Jacob Bryson has played four games for Rochester. ©2023, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

After getting waived by Sabres, Jacob Bryson seizes chance with Amerks

ROCHESTER – As the weeks dragged on and Jacob Bryson remained a healthy scratch, he told the Sabres throwing him in a game would be unfair.

No amount of practice can replicate game action, and the defenseman feared he would be susceptible to injury if they used him. When they waived him Dec. 18, he had sat out 20 consecutive contests over a 44-day stretch, his last appearance coming Nov. 4.

Bryson, 26, had morphed into a spare part as Buffalo’s seventh or eighth defender.

“Something had to happen,” Bryson told the Times Herald on Friday in Blue Cross Arena.

So Bryson has embraced his first assignment to the AHL since 2020-21. In the hallway outside of the dressing room following the Americans’ 6-3 loss to the Providence Bruins, he smiled and sounded excited as he discussed his fresh opportunity.

He said he has a strong relationship with Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and coach Don Granato and believes the move will benefit everyone.

In Rochester, he can play regularly and perhaps ignite his career. The Sabres, meanwhile, created a roster spot.

“I felt like they thought that was the best decision for the team and for myself, getting games down here rather than keep me up there,” Bryson said. “And I felt like they weren’t going to put me in anyways because I had been out for so long.

“I felt like that was the move they had to make and it’s good for, I feel like, my career. It’s nice to play and get minutes and get my confidence back.”

Despite losing his spot, Bryson sees a future in Buffalo.

“If I play well down here, I think there’s a probably a chance or a good chance I could go back up there,” he said.

Bryson, a veteran of 173 NHL games, has endured a rough year. He lost his regular spot last season, playing only 59 games as he compiled a team-worst minus-24 rating.

This season, he enjoyed a strong training camp, impressing the Sabres enough to earn the last spot on their blue line. But he played only three times, averaging just 9 minutes, 26 seconds an outing.

When rookie defenseman Ryan Johnson arrived in early November, Bryson fell to eighth on the depth chart.

“I was positive the whole time I was up there,” he said. “I think that’s a big factor, keeping my head up and being good to my teammates. That’s fair to them, fair to myself. Even coming down here, I feel like I’m still positive.”

It might take time for the 5-foot-9, 174-pound Bryson to recapture his old form. At his best, he’s a terrific puck-mover.

When he played his first game for the Amerks on Dec. 20, he said he felt gassed and began cramping. Naturally, he still feels a bit rusty.

Joining them has given him a chance to play bigger and more meaningful minutes, including on the power play, penalty kill and the last minute of a game.

“It’s something I haven’t done in a long time, obviously, like blocking shots, all that stuff kind of feels new to me,” Bryson said. “I feel like my game’s right there to be really good. I thought I’ve been good but I think I can be more dominant.”

In the NHL, Amerks coach Seth Appert said, a player like Bryson often fights for survival.

“That is a hard way to exist mentally,” he said. “It’s a hard way to play because you’re not trying to get better; you’re trying to just survive and not get yanked or sent down. And this gives you the opportunity to play, to compete, to do what you love. It’s a reminder that you love the game, it’s fun.”

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