Jack Quinn spent the early part of the season on Buffalo’s taxi squad. ©2021, Micheline Veluvolu

Eric Staal’s experience shows Sabres’ Jack Quinn can develop with Amerks

BUFFALO – Sabres prospect Jack Quinn, the eighth overall pick last year, will be making his pro debut soon, Rochester Americans coach Seth Appert told WGR.

Quinn, 19, had to quarantine following his arrival last week from the Sabres, who began battling COVID-19 problems shortly before they sent him to the AHL. The winger missed two games.

The Amerks play a road contest Friday against the Cleveland Monsters.

Quinn spent the early part of the season on the Sabres’ taxi squad and recently recovered from an upper-body injury.

In a normal year, Quinn would likely be playing with his junior team, the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67s. Junior-age players can play in the AHL if their leagues are paused.

That offers Quinn, who scored 52 goals and 89 points in 62 games last season, a chance to develop against men.

Sabres center Eric Staal, 36, enjoyed a similar opportunity in 2004-05, when the NHL lockout wiped out the entire season. With no collective bargaining agreement, teenagers could play in the AHL. Staal, however, turned 20 early that season.

After having a secondary role as an NHL rookie, Staal morphed into a first-liner, scoring 26 goals and 77 points in 77 games with the Lowell Lock Monsters.

“There was a lot of great talent, a lot of young talent, a lot of good players in that league,” Staal said on a Zoom call following Thursday’s practice inside KeyBank Center. “So it was my second year professional and there was no NHL at all to be an option. So for me, it was beneficial in the fact that I went from a third-, fourth-line role at the NHL level to first-line center in the minors, kind of what I was accustomed to for years prior before going into the NHL. I was counted on in power play, penalty kill, all those important roles.

“With having success, the confidence grew and built that full whole year. And then I came back really excited to start again the next season back in the NHL. I think with young guys, being put in roles to be successful and grow their confidence is huge. I’m sure Jack will get that opportunity down there.”

The next season, Staal scored 45 goals and 100 points for the Carolina Hurricanes and won the Stanley Cup.

The OHL, which was supposed to begin a truncated schedule earlier this month, doesn’t have a new start date.

“I look at some of the other leagues and they start, then they have to stop,” OHL commissioner David Branch told the London Free Press on Tuesday. “There are teams that have started, then they stop again. That’s one approach. We’ve seen leagues close all over the world.

“We want to make sure — along with our government and health authorities — that we start when the optimum opportunity presents and return to play (to stay). I’m of the opinion that Ontario has some very high standards and as a resident of the province with family here, I’m not going to challenge that one bit.”

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