 10 games, and he is clearly carrying over that momentum into this year so far.

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He will not grow into a full-time role right away with Buffalo due to the depth they have, but when he does, he will have a similar role to someone like Zemgus Girgensons. He will be moved up and down the lineup as needed to fill any holes that are left or to complement a specific player that needs a boost in their game. He has the ability to elevate those around him and stabilize a line very well, so he will not be held out of the NHL for very long. As a former sixth-round pick in the 2019 Draft, he has developed quite well. His vision and effort are to be commended as he continues making strides to being an NHL regular.

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