When one door closes, another opens.
And so the professional hockey career for goaltender Jason Kasdorf begins.
When his collegiate season with Rensselaer came to end in the ECAC playoffs over the weekend, he promptly signed an entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres and joined the NHL club on Tuesday.
He wasn’t on the ice. Kasdorf has a few days of injury rehabilitation after tweaking his groin late in the college season. But he was on the bench for Sabres practice, talking to coaches, shaking hands with Chad Johnson, eagerly and excitedly taking in as much information as he could.
“I’m incredibly excited,” Kasdorf said as he met the Buffalo media. “I’m just thrilled about the opportunity I have to be here and be part of the organization. It’s a dream come true. It’s what I’ve worked for my whole life and to be here means a lot.”
Kasdorf finished his collegiate career with a minor groin injury that kept him out of the ECAC quarterfinal game, which the Engineers lost to Harvard, bouncing them from the conference tournament. With no NCAA bid on the horizon, Kasdorf took the opportunity to sign his pro deal and start learning the pro game.
He begins his pro career on injury rehab, but there’s so much the 23-year-old wants to learn, a few days off the ice will still be time well spent.
“Really I’m just trying to learn as much as I can,” Kasdorf said. “I’m just trying to develop and trying to take it all in, learn from the guys what it’s like to be a pro now. Just asking guys questions, guys who have been in this position. I think it’s a great learning opportunity for me. I want to make the most out of it.”
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said Kasdorf will spend the rest of the season in Buffalo first getting healthy then getting opportunities in practice. A game is not out of the question, but practice is an invaluable experience for a goalie making the transition from college to pros.
“The opportunity to get NHL shots, to get in practice, to see the speed of the game and the quality of the shooters is going to be an adjustment for him and a great opportunity,” Bylsma said. “For him to get into practice, feel the puck, see the puck, see the speed of the NHL game and the shooters, it’s going to be a big advantage for him.”
It’s not Kasdorf’s first time around Buffalo. He spent a week of the summer at Sabres development camp, playing with rookies and prospects and making an impression on Bylsma.
“His calmness, his maturity in the net was very clear when he got in the game and it showed in the opportunity he got here in the summertime,” Bylsma said. “That’s the kind of goalie he is: He’s a calm, confident, quiet goalie. Quiet goalie meaning he plays his position well and confidently. He’s not all over the map.”
Kasdorf made the most out of his week at Sabres development camp over the summer. While playing with rookies and prospects he had the chance to learn skills which carried over into his senior season at Rensselaer both on the ice (playing the puck) and off the ice (nutrition).
He finished with 2.30 goals against average this season and .931 save percentage. He had five games of 40-plus saves including a 49-save performance in a 2-1 win at Harvard on Feb. 12.
But Kasdorf didn’t set any goals based on numbers.
“I didn’t have any specific statistical goals, just the reason is that it’s greatly dependent on your team, right?” Kasdorf said. “Our team did a really good job of clearing rebounds for me and protecting the back door, which allowed me to just focus on the shot and just take care of that. We had a good system going that allowed me to post good numbers and help us get some wins.
“I would give,” his senior season “a 10 out of 10 as far as how much I loved it. It was an unbelievable experience. I played with the best teammates I could have asked for, which was extremely special for me. If you’ve got good teammates, you love coming to the rink, you love battling every day with them and it made it easy to battle when you’re doing it for the guy next to you and you love those guys.”