Sabres' Asplund thinks he's ready to live his NHL dream

Rasmus Asplund showed why he's considered a good two-way center in Rochester

Paul Hamilton
May 22, 2019 - 3:03 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The Sabres have to make a decision in June if they’re going to give qualifying offers to Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons. They’ve already signed European free agent center Arttu Ruotsalainen and have Rasmus Asplund down in Rochester.

Asplund had a rough start to his first professional season in North America. He's 21, and had played three years in the SHL before coming to Rochester.

The center had no goals and one assist in his first 16 games with the Amerks. When the Sabres moved up to get Asplund in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, they talked about what a smart player he was. That came through as Asplund found his game and had 10 goals and 31 assists for 41 points in 75 games. Asplund said there were many factors that helped him get better, “I think I really learned how to play my game at a really high pace. I think that was the one thing I was struggling with a little bit, but the longer the year went, I think I got more and more used to it and got comfortable doing things at a high speed.”

After playing on the larger ice in Europe, players like Asplund, Victor Olofsson and Lawrence Pilut had to get used to having less time to make plays. Asplund said, “I wouldn’t say it was hard, you had to take some time to get used to it like how certain players react in certain situations, so I just had to be a little patient with getting used to it.”

The Amerks got swept in three games by Toronto in the playoffs and in those three games, Asplund and his two linemates, Olofsson and Danny O’Regan, were held off the scoreboard. I thought Asplund struggled with the playoffs and didn’t play his game. He disagrees, “I thought I played really good games Friday and Sunday at home. I was really into the game and really attacked the game the way I wanted to.

“But in the Wednesday game, I didn’t get up to the standard that I wanted. I had been playing a lot of playoff hockey back home too, so I was kind of ready and knew what to expect, so I relied on the playoff experience I had before.”

In the three playoff years in the SHL, Asplund played 14 games for Färjestad BK Karlstad, picking up no goals and three assists.

I think with how the playoffs went, Asplund may still need some more time in the AHL. He feels with four years in the SHL and one season in the AHL, he’s ready to make the jump to the Buffalo Sabres, “I think I’m ready for sure. I think this year was really good for me and I really learned the game, plus Chris (Taylor) did an awesome job with me too. He’s been really honest with me all year and I appreciate that a lot, so I feel I’m ready to get the chance up there.”

It’s hard to know if Asplund really is ready for the NHL. Those questions will be answered in development camp and training camp. As far as decisions Jason Botterill has to make next month on Larsson and Girgensons, he’s going to have to know in his mind if Asplund is ready.

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