Rochester rookie Isak Rosen (18) skates next to Syracuse’s Simon Ryfors last Wednesday. ©2023, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Sabres prospect Isak Rosen developing fast, already one of Amerks’ ‘drivers’

ROCHESTER – Buffalo Sabres prospect Isak Rosen has never experienced a season as long and demanding as this one, his first in North America.

Counting seven appearances at the World Junior Championship, Rosen, a winger with the Americans, has already hit the 70-game mark. A year ago in his native Sweden, he played 31 pro games, often skating short minutes.

In Rochester, Rosen, 20, has developed into what coach Seth Appert called one of the “drivers” for the Amerks, meaning he’s utilized in a lot of situations.

“Your body this time of year doesn’t feel good but you just got to … keep going because no one feels good at this time of year,” Rosen told the Times Herald following last Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Syracuse Crunch at Blue Cross Arena.

So far, the grind of the six-month AHL regular season hasn’t affected the 5-foot-11, 168-pound Rosen’s game. In fact, he has improved as the year has progressed, adapting to a different brand of hockey on the smaller ice surface.

Appert said Rosen, the 14th overall pick in 2021, has become more comfortable with the pace and physicality of the AHL, embracing the lack of time and space.

“Instead of looking for easier ice, where you have it but it doesn’t matter, he’s attacking more on the hard ice,” said Appert, whose Amerks have clinched a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs. “The more that he does that, the more comfortable he gets with his skill in those areas.”

Saturday’s 5-1 road win over the Utica Comets might’ve been Rosen’s best outing. In addition scoring two goals, he pumped a career-high seven shots on goal.

In the first period, he grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone and burned past a defender down the left wing before tying the game. In the second period, his backhander from below the goal line deflected in the net and put the Amerks up.

Prior to the game, Appert said he challenged Rosen and Jiri Kulich, another rookie forward, to be better following “substandard” performances a night earlier.

“Part of being a go-to guy – and they’ve earned that, we haven’t given that to them – is there’s a responsibility with that that we need it every night,” Appert said Tuesday. “And I thought that they both responded with really strong performances Saturday.”

Kulich, who turns 19 on Friday, has often overshadowed Rosen. The Czech, the AHL’s youngest regular player, has scored 23 goals, becoming just the fourth player to register more than 20 goals in his 18-year-old season.

But Appert said over the last three months, “Rosen has been every bit as good, if not better.”

“At their age, great play doesn’t always translate to the score sheet just because they’re 18, 19 years old, giving up a lot of size and strength and experience against men,” he said. “And they’re not being hidden. They’re two of our drivers. So they’re getting the other team’s top four defensemen against them.

“So I think that Isak was rewarded on Saturday for a stretch of two, three months where he’s played really strong hockey.”

Overall, Rosen has compiled 14 goals and 35 points and an even rating in 63 games. He’s one of nine Amerks who has scored at least 14 goals.

“I can score a lot more,” Rosen said. “And, of course, that’s a little bit frustrating but (I’m) just trying to keep going. Apps tells me every day just to keep going and I’m doing good things and, yeah, creating scoring chances now and just being even more comfortable with my skill and my shot and use that.”

Rosen also feels more comfortable playing defense and winning puck battles.

“The biggest improvement (has been) the defensive game so I can use the puck more,” he said. “And now I think I’m creating every game or almost every game.”

Amerks center Brandon Biro, who has missed 10 of the last 11 games with a lower-body injury, skated on his own Tuesday.

Appert said he’s closer to day to day than week to week.

Biro, 25, has compiled 16 goals and 51 points in 49 games this season.

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