Paetsch comes ‘home’ to Amerks
Whoever said you can’t go home apparently never played hockey.
Nathan Paetsch, who started his career with the Rochester Americans in 2003-04, rejoined the team on Tuesday when he signed a one-year American Hockey League contract.
Fresh off a second Calder Cup championship with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Paetsch returns to the city that has been his home for more than a decade. He and his wife, Jaclyn, own a home in the Rochester suburb of Spencerport, where their 6-year-old son Kellen just started first grade and 4-year-old daughter Mira is getting acquainted with preschool.
“We’ve never actually lived here year-round so to be with family at Thanksgiving and Christmas will be nice,” Paetsch said.
Paetsch, a 34-year-old native of LeRoy, Saskatchewan, has played 14 pro seasons and more than 800 games, including playoffs. He played 206 of his regular-season games in an Amerks sweater, and another 20 in the playoffs, plus 157 NHL games with the Sabres.
He was a member of the Grand Rapids Griffins leadership core the past five seasons, winning the Calder Cup in 2012-13 and again last spring. He can play in any situation, plays with poise and is extremely durable. He averaged 72 games a season during his tenure with the Griffins and also skated in 78 playoff games.
“Obviously I was very fortunate to be part of incredible hockey teams in Grand Rapids,” Paetsch said. “I’m going to truly deeply miss being there.”
“But this is home and hopefully we can carry that success to here.”
The signing further bolsters an already very strong Amerks defensive corps, and provides yet more tangible evidence that new Sabres general manager Jason Botterill really does believe a winning environment in Rochester is vital to organizational success.
Taylor Fedun, Matt Tennyson and Justin Falk all have NHL experience and figure to be slotted as depth/call-up players when injuries strike in Buffalo. Brendan Guhle may very well start the season with the Amerks, while Casey Nelson looks to improve on a so-so rookie season.
“I don’t think you can ever have too many good defensemen,” Botterill said on Monday night following the finale of the Prospects Challenge.
Paetsch wasn’t signed to be a depth player for the Sabres. He hasn’t played in the NHL since 2009-10 with the Columbus Blue Jackets. But he will be expected to provide leadership and play more minutes when there are recalls.
That’s where the idea of having a stable of quality defensemen comes into play. And it’s following the blueprint used by the Pittsburgh Penguins with their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Baby Pens have had 12 consecutive seasons of at least 41 wins, and four times during that stretch won more than 50. Along the way, Pittsburgh won three Stanley Cups.
“To be winning hockey games in Rochester, to have that commitment, it’s huge,” forward Hudson Fasching said.
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