Sabres Assistant GM Randy Sexton thinks Bailey has remade himself

Justin Bailey and the Amerks begin the Calder Cup Playoffs

Paul Hamilton
April 20, 2018 - 1:14 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Justin Bailey helps lead the Amerks into the playoffs Friday against Syracuse. Bailey fought through injuries this season, which made it a tough year. In 37 games with Rochester, the speedy winger had 10 goals and five assists for just 15 points. In Buffalo, he played 12 games and had three goals and four points.

Bailey will be 23 when training camp starts in September, but first, he needs a new contract as a restricted free agent.

Rochester general manager Randy Sexton was on Friday with Howard Simon. He said it took a while, but Amerks coach Chris Taylor finally convinced Bailey that it can’t be all offense, “Justin took the first half to adjust to some of the demands that we place on our players in Rochester.

“It’s really attention to detail and playing the right way because early on, I think he saw himself as an offensive player only, but he’s really accepted the challenge the coaches have given him to round out his game, so he deserves a lot of credit because he’s accepted that challenge and he’s thrived in that roll.”

Hudson Fasching was the reason Tim Murray traded Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parker and two second round picks to Los Angeles to get him. In his last season of college, the big winger had 38 points in 37 games at Minnesota. Now, the 22-year-old is in a fourth line roll starting the playoffs with 12 goals and 30 points in 69 games.

Fasching got up for five games and played really well, using his size to create offensive possession along the wall. The problem was, it lasted two games and then he had three bad games. Sexton said that Fasching has to improve his foot speed to play in the NHL, “Hudson has worked very hard at his foot speed, which he needs to continue to do.

“Hudson is a guy that brings size and brings some physicality and brings the ability to really grind it out in a 200 foot game.”

Alex Nylander seemed to take a step forward and Sexton of course noticed, “For the last five or six weeks, he’s played very, very well. His game is rounding out, it’s maturing and the next step for him is to have a real strong playoff.”

Will Borgen got in eight games after signing out of St. Cloud State. Sexton thought Borgen did what many do with their first taste of professional hockey, “Saw a fairly typical adjustment from college to pro. Typically the details are what separate the great players from the ordinary ones.

“Will is a tremendous skater, he’s a big, strong physical puck moving D-man, so as a result in college, he didn’t have the focus on the details that he needed to, particularly in the D-zone, so we saw great growth in that area.”

So where might he fit in the future? Sexton said, “He projects in the long-term to be one of those hard to play against, physical guys, so it was a good, positive first step for Will.”

Borgen likely won’t play in Game 1.

Multiple injuries kept rookie AHL All-Star C.J. Smith from being recalled to Buffalo. Smith was a college free agent out of UMass-Lowell who was highly sought after. Tim Murray got him to sign after his junior season, and the 23-year-old had 17 goals and 27 assists for 44 points in 57 games with Rochester. Sexton said, “C.J. had a very strong first half and unfortunately had the injury, rehabbed, came back and injured it again, so he’s healthy now for the playoffs and I’m really anxious to see how he does.

“C.J. worked hard on his speed and quickness and he’s got tremendous offensive instincts and he brings some offensive talent which we could certainly use in Buffalo, but part of our whole model is to bring players along as quickly as we can, but not rush them, but I fully expect that C.J. will challenge for a spot in Buffalo next year. He may need some time in the American League to start, but that will depend on the type of playoff he has and his off season training.”

Sexton and Jason Botterill think this playoff year is very, very important for their young players. This organization has to learn how to win and Sexton said “It’s critical. The regular season is one thing, but the playoffs with the intensity and the competitiveness gets ramped up at least 50 percent and that’s about the step from the American League to the NHL, so it’s critical for us and critical for our young guys to have that experience, get that battle experience, the difficult matchups, it’s all part of their overall development.”

The Amerks play the first two games in Syracuse and then come home for Game 3 on Wed, April 25. If Game 4 is necessary, Rochester will host that on Friday April 27.

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