Brian Flynn started the season as a healthy scratch. Now he’s on a line with two bona fide NHL players.
He’s obviously making the most of his opportunities with the Rochester Americans.
Flynn skated as the right winger for Cody Hodgson and Marcus Foligno on Friday night as the Amerks returned to Buffalo with a 4-1 victory over Lake Erie. He earned the role while putting up nine goals and 19 points in his first 25 games.
“They’re obviously NHL hockey players, so my job’s not too difficult out there,” Flynn said in First Niagara Center. “I just use my speed and work hard and try to win a lot of loose pucks for them. They both generate a ton of offense.”
So does Flynn. He signed a one-year contract with the Sabres’ organization last spring after excelling at the University of Maine. He skated alongside Hobey Baker Award finalist Spencer Abbott and recorded 18 goals and 48 points in 40 games.
The collegiate success didn’t immediately carry over to the American Hockey League. He had just one assist during a five-game tryout at the end of last season, and he started this year as an extra. But right wing Corey Tropp suffered a season-ending knee injury during the opener, giving Flynn an opportunity.
“We had a lot of injuries early on with Corey and then Cody getting hurt and some other guys getting banged up, so he got some really good opportunities early,” Amerks coach Ron Rolston said. “He took advantage of it and was one of our leading point guys in terms of production per game. Then he got banged up a bit, and since then he hasn’t been as hot as he was early on but certainly has been competing hard and been getting opportunities.”
Flynn shined in November while putting up seven goals and 15 points in 10 games. He’d been blanked in seven of nine contests entering Friday but no longer feels out of place with the Amerks.
“There’s an adjustment period, but as of now I feel like I’m through that,” the 24-year-old said. “I feel settled. The game seems to have slowed down for me. Once you hit that stage, hopefully you just continue to get better.
“There’s been some good stretches where I’ve done well personally and some not-so-good ones, but it’s a long year. I’m trying to keep a perspective on things.”
Zemgus Girgensons would have rather spent Friday in Russia as a member of Latvia’s national team, but he understands why he was in Buffalo playing for the Amerks.
The Sabres’ second of two first-round draft picks is only 18 years old and remains eligible for the world junior tournament, which began this week. Latvia named him to its roster, but the Sabres and Amerks declined to release him.
“It was more of the team’s choice,” Girgensons said. “I didn’t really have an opinion on that.”
Would he have liked to play?
“Well, it’s my country,” he said. “You can’t get upset. This is where I’m playing. If I can help this team, it’s a lift for me.”
Girgensons entered Friday with two goals and six points in 23 games.
“I’m just trying to get better where I can,” he said. “I think lately it’s been going real good.”
Luke Adam started this season where he left off the last one: doing next to nothing. That changed this month. Adam entered Friday’s game with five goals and nine points in 10 December contests, a hot streak that toned down his sluggish start. The forward had just two goals and five points in the opening 15 games.
“The most important thing with Luke is lately he’s decided to go out there and make things happen,” Rolston said. “I think early on he was just waiting for other guys to help him along in that process and make things happen and he’d finish on things.
“He’s doing things you need to do to create the offense. In this league and the same at the higher level, you’ve got to get to the net and I think he’s doing a better job of that. He’s getting around the net more and getting deflections and second opportunities.”