BUFFALO – Isak Rosen said he needed to experience a season like last year, his first in North America. The Sabres prospect showcased durability, playing a whopping 99 total games over a dizzying 10-month stretch.
A year earlier in his native Sweden, he suffered a season-ending hand injury, and he played just 39 times. Staying healthy in 2022-23 allowed him to display consistent development throughout a campaign in which he played in two World Junior Championships.
Rosen, 20, handled the rigors of the longer, more physical AHL season with the Rochester Americans and thrived in coach Seth Appert’s up-tempo practices.
“It is a grind, but if you don’t grind, you’re not going to get anywhere,” he said following Thursday’s practice at LECOM Harborcenter, where the Sabres open the Prospects Challenge rookie tournament tonight against the Montreal Canadiens. “Grind, you get a good reward at the end.”
By April, Rosen shook off a slow start in the Calder Cup Playoffs and scored four goals during a seven-game stretch.
“It was maybe the biggest thing in my development,” he said of the postseason. “What I learned just in the five games against Syracuse (in the first round), I think I adjusted after that and became a better player after just five games in the playoffs. So, yeah, it was a very good experience for me.”
Overall, Rosen scored 14 goals and 37 points in 66 regular-season games for the Amerks and four goals and eight points in 14 playoff appearances. He also played seven games in each World Junior tournament – the August 2022 tournament was a COVID-19 makeup – three Prospects Challenge contests and two NHL preseason contests.
“It was really nice to play a lot of hockey,” said Rosen, who has been practicing with center Jiri Kulich and Olivier Nadeau. “I felt like I really needed that to get back on track and all that. Yeah, I felt good after.”
Rosen, the 14th overall pick in 2021, felt so good after his season ended June 2, he said he packed on 10 pounds of muscle. A year ago, his hand injury prevented him from working on his upper body in the offseason.
The Sabres now list him at 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds.
Following a productive summer and strong rookie season, Rosen senses an opportunity.
Chances are he’ll begin the year in Rochester again. Still, if he keeps showcasing growth, he could earn his first recall to the NHL.
“That’s what I work for every day,” Rosen said. “Why should I not aim for that? I’m going into camp now just to be the best of me every day and show them they can trust me if they want to call me up.”
Like a lot of first-year European players – he turned 20 on March 15 – Rosen needed time to adjust to different style of game on the smaller ice surface. He endured a 16-game goal drought over a two-month stretch during which he left for World Juniors. A few weeks following his return, he scored eight goals during a torrid 16-game run.
Rosen traces his growth to Appert’s demanding practices.
“It was all because we practiced so hard,” he said. “I went hard every day. Apps was on me every day to go hard in practice, and I think that rewarded me later in the season to be a better player. I mean, I felt (like) a little bit after Christmas … more of an every game player. Before I was just some games here and there.”
The Buffalo Common Council on Thursday submitted a Trailblazing Sign Resolution in honor of legendary broadcaster Rick Jeanneret that will proclaim the corners of Illinois Street and Perry Street and Washington Street and Perry outside KeyBank Center “RJ Way.”
Jeanneret died of multi-organ failure Aug. 17 at 81.