Isak Rosen leads Rochester in scoring. ©2023, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Sabres prospect Isak Rosen becoming slick scorer, one of Amerks’ ‘drivers’

ROCHESTER – As a rookie barely a year ago, Buffalo Sabres prospect Isak Rosen would’ve been firmly planted on the bench with the Americans clinging to a late one-goal lead.

“I couldn’t fathom putting him on the ice in an empty-net situation 13 months ago,” Amerks coach Seth Appert said following Monday’s practice in Blue Cross Arena.

But Rosen, 20, has developed into what Appert called one of the Amerks’ “drivers” and quietly become one of their best and most versatile forwards.

“He’s earning through the body of work he’s put in and the habits, the practices and the details,” Appert said.

Rosen’s 18 points and 11 assists in 15 games both lead Rochester. Appert trusts the winger so much he now utilizes him on the penalty kill and in critical situations.

In Saturday’s 7-5 road win over the Cleveland Monsters, Appert put Rosen on the ice with the Amerks up one goal and less than two minutes left in the third period.

“A lot of times, your offensive players, you don’t want out in those situations,” Appert said. “So it’s a luxury as a coach to have a player like that.”

Rosen scored into an empty net, capping a splendid two-goal, four-point game.

“It’s big and that just shows that he wants me to be a driver of this team,” he said of being used late in the game. “And I trust myself in those situations.”

Rosen’s career-best outing came at a critical time. The Amerks had been shut out in their previous two games. At times recently, injuries and recalls have depleted their forward corps by as many as seven regulars.

The Swede, who could earn his first trip to the NHL this season, loves having increased expectations and extra responsibility on his shoulders.

“I want to be a driver,” said Rosen, the 14th overall pick in 2021. “They need me to be a driver, I think, especially (when) a lot of guys were away with injuries and some guys were up in Buffalo. Yeah, we need to find a way.”

So far, the Amerks have found a way most nights, starting 9-4-2 this season.

Rosen also played a pivotal role in the Amerks’ success last year, scoring 14 goals and 37 points in 66 games and another four goals and eight points in 14 postseason contests.

Still, he was a neophyte adjusting to the AHL and North American hockey. Appert carefully distributed his ice time.

“It’s been good to kind of ease into that a little bit,” Rosen said. “I haven’t been playing those type of situations. I didn’t do it last year and this year I did it some games, some games not. … Take one step at a time.”

At the beginning of this season, Rosen said Appert told him “he’s going to be a little bit harder this year on me.”

“I think that’s good,” said Rosen, who packed on 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason and is now listed at 6-foot and 173 pounds.

Rosen, of course, has often been overshadowed by Amerks center Jiri Kulich, another one of Buffalo’s top prospects. Kulich scored in overtime Wednesday to clinch a 4-3 overtime win against the Laval Rocket. Rosen registered the secondary assist on the Czech’s team-leading 11th goal.

The youngsters, whose work behind the scenes Appert lauded, possess different styles. Kulich’s flashier.

“Rosey’s game is more subtle,” said Appert, whose Amerks host Laval again tonight. “Kulich’s is more powerful and explosive and in your face. But Isak is just a fabulous hockey player.”

Appert said Rosen and Kulich are “driving our identity” through more than their scoring exploits.

“That is huge,” he said. “They’re driving competitiveness, they’re driving habits, how many puck battles they’re winning, how much physically committed they are. It’s fabulous to see the development of their overall game from both those guys.”

The Sabres, who had Thursday off, host the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at KeyBank Center.

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