Road to the Show - First Edition

As the ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and the AHL's Rochester Americans, the Jackals are tasked with developing prospects throughout the organization. The Road to the Show provides details on how those prospects are progressing.

Buffalo Sabres (NHL) – The Sabres played back to back games for the first time this season on Friday and Saturday, and were saddled with a pair of defeats against Montreal and New Jersey. Buffalo put forth a valiant effort against the Devils on Saturday in a 4-3 loss. Ryan O’ Reilly tallied three points in the contest, his second multi-point game of the season. O’Reilly was acquired from Colorado in the offseason to bring scoring and leadership to Buffalo’s offensive core. Despite being only 24-years-old, O’Reilly has already appeared in 435 NHL games, with 93 goals, 160 assists, and a Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship and gentlemanly play to his credit. He currently leads the Sabres with seven points and four assists, and is tied for the team lead with three goals. Despite taking the loss, there was reason for optimism in net with the NHL debut of goaltender Linus Ullmark. The Sabres sixth round draft pick in 2012 has spent the past two seasons playing for MODO in his native Sweden with a combined record of 29-36-0, a 2.59 goals against average, .918 save percentage, and four shutouts. He recorded his first victory in North America with Rochester before earning the call up to Buffalo.

The contest with New Jersey also saw the unfortunate injury of Evander Kane. Kane, who was acquired from Winnipeg at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, will be out four to six weeks. This comes after he had been the linchpin in the Sabres come from behind 2-1 victory in a shootout against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Kane’s first goal as a Sabre tied the game late in the third period before veteran alternate captain Matt Moulson netted the shootout winner. The 24-year-old Kane was the 4th overall selection of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He has played 369 NHL games with 110 goals and 115 assists, with a career high 30 goals for Winnipeg in the 2011-12 season.

The Sabres first road trip of the season saw the team suffer consecutive one goal losses in Tampa Bay and Florida. Despite the losses, there was a reason for optimism as 19-year-old Sam Reinhart, the 2nd overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, scored his first NHL goal on Saturday Oct. 17, in Tampa. The North Vancouver, BC native also has three assists in the first eight games of the season, is tied for second on the team with four points, and leads the Sabres with a plus one rating. On Thursday night, October 15, against the Panthers, another Sabre scored his first NHL goal. 22-year-old defenseman Jake McCabe scored his first NHL goal in his second game of the season after starting the season with Rochester. The Wisconsin born McCabe scored five goals and 24 assists in his first full pro season for the Americans last season, finishing second on the Amerks among defensemen in assists and points.

On Monday, October 12, the Sabres celebrated Columbus Day with their first win of the season, ironically against Columbus. The 4-2 victory featured multi-point efforts from O’ Reilly, Jamie McGinn, and 20-year-old defenseman, Rasmus Ristolainen, and the second career goal of 18-year-old Jack Eichel, which proved to be the game winner. McGinn, who was acquired from the Avalanche in the offseason, brings grit and leadership to the young Sabres. He has appeared in 403 total NHL games, including 29 playoff games for the Avs and Sharks. He looks to bounce back from an injury shortened 2014-15 season with Colorado. Ristolainen was the 8th overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft for the Sabres. He is entering his third pro season with Buffalo, and is currently tied for the lead among Sabre defensemen with three points. Jack Eichel, the 2nd overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, recorded his first career GWG against Columbus. Through eight games, Eichel is tied for the team lead with three goals.

The bright spot in a 4-1 loss against Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon, October 10, was the first goal of the season for 24-year-old Nicholas Deslauriers. Deslauriers is entering his third year with Buffalo and will be looking to build upon last season, where he played in every game for the Sabres with five goals and 10 assists. Buffalo opened their season with a 3-1 loss against Ottawa on Thursday, October 8. 2nd overall pick, Jack Eichel scored his first NHL goal in his first career game. Unfortunately, new starting goalie, and former Senator, Robin Lehner was injured in the second period of the game. The Sabres will now turn to Chad Johnson to man the crease. Johnson, who is on his fourth NHL team in as many seasons, will look to recapture his 2013-14 form when he posted a 17-4-3 record with Boston with a 2.10 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage in 27 games. Buffalo is currently in eighth place in the Atlantic Division with four points, and a 2-6-0 record.

Rochester Americans (AHL) – On Sunday night, Rochester ended a four game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout victory over Syracuse. Alternate captain, Phil Varone scored a goal and an assist, as well as a shootout marker to lead the Amerks to the much needed win. The 24-year-old Varone is tied for second on the team with five points so far this season. He is looking to build on last season, where he played a career high 28 games for Buffalo and tallied 44 points in only 55 games for the Amerks. The game was also the first win of the season in goal for 22-year-old Andrey Makarov. Makarov is in his third season with the Americans, where he has registered a record of 24-22-3, with a 2.83 GAA, and a 0.907 save percentage.

The previous four games had been a series of defeats where Rochester had given up an average of 5.75 goals per game, so Makarov’s performance against the Crunch was a welcome change. Quietly, Jason Akeson has been the most consistent performer for the Amerks through the early part of the season. The 25-year-old Akeson leads Rochester with six points (three goals, three assists) and has scored at least one point in five of the seven games played so far. Akeson scored 53 points in 57 games for Lehigh Valley last season, while also appearing in a career high 13 games for Philadelphia, in the NHL.

The first weekend of the season went swimmingly for the Amerks as they posted a 6-3 win over Lake Erie on Friday, October 9, and a 2-1 win over Utica on Saturday, October 10. Alternate captain Matt Ellis recorded his first AHL hat trick since the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs when he was playing for Grand Rapids, in the season opening victory over the Monsters. Ellis is now in his eighth season in the Sabres organization, appearing in 286 games for Buffalo, and 163 AHL games within the organization over that time period. 21-year-old Jean Dupuy registered three assists in his professional debut on Friday. The undrafted rookie scored 46 points in 54 games in his final season of junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last year. He is tied for the team lead with four assists through seven games. On Saturday, 22-year-old Swede, Linus Ullmark made his North American professional debut, stopping 38 of 39 shots and earning his first career victory for the Amerks. He subsequently earned a promotion to Buffalo.

Two players who began the season with the Jackals, Allan McPherson and Matt Garbowsky have earned call ups to Rochester following stellar play in Elmira. McPherson has played three games for the Amerks, while Garbowsky made his season debut with Rochester in their shootout win over the Crunch, on Sunday. Rochester is currently in fifth place in the North Division of the Eastern Conference with a points percentage of 0.429, six points, and a 3-4-0 record.