ROCHESTER – Andrew Oglevie thought nothing of that first hit he took three months ago. The Buffalo Sabres' prospect popped up and continued his shift in the Prospects Challenge opener.
But when he returned to the bench that night, a teammate asked the question on everyone’s mind.
“Someone was like, ‘You all right, Ogs?’ And I’m like, ‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ ” Oglevie said following a recent practice in Blue Cross Arena. “And then I came back, ‘Oh, yeah, I was concussed three times last year.’ ”
Oglevie, 24, has quickly bounced back from his concussion-riddled rookie season, developing into one of the Sabres’ top forward prospects.
The Notre Dame product has scored a team-leading nine goals and 16 points through 21 games with the Americans entering Friday’s contest against the Charlotte Checkers.
After injuries and recalls began decimating the Amerks' forward corps, Oglevie emerged as an offensive threat at right wing beside center Kevin Porter and Brett Murray, helping buoy their current 11-game point streak.
Oglevie, who signed with the Sabres as a free agent in 2018, recorded his first American Hockey League hat trick in Saturday’s 3-2 road win against the Cleveland Monsters. He has scored seven times in the last seven games.
“He’s got the hockey sense, he’s got the skills, to play in the NHL,” Amerks General Manager Randy Sexton said.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Oglevie showcased those skills in his first NHL training camp last year, making a strong impression with the Sabres. It felt like he could earn a recall.
Then a string of concussions stymied Oglevie’s rookie year, limiting him to just 28 appearances. He had suffered two by November and missed two and a half months before leaving the lineup for good in late March.
“I got hit a couple more times, on two different occasions, and then I flared up again, the symptoms came back, and the third time they came back for a prolonged amount of time – longer than what is expected for a normal concussion,” he said.
Oglevie said he essentially experienced “one big (concussion) that just kept reoccurring.”
“A lot of it was neck-related, not so much concussion,” he said. “I went to go see a specialist late in the season last year and he helped me fix a lot of things with my neck, which in turn helped my headaches and whatnot.
“So that was a big turning point for me.”
Oglevie felt so good he said he “was in full swing” about a month after the season ended.
So Oglevie said he decided he wouldn’t “hold anything back” during his training.
“I feel healthy, I feel good, I’m not even going to think about it,” he said.
That’s why when Oglevie took a lick in the corner Sept. 6 in LECOM Harborcenter, he had to be reminded what had just happened.
For the second consecutive year, instead of going home to California, Oglevie spent the offseason in Buffalo training with the Sabres’ staff.
“I really believe the results that we’re seeing are as a result of that commitment to be in Buffalo,” Sexton said.
Sexton said the Sabres identified three areas – speed, strength and quickness – for Oglevie to focus on during the summer.
“We could see the progress at the development camp (in June), we saw the progress at the rookie tournament, and we’ve seen the progress here during the regular season,” Sexton said. “He’s … not a real big body, so he’s got to be real strong.”
Oglevie’s maturity – he’s older than most second-year pros – helped that progression.
“He’s able to keep things in perspective,” Sexton said. “One of the challenging things for young players, sometimes they let their minds play tricks on them. They read too much into a decision that an organization makes. They create anxiety for themselves because they think they see signals that don’t exist.
“Andrew’s maturity allows him to look beyond that and focus on critical things he needs to focus on and not waste one ounce of negative energy or one ounce of anxiety on issues that he can’t control that are quite likely not real.”
Oglevie’s upbeat personality also helped him handle the rough season.
“He’s very outgoing and positive,” said Amerks forward Sean Malone, Oglevie’s roommate. “He always finds a way to make light of most situations.”
Oglevie said: “Life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s the saying. So I was handed some sour lemons, but I tried to do my best to make the best lemonade I could.”
Still, Malone, a West Seneca native who endured his own injuries last season, said the concussions took their toll on his friend.
“It’s kind of scary. Your future’s kind of unknown,” he said. “But, yeah, I think we were both kind of hurt last year. So we kind of found a way to make light of the situation. I think he did a really good job of persevering.”
Oglevie said he leaned on his roommates – Malone, Amerks defenseman Will Borgen and winger C.J. Smith – for support. The coaching staff and management also helped by allowing him to take road trips when he was healthy enough.
“It was a whole new group of guys, and they didn’t want me to feel quarantined,” Oglevie said. “They did a good job of helping me out and I tried to stay around them as much as I could.”
Leier on the mend
Amerks forward Taylor Leier, out all season after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, started full-contact practice this week. Sexton said Amerks don’t have a timetable for Leier’s return.
“It’s imminent,” he said. “We just want to make sure that when we turn him loose, because he’s got a little of that Tasmanian devil in him, that he’s fully healed and ready and go and can absorb it. Barring a setback, it won’t be long.”