By Erica Whyte
In what seems to be a theme this off-season, a familiar face has re-joined the Buffalo Sabres organization. Former Amerk defensemen Nathan Paetsch has signed a one-year AHL deal and will be wearing the Amerks crest for his third stint this fall.
Paetsch, of LeRoy, Saskatchewan, began his professional career in Rochester in 2003, and played in the Flower City with both Sabres general manager Jason Botterill and Amerks head coach Chris Taylor.
“He was my mentor,’’ Paetsch said of Taylor at an afternoon press conference at The Blue Cross Arena just hours after the team announced his return to the organization. “He was always a really intelligent player and you can see that carrying on to coaching, so I’m really, really excited to play for him.’’
However, this return to Rochester is a little different than the last time. Paetsch is returning with some hardware and valuable experience under his belt, and joining him are his wife, Jaclyn, a Rochester native, and their two young kids, Kellen and Mira. The “move” is also a little closer to home as the Paetsch family still resides in Spencerport.
The 34-year-old Paetsch spent the past five seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he wore the ‘C’ and guided the team to two Calder Cups, including one this past spring. Having led his team to the postseason in each of the last five years, Paetsch admits he has a lot to bring to the table given his experience and success in Grand Rapids.
“I’ve been part of an atmosphere of a winning culture, and hopefully I can bring that here and give what knowledge I have. I definitely know what we did to make it successful, and hopefully can bring that mentality here.”
With a captain-less team for the end portion of last season following the departure of Cal O’Reilly, this Amerks squad is still without a leader. Paetsch knows that regardless of letter decoration, going into this season, his primary job is to mentor the team’s prospects and help them reach their full on-ice potential.
"I was fortunate enough to be a captain last year and that was a huge honor.” he said. “That’s why they bring in an older guy like me, to help out the young guys and be a leader."
Paetsch is not alone in his migration from Grand Rapids to Rochester. Former Griffins defensemen Conor Allen, 27, and forward Kyle Criscuolo, 25, are also new Amerks acquisitions.
"(They are) two guys that were the heart and soul of our team last year," said Paetsch of Allen and Criscuolo. "You're getting two amazing individuals coming to this organization, and they're going to bring a lot."
Paetsch has appeared in 215 career games over his previous two stints in the red, white and blue, recording 86 points on 21 goals and 65 assists. His best season as an Amerk came during the 2005-06 campaign when he posted career-highs in goals (11), assists (39) and points (50) to lead all Rochester defensemen and finish ninth among all AHL blueliners in scoring. His 86 points currently rank 33rd all-time among Amerks defensemen.
In his AHL career, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound veteran blueliner has amassed 245 points (50+195) in 608 career AHL games with Rochester, Syracuse and Grand Rapids while also adding 34 points (5+29) in 103 playoff contests. Last season he became just the 18th player in AHL history to play in 100 or more Calder Cup Playoff games. Paetsch has also totaled 42 points (7+35) over 167 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets.
“My family and I are so excited to be back,” said Paetsch. “For us to be able to come back and be part of this organization just means the world.”