Calle Sjalin has recorded four points in five games with Rochester. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

After trade, Sabres prospect Calle Sjalin enjoying new opportunity in Rochester

ROCHESTER – In five games here, Buffalo Sabres defense prospect Calle Sjalin has found what he waited nearly two seasons for in Charlotte: a chance to showcase his talent.

In the Florida Panthers organization, Sjalin, 24, was often the odd man out with Checkers, who boast one of the AHL’s deepest blue lines.

So when the Panthers packaged him with a seventh-round pick on March 8 to acquire Sabres captain Kyle Okposo, Sjalin welcomed the trade.

So far, the Swede has fit in nicely with the Americans, dressing as their seventh defenseman and earning time on the power play.

After recording two assists in Wednesday’s 6-5 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack, he has registered four points (one goal and three assists) with the Amerks entering tonight’s game against the Toronto Marlies. He mustered just three points in 22 contests for Charlotte this season.

“When this came up, I thought it was a really good opportunity to start over and get a fresh start, kind of show who I am as a player,” Sjalin told the Times Herald following Tuesday’s practice in Blue Cross Arena. “I’m grateful for every minute up here.”

Coach Seth Appert called Sjalin “an offensively inclined defenseman” who is smart with the puck and possesses a strong shot. Appert believes the Amerks’ system – they play zone defense and “surf” their defenders so they’re angling – fits Sjalin better than Charlotte’s man-on-man, pinching style.

“He’s more of a thinking player than (one who will) overpower you with his physicalness or his skating ability,” he said.

On Wednesday, Sjalin earned the primary assist on defenseman Ethan Prow’s second-period goal by creating a rebound after grabbing center Jiri Kulich’s pass high in the slot. Sjalin also recorded the primary assist on Kulich’s late game-tying goal.

“He’s learning our defensive system,” Appert said of Sjalin. “He’s learning the way we want to play, and that’s an adjustment, that’s going to take time. But I think that he’s done some really good things for us offensively.”

Sjalin’s journey to North America took time. The New York Rangers drafted him in the fifth round in 2017, 145th overall.

Following the draft, he said he wanted to stay in Sweden to develop “because I felt like I kind of wasn’t ready to go over.”

But injuries limited his action for two seasons. Meanwhile, the Rangers, who had his rights until 2021, brought in other prospects.

“Ended up not signing with them,” Sjalin said.

The following season, his third with Leksands IF, a Swedish Hockey League team, he enjoyed a breakout year, scoring six goals and 22 points in 46 games.

“The coaches I had over there really believed in me,” he said. “I got a big role there.”

Earning nine games with Sweden’s national team also provided an additional confidence boost.

The 6-foot-1, 176-pound Sjalin, who was teammates with Amerks winger Isak Rosen in Leksands, said he knew NHL teams “had an eye on me.”

“I tried not to think about it,” he said. “Like, you don’t want to think ahead of you, you just want to stay in the moment.”

In 2022, he signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers. He can become a restricted free agent following this season.

“I got the opportunity and I felt it was time for me to go over and try how it is over here, which I still think was the right idea,” Sjalin said.

One thought on “After trade, Sabres prospect Calle Sjalin enjoying new opportunity in Rochester”

  1. In other words, another perfect Sabres defenseman. Good skater, soft, and not very physical.
    Pretty sure they already have plenty of those already.

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