Longtime Sabres beat writer Bill Hoppe of BuffaloHockeyBeat.com, will be writing about Sabres prospects, the Rochester Americans and related topics this season.
ROCHESTER – It’s easy to tell when Sabres prospect Brendan Guhle is feeling confident. At his best, the slick defenseman consistently joins the attack, generating offense.
“That’s probably the biggest asset of my game,” Guhle said following Friday’s 3-0 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Blue Cross Arena. “If I can help create scoring chances or goals off the rush, I think I’m doing part of my job.”
Guhle, 21, led the offensive rush for the Americans a few times Friday, an outing he called one of his best of the season.
"I was just confident in myself,” Guhle said.
That confidence resulted in Guhle looking “really dominant joining the rush,” Amerks coach Chris Taylor said.
“I like him using his speed at the right time,” Taylor said. “I thought our forwards did a great job covering up for him as well. That’s what we want from him, that speed, he’s got to use it. He’s a big offensive threat when he starts skating like that.”
For a bit, that aggressiveness was missing from Guhle’s game, a stretch he called a “rut.”
“Every player gets them,” said Guhle, who has compiled two goals and nine points in 19 games this season. “All players get the yips or whatever, just kind of a taste of that, I think. I’m just working at it in practice and trying to get my confidence up.”
Guhle, however, said ruts can be “good” for his development. He knows learning to battle and emerge from slumps will only benefit him in the long run.
“It’s good for my development if I could go through ruts like that because I can learn how to bounce back from them maybe quicker next time,” Guhle said. “It’s going to happen over the course of a career.”
While Guhle impressed the Sabres enough to stick around until the end of training camp, they’ve kept the second-year pro in the AHL all season, summoning defensemen Lawrence Pilut and Matt Tennyson ahead of him.
Guhle, who has played 21 NHL games, including 18 last season, has remained patient. The former second-round pick understands development time can be a harbinger for future success.
“You always have to respect the process,” Guhle said. “You see good defensemen in the NHL who played two, three years in the AHL.”
Taylor, of course, likes the attitude and focus that Guhle possesses.
“He doesn’t look at anybody else or he’s not worried about anybody else,” Taylor said. “He’s worried about what he needs to do to get better.”
After sitting out the Amerks’ first 20 games as a healthy scratch, defenseman Nathan Paetsch, 35, made his season debut in Saturday’s 1-0 road loss to the Binghamton Devils.
Why did Taylor finally dress the veteran?
“I just wanted to get him into a game,” Taylor said. “He’s worked hard, he’s earned it. But we felt it was the right time to get him in the lineup. He played very well for his first game.”
Paetsch began his 16th pro season as the Amerks’ 10th defenseman, patiently waiting for an opportunity. After the Sabres traded Taylor Fedun and recalled Pilut and Tennyson, his chance appeared imminent.
“He’s been a great pro, he’s been unbelievable in the dressing room, he’s been positive with everybody, he helps everybody out in practices,” Taylor said. “He’s a mentor for all our guys in the room.”
Paetsch re-signed with the Amerks knowing his playing time could be limited and he would have more of a mentoring role.
Still, Paetsch said he’s “probably in the best shape of my career.”
“I take a lot better care of myself,” Paetsch said Friday. “You got to the older you get. The older you get, the smarter you get. So I definitely regret a few decisions when I was younger, of course, and now I know better, so I take a lot better care of my body."
Saturday was Paetsch’s 631st AHL appearance.
Olofsson breaks through
On Friday, Amerks winger Victor Olofsson, 23, scored his first goal in six games and just his second in 11 contests.
“I’ve been playing pretty good recently even if I haven’t scored as much,” Olofsson said. “I think that’s the most important part.”
The Sabres' prospect has cooled off following a scorching start in which he compiled five goals and 15 points in his first nine AHL games.
“It doesn’t come easy for him,” Taylor said. “He’s got to work to score goals and it’s making him better.”
Taylor said he likes how the Swede’s overall game has evolved.
“Away from the puck, he’s doing a lot better job,” Taylor said. “I like how he’s forechecking. … He’s not being a perimeter player. I like all aspects of the game.”