Those players have often spoken about how that season bonding and developing together on an elite AHL team became pivotal to their careers. The Sabres advanced to the Eastern Conference final a year later with some of them leading the way.
The veteran Sabres have shared their lockout stories with the youngsters.
“The guys they had in Rochester during the last lockout,” Tropp said, “now they’re all stars here on the team today. … You look at them and I think everybody in our dressing room has the hopes or looks at it as maybe one day being like all those guys.
“I think that’s a good stepping stone for everybody … to have an opportunity to continue to develop. Who knows, maybe in a few years we can look back and say it was something similar?”
The Amerks won’t be the only stacked AHL club, though. Most NHL teams have sent established talent down.
Edmonton, for example, assigned young stars Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to its Oklahoma City affiliate. The forwards combined for 52 goals and 108 points last season. Carolina sent Jeff Skinner to Charlotte, although the 2010-11 Calder Trophy winner reportedly won’t go.
“The whole league is going to be really talented early on with the young players from the NHL coming down,” Amerks coach Ron Rolston said. “So it’ll be a great league for the fans to come out and watch the quality of play and the tempo and pace, especially for us.”
The depth, Rolston believes, will help the Amerks’ development. The time a young defenseman like 2010 first-rounder Mark Pysyk spends each day going against Foligno or Hodgson during practice should be invaluable.
“You’re going to get better on a daily basis,” Rolston said.
Veteran Mark Mancari, an AHL star for years, wants Foligno and the others to embrace their experience, which “can go two ways,” he said.