Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula was in attendance on Friday night to watch newly-acquired prospect Johan Larsson make his debut for the Rochester Americans. Larsson did not disappoint his new boss, scoring the Amerks' only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Lake Erie Monsters.
The 20-year-old forward played 18:18 ice time, including the full load of power play time after center Rick Schofield was injured just 58 seconds into the game.
Rochester fell behind early, but Larsson got them on the board at 14:14 of the second period. He found open ice inside the circles, received a quick tap pass from Drew Schiestel and whipped a wrist shot past Lake Erie goalie Calvin Pickard.
“It's nice to get a goal right away,” Larsson said. “But we're playing for a spot in the playoffs and the two points is more important right now.”
Larsson's first night as a member of the Amerks wasn't without flaw. In the second period, a giveaway led to a two-on-one score for the Monsters.
“It was a bad turnover there,” he said. “It was my fault. It wasn't the start I wanted, but it happens.”
The Swedish forward spent the entire night at center, switching between lines after initially being paired with another top Buffalo prospect Zemgus Girgensons. Larsson managed three shots on goal and had a by-hand count of plus-6 Corsi rating (shots+shots blocked+missed shots – opponents' S+B+M). In short, his line had the puck more often than the opponent while he was on the ice.
“Pretty good first night for him,” head coach Chadd Cassidy said. “I thought all around you could see some pretty good pieces to his game.”
Teammate Nick Tarnasky, who was physical and had several scoring chances himself, said he was impressed by Larsson's debut.
“I thought he was really smooth,” Tarnasky said. “He was confident with the puck and he's a good skater. I'm sure he was nervous a little bit with new guys, new team, new rink and everything but I was impressed and I think he'll be a good addition to our team.”
The rookie isn't new to the AHL by any means. He'd already scored 37 points in 62 games for the Houston Aeros before being traded over to the Sabres' organization on Wednesday.
Following the game, Pegula stopped down to the locker room to talk with the club's newest member. Larsson said he had no idea the owner was in attendance, but said he wouldn't have played any differently had he known.
As the roster is currently made up, the Amerks will need the new kid on the block to be good on both ends of the ice. Rochester's defense is short with Brayden McNabb hurt and Mark Pysyk and Adam Pardy both in Buffalo. However, Nick Bailen, who was also playing his first game, put together a solid effort including having the secondary assist on Larsson's goal.
The Amerks will get some help on the back end. Cassidy announced the team has signed Niagara co-captain Jason Beattie.
On the offensive end, the Amerks lack scorers. With players like Tarnasky, Cody McCormick and Matt Ellis, they're much more effective when scoring a goal or two when protecting the lead. Mark Mancari is really the only true scorer – he had nine of the team's 38 shots on Friday.
After the loss, Rochester sits in seventh place in the Western Conference, three points up on eighth-place Chicago.