Five months ago, Andrew Oglevie’s pro career started almost perfectly.
Following a summer spent training with the Sabres’ staff, the Notre Dame product enjoyed an impressive preseason, scoring two goals in NHL exhibition action. His ability to get to the net caught coach Phil Housley’s attention.
“It was just the confidence I had gained from college,” said Oglevie. “I knew that I was ready to take the next step, I think. So I was just eager to show everyone in Buffalo what I can bring to the team, make them happy they were able to get me in free agency.”
It seemed like 5-foot-10, 180-pound Oglevie, a winger the Sabres assigned to the Rochester Americans, could quickly earn a recall from the American Hockey League.
Then he suffered two concussions this season. The first, in mid-October, quickly stymied Oglevie’s rookie season. The prospect has played only 14 games, the last coming Nov. 30. He has missed the last 26 contests.
“It was a setback, but it’s the game and these things happen,” said Oglevie, who has scored one goal for the Amerks. “I’m glad that I’m healthy now. I think this makes me even more eager to get back out there and contribute, because I know that I had a really good offseason and I was playing well before the injury happened.”
Oglevie, 23, said he has never experienced such a long recovery from an injury.
“It’s been a change for me, but I think the staff here has done a wonderful job with me,” Oglevie said. “We’ve been patient, we’ve been working really hard behind closed doors, so I feel really confident right now.”
Oglevie started practicing in a noncontact role this week. He said he could be ready to play in about two weeks.
“I’ve had two (concussions) this year, that’s why this one is taking a little longer,” Oglevie said. “So we’re just being extra careful just because of the nature of the injury, obviously. I’ve been symptom-free for a while now.”
Oglevie quietly morphed into a pro prospect over his final two NCAA seasons, compiling 36 goals and 80 points in 79 games as the Fighting Irish roared to two Frozen Four appearances.
He signed a two-year, entry-level contract just days after Notre Dame lost the national championship game in April.
“He’s very mature for his age,” Amerks coach Chris Taylor said. “He’s one of those guys (who) knows that this is his job and you can tell he’s focused on what he’s doing.”
He added: “You can tell his hockey sense is right there. He adapted very well coming out of school to pro right away.”
Oglevie, a native of Fullerton, Calif., said he struggled earlier in this career. After joining the junior United States Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders at age 16 in 2011-12, he said he questioned his decision.
“It made me a … more well-rounded person because of the time I got to spend struggling,” Oglevie said. “Looking back, I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way, just because of what I was able to do with it.”
Thanks to a breakout 21-goal, 41-point sophomore campaign, Oglevie started generating interest from pro scouts.
Oglevie said he chose the Sabres, in part, because his friend and Notre Dame teammate Dennis Gilbert, a Williamsville native and Chicago Blackhawks defense prospect, spoke highly of the area when he told him Buffalo was at the top of his list.
“I liked the management a lot, I liked what they had to say,” Oglevie said. “I thought they understood me as a player. I like the opportunity that Buffalo presented, and then I came here and I fell in love with it.”
Winger Remi Elie, who cleared waivers Sunday, played his first first game with the Amerks on Wednesday, skating on the fourth line beside Yannick Veilleux and Dalton Smith.
“Nothing changes here,” Elie said following a 2-1 loss to the Syracuse Crunch in Blue Cross Arena. “I have a little bit more time. It’s a little bit more slower (in the AHL).”
Elie, 23, played sparingly as the Sabres’ 13th forward, appearing in only 16 games after they nabbed him off waivers from the Dallas Stars before the season.
“It’s one of the hardest jobs in the NHL, to be that kind of player out there in that situation,” Elie said of sitting out as a healthy scratch. “It’s all mental. You just have to stay positive. My dad and my family and my agent helped me with it.”
On Jan. 23, Scott Wedgewood said he felt a pinch in his leg. The goalie played that night, backstopping the Amerks to a 7-5 win over the Binghamton Devils.
But an X-ray revealed a line forming. It turned out Wedgewood, 26, had a stress fracture in his fibula. The Amerks quickly shut him down so he could heal.
The rest, Wedgewood said, was “huge” for his injury.
“Either you keep pounding on it and it becomes a major issue or you take a little bit of time off and come back now ready to grind out the second half,” Wedgewood said.
Wedgewood looked sharp Wednesday, stopping 31 shots.
“It might’ve been one of the best games that I played, just from a mental standpoint, a physical standpoint, feeling comfortable with rebounds and just kind of overall the chances-to-save ratio there,” Wedgewood said. “I gave the guys a chance in my mind.”
A lower-body injury forced Amerks winger Wayne Simpson to miss Saturday’s 4-1 road win against the Hartford Wolf Pack, ending the AHL’s longest active consecutive game streak at 231.
Simpson started the run Jan. 29, 2016, with the Portland Pirates.
“Even playing every game in one year is very tough to do,” Taylor said. “He’s done a great job taking care of himself.”
Simpson played Wednesday.
Amerks defenseman Zach Redmond has been skating on his own after suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 23, Taylor said. The veteran is day to day.