Scouting the Amerks – Rochester Inching Closer to AHL Basement

In a week full of ups and downs, the Amerks are officially in danger of becoming the last place team in the AHL. The Amerks had two impressive home wins against the Marlies and Ice Caps. Unfortunately each of them was followed by an equally frustrating 4-1 loss.

After Wednesday’s offensive explosion, the top line featuring Nick Baptiste, Cal O’Reilly, and Cole Schneider, only combined for one point in the next three games.  If not for a generous home book on what was primarily an individual effort from Just Bailey, they would have been shut out. The trio was -11 over that stretch of play.

The addition of Taylor Fedun on Saturday immediately injected life into a struggling defensive core.  However, an injury to Tyson Strachan that same night thrust Casey Nelson back into action on Monday. Nelson has played especially poor this week. If there was more defensive depth in the organization, he would probably be playing in Elmira right now. Before Fedun replaced him on the point, he was a large contributor to the struggles of the Amerks power play. Even after the change was made, Rochester has still not converted with a man advantage. Rochester hasn’t scored on the power play since November 30, an 0-23 stretch.

However, things are not all gloom and doom on the farm. Baptiste started the week off with his first professional hat trick. He was actually unlucky not to have a fourth; video replay clearly indicated he had scored a goal that was disallowed. Baptiste’s play is so impressive that I would be surprised if he isn’t recalled to Buffalo on a permanent basis before the year is over.

Almost every aspect of Baptiste’s game seems to have improved from this time last year. He is skating faster, fore-checking better, and scoring way more goals. He possesses elite hands that can elevate him to sniper status even at the NHL level. Baptiste’s silky smooth mitts have propelled him to tie for AHL’s goal scoring lead, with 14 goals in only 21 games.

Taylor Fedun is another player who stood out over the past week. His ability to skate the puck effectively makes him the offensive catalyst the Amerks need on the point. His play on the point, the power play zone entries have been flawless, something that was a glaring weakness during his absence. If he isn’t skating the puck past center ice, he is able to find an easy entry pass to a linemate. He assisted on the first Amerks goal, and scored the go-ahead goal on a nice top-shelf wrister and was rewarded for his effort with second star honors.

I definitely think Fedun can succeed at the NHL level, based on his playmaking ability. His passing ambition leads to turnovers occasionally but, It’s worth the risk considering the spark he provides.

The Amerks will be off this week for the holiday break. Hopefully they can come back with a renewed fighting spirit, and claw their way back to respectability. The new signing of Tim Kennedy should help too. In his first game back he looked like he was showing some effects of his 30-hour flight. He should be much better after some time to settle in with the team.

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