The Buffalo Sabres have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season so far and that success hasn't been limited to the team's winning ways in the NHL. Prospect Jack Quinn was just named the AHL's rookie of the month thanks to his offensive onslaught with the Rochester Americans, where the winger has put up 10 points in his first six games.
That total ties St. Louis Blues prospect Scott Perunovich for the best among rookies, but it's also good for third overall in the league. And for Quinn, the 15 games he got in with the Amerks last year certainly look like a boon for his continuing development.
I spoke with Sabres director of player development Adam Mair about Quinn recently and it was clear that the 20-year-old winger had a great off-season. One of the more notable gains came in Quinn's skating.
"He's done a good job building his strength over the summer where you can really see that at top speed," Mair said. "The get-up-and-go, the stopping and starting, that's an area he worked on a lot this summer and has shown improvement, so he's taken that ball and run with it, which is nice to see."
Scoring was never a problem for Quinn and his ability to put the puck in the net was a big reason why the Sabres selected the Ottawa 67's star eighth overall in the 2020 draft. When I think back on that season, I always remember a conversation I had with 67's GM James Boyd right at the beginning of the year: He told me to keep an eye out for Quinn, who had been a depth piece on a loaded roster the prior campaign. Boyd said Quinn would be an NHL first-rounder and sure enough, the kid blasted off into the stratosphere that season, posting 52 goals and 89 points in 62 games for the 67's.
So yeah, Quinn could always put the puck in the net and his release is excellent already. But Mair and the Amerks talked to the teen in his exit interview last season about continuing to work on his deception when shooting; changing the angle, while also working on his one-timer. For a young player, even your strengths can be improved on.
Quinn also got a great opportunity to spread his wings at Buffalo's training camp this autumn and at one point, the Sabres even put him at center. He also played down the middle at the team's Prospect Challenge, where the Buffalo kids squared off against prospects from the Devils and Bruins.
A benefit to that experience at center is how it opened Quinn's eyes in terms of his play away from the puck, as he takes pride in his defensive play.
"He wants to be good at both ends of the rink and prides himself in being a 200-foot player," Mair said. "It's something he has worked on over video the past year – his play away from the puck, his play along the D-zone wall, his reads in the defensive zone. And the versatility in playing some center, knowing where his support responsibilities are, he's adapted to that learning curve very well."
Back in Rochester this season, Quinn has lined up on the left wing as part of a powerhouse trio that also features AHL veteran Sean Malone down the middle and another promising prospect, J.J. Peterka, on the right wing.
Peterka, the German national, also caught the Sabres' attention this fall.
"He really impressed in the early stages of camp," Mair said. "His body looked mature, his skating and speed really stood out and he transitioned really well to the games over here. In terms of where he is on the development curve, I'd say he's done a really good job and he's in a really good spot for his first pro year in North America."
And if Peterka and Quinn keep scoring in the AHL together, the future will look that much better in Buffalo.