ROCHESTER – Forget about Rasmus Asplund’s late-season scoring binge or that he centered one of the American Hockey League’s top lines as a rookie.
Asplund’s maturity has impressed Americans general manager Randy Sexton more than anything else.
“He’s still very young but he’s extremely mature,” Sexton said of the Sabres prospect. “He’s very focused, he’s very coachable.
“When you sit with Rasmus and you talk to him, you can engage in a two-way conversation.”
Those conversations helped Asplund, 21, adjust to the AHL and buoyed his development last season following his arrival from Sweden.
Asplund has morphed into one of the Sabres’ best prospects. The two-way center just enjoyed a terrific training camp, making a strong case to stick in the NHL before the Sabres sent him down.
“When he got to Rochester, he embraced it. He knew that he still had work to do and he put the time in immediately,” said assistant coach Toby Petersen, who’s in charge of the Amerks’ forwards.
Sexton and interim Amerks coach Gord Dineen both said Asplund is close to earning his first recall.
“From the maturity level that he’s shown, leadership that he’s shown in his peer group, that’s there,” Dineen said of Asplund’s NHL readiness. “His game is so well-rounded, he’s gotten better that way.
“It’s just getting off to the start here where he punches a hole in the lineup up there.”
Asplund said: “I just want to ride the wave I built up in training camp. I had a good training camp.”
So far this season, Asplund, a former second-round pick, has compiled two assists in four games. A year ago, he recorded his first goal and second point in his 17th outing.
Asplund struggled offensively early in 2018-19 as he adjusted to North American hockey, mustering only two goals and 15 points in his first 46 games.
“No matter how smart or how high his hockey IQ is, it’s going to take a little while for him to get used to the smaller ice surface and the frenetic pace that you sometimes see over here,” Petersen said.
Other prospects might have panicked or started overhauling their game. But Amerks coach Chris Taylor kept telling Asplund he liked the way he was playing.
Taylor kept the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Asplund between Victor Olofsson and Danny O’Regan, his regular linemates.
“(Taylor would say), ‘You’re playing great, you’re playing good,’ and he kept me on the same line and gave me a lot of ice time and both PP and PK,” Asplund said. “So my confidence was good.”
Asplund, who played four years of pro in the Swedish Hockey League, said the confidence Taylor showed in him “was huge for me.”
“He talked to me a lot and just let me know what he was thinking,” he said. “We shared our thoughts there.”
Asplund shares his thoughts openly, according to Sexton.
“If he doesn’t quite understand or he doesn’t necessarily agree, he’s comfortable stating his point of view, which is great, because as management and coaches, you want to be able to have that dialogue with your players,” he said.
By February, Asplund started looking more comfortable. He began shooting the puck regularly and playing more aggressively.
Asplund scored seven goals and 23 points in the final 22 regular-season games and finished with 10 goals and 41 points in 75 contests.
“The biggest thing for him was he just started to think more in the offensive way,” Petersen said. “More often than not, (he’s going to be) on the right side of the puck, he’s going to have good stick position and (be) playing the game the way that we want him to play defensively.”
Asplund said: “When you put in a lot of work, sometimes it’s going to pay off.”
As Asplund caught fire, his line became one of the AHL’s best trios.
But Olofsson, a close friend Asplund said is like a “brother” to him, is now scoring goals for the Sabres. O’Regan, meanwhile, is playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate.
Asplund has been centering Remi Elie and prospect Tage Thompson this season.
“You’re going to have new linemates pretty much every year,” Asplund said. “I couldn’t be more happy for Ollie being up in Buffalo and for Reegs to have had a great last year. I’m going to remember it for all my career.
“It was just a great year. I think we all helped each other out a lot.”
Dineen said the Amerks recalled goalie Michael Houser from the ECHL on Monday because starter Andrew Hammond is sick. Hammond, who has started three of the first four games, is improving. … A “paperwork issue,” according to Dineen, has prevented rookie forward Brett Murray, who’s Canadian, from playing in the first four games. While Dineen declined to elaborate, that likely means Murray’s work visa hasn’t been finished. Murray signed a one-year AHL contract earlier this month. … Dineen said forward Taylor Leier, who underwent unspecified offseason surgery, plans to join the Amerks soon. … The Amerks host Cleveland on Friday and travel to Utica on Saturday.