Ryan Johnson played 41 games in Buffalo before returning to Rochester. ©2024, Rochester Americans

Sabres notes: Ryan Johnson earning big minutes with Rochester Amerks

BUFFALO – A confident Ryan Johnson recently returned to the Rochester Americans following an unexpected 41-game stay with the Sabres.

As a first-round pick who played four seasons of college hockey at Minnesota, it’s hardly surprising that Johnson, 22, cracked the NHL as a rookie.

But after earning his first recall Nov. 4, the defenseman showcased poise that belied his limited experience, forcing the Sabres to keep him for more than four months.

“It definitely defied what I had expected,” Johnson told the Times Herald following last Wednesday’s 6-5 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

When the Sabres sent Johnson back to the Amerks on March 8 – the acquisition of Bowen Byram and re-emergence of Jacob Bryson made it necessary – he knew he possessed the talent to compete in the big leagues.

“Playing those games, even from the first one to the next one, I’m like, ‘I can play at this level and I can make an impact on the ice,’” Johnson said. “And that was really cool to learn. I think a big thing was bringing the consistency. There are guys who play dominant every night. And that’s, obviously, a goal if you want to impact the game for helping your team win.”

Naturally, the Sabres limited Johnson’s ice time – he averaged 13 minutes, 52 seconds per outing – and occasionally dressed him as their seventh defenseman or scratched him. In the AHL, he can have a much greater impact on games.

“It’s an opportunity to come and play 20 minutes a night and be out there in big situations and have that pressure of a playoff race when you’re playing and playing a lot,” Amerks coach Seth Appert said. “And those are good things for him to go through right now. He’s still a very, very young defenseman. It’s his first year pro. It’s a hard position as a rookie.

“He’s had a really good rookie year to earn (that) many NHL games, he’s played well in a lot of those NHL games. And, now, he’s back with us trying to earn a playoff berth and he be one of the go-to guys in our D corps while we do it.”

The Amerks began Wednesday’s road game against the Syracuse Crunch in third place in the AHL North Division, a spot that would secure them a place in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

“That’s actually really cool,” Johnson said of joining a team in a playoff push. “I’m grateful to be a part of it. It’s cool to see how much these guys have grinded.”

Entering Wednesday, Johnson had compiled seven assists in 22 games with the Amerks.

Sabres winger Jack Quinn returned from a lower-body injury in Wednesday’s 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at KeyBank Center, his first game since Jan.

Quinn, 22, began the contest skating at right wing alongside center Dylan Cozens and rookie Zach Benson.

During Tuesday’s practice, JJ Peterka occupied Benson’s spot. But Peterka, who had three goals in the previous two games playing left wing alongside center Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch, stayed on the top line.

Sabres coach Don Granato said rookie winger Lukas Rousek, who was high-sticked in the face during Tuesday’s practice, will be sidelined a couple of days.

The Sabres also scratched defenseman Kale Clague, goalie Eric Comrie and center Tyson Jost.

One thought on “Sabres notes: Ryan Johnson earning big minutes with Rochester Amerks”

  1. Johnson didn’t deserve to be sent down. I actually like Johnson better than Power.

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