Michael Leone replaces Seth Appert as Rochester’s coach. ©2024, Dan Hickling, USHL

Sabres hire Michael Leone as Rochester Amerks’ new coach

The Buffalo Sabres have hired another coach from junior hockey to be the Rochester Americans’ bench boss.

The Sabres on Thursday named Michael Leone, who spent the last two seasons as the general manager and coach of the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers, as head coach of their AHL affiliate.

The 36-year-old replaces Seth Appert, who earned a promotion to Lindy Ruff’s staff in Buffalo last month following four seasons with the Amerks.

Like Appert, Leone has a developmental background. He joined Green Bay in 2022 following a three-year stint as an assistant coach with the US National Team Development Program. The Sabres hired Appert from the NTDP in 2020, giving the coaching veteran his first opportunity in pro hockey.

Leone split his time with the U-18 and U-17 teams at the NTDP.

In Rochester, Leone will try replicate the success of his predecessors, Appert and Chris Taylor, by developing prospects and winning. The Amerks have made the postseason the last five times the AHL has held the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Amerks advanced to the Eastern Conference final in 2023 and won four total series under Appert.

Next season, Leone could have four high-end forward prospects – first-round selections Jiri Kulich, Noah Ostlund, Isak Rosen and Matt Savoie – on his roster.

“The Amerks head coach plays a crucial role in the overall success and growth of our organization, and after a rigorous interview process, it became clear that Mike was the right individual for the job,” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said in a statement. “His development mindset and professional versatility over the course of his career were just some of the many qualities that stood out as we searched for an individual to continue focusing on combining both winning and development in Rochester.”

Amerks GM Jason Karmanos said Leone’s “development background, inherent feel for the game and growth mindset” helped him stand out during the interview process.

“I am confident in Mike’s leadership and ability to guide our players both on and off the ice, while continuing a culture in which players are proud to wear the Amerks sweater,” he said in a statement.

Leone played three years at Western Michigan. He spent three seasons as a pro forward – one in France and two with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye – before beginning his coaching career as an assistant with the Quad City Mallards, another ECHL team, in 2017-18.

The Michigan native coached one season as an assistant at Bowling Green before the NTDP program hired him in 2019. He has also served as an assistant with Team USA at tournaments, most recently at the World Junior A Challenge.

Leone has strong ties to current and former NHL coaches.

In Toledo, he played under Derek Lalonde, who now coaches the Detroit Red Wings. Lalonde joined Toledo from Green Bay, a franchise former Sabres coach Don Granato had previously coached. At Western Michigan, former Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues coach Andy Murray led the Broncos.

The Amerks plan to introduce Leone to media on Monday morning.

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