ROCHESTER – Since the Americans’ defense corps goes 11 deep, coach Chris Taylor has plenty of options at his disposal.
So among his five defense scratches for Sunday afternoon’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Toronto Marlies were NHL veteran Nathan Paetsch, a two-time Calder Cup champion; prospect Jack Dougherty, who compiled a plus-15 rating this season; and prospect Brandon Hickey, who earned a coveted spot on Team Canada’s 2016 World Junior Championship squad.
Meanwhile, rookie Kurt Gosselin, a free agent from Alabama-Huntsville, played his 10th game since arriving last month.
“This is everything I wanted, to be able to play pro hockey and showcase myself, just keep moving up,” said Gosselin, who registered an assist Sunday, his fourth point with the Amerks. “I’m just really thankful for it.”
So who the heck is Gosselin?
“He adds a left-hand shot for us for five-on-five and just stability on defense,” Taylor said.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Gosselin, 24, played four NCAA seasons, compiling 20 goals and 58 points in 118 games. After scoring four goals and 15 points in 25 contests as a senior, the Amerks signed him to a one-year, two-way AHL contract on March 12.
That deal kicks in next season. Right now, Gosselin is playing on an amateur tryout.
“I can join the rush really well,” Gosselin said. “I’m good at making that first play in the D-zone and joining the rush and being that fourth or third option depending on the scenario.”
The Michigan native joined the rush late in the first period Sunday, nearly beating Marlies goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo after roaring to the net and grabbing winger Taylor Leier’s pass. Early in the period, Gosselin dove to break up a two-on-one.
Gosselin started off his pro career impressively with the Amerks’ powerhouse ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones, scoring five goals and seven points in seven games.
Since the Amerks recalled him March 25, Taylor has awarded him regular duty.
“I’ve been playing well, trying to stick to details,” Gosselin said. “We could honestly play anyone in the lineup.”
But Taylor has chosen Gosselin, a youngster he called a “surprise,” for both playoff games.
Alabama-Huntsville, of course, isn’t known for producing many pro prospects. In 2018-19, the Chargers endured a rough season, compiling an 8-28-2 record while scoring only 67 goals, just 1.7 a game.
Incredibly, Gosselin’s 15 points ranked second on the team.
“Not scoring and not winning was tough, but … I had to make sure I was just staying focused … no matter what the outcome was, no matter if we scored or not,” Gosselin said.
Gosselin went from one extreme to another when he turned pro. The Cyclones, who are currently playing their first-round playoff series, won 51 regular-season games and showcase a lethal offense.
“It was awesome,” Gosselin said of his experience with Cincinnati.
Gosselin, a communications major, is finishing the three classes he needs to complete his degree. If the Amerks are still playing next month, he might miss his graduation ceremony.
That’s OK with him.
“I’ll have my buddies grab it for me,” Gosselin said.
After sitting out Friday’s series opener, forward Eric Cornel, the only Amerk to play all 76 regular-season games, returned Sunday inside Blue Cross Arena. To make room, the Amerks scratched Yannick Veilleux.