By Suzie Cool (@SuzKewl) | Published on October 15, 2019
Let’s set the stage.
Morning skate has just ended, and the guys are hitting the showers, grabbing lunch and heading home before they make their trek back to The Blue Cross Arena for their first Friday night face-off of the year. It’s opening night in the Flower City and the Rochester Americans are gearing up to take on the Syracuse Crunch for the first of 12 matchups between the North Division rivals during the 2019-20 season.
Some Amerks have done this a time or two, and for others, it’s a completely new chapter being added to their story.
Being a rookie in the American Hockey League is no joke. A lot of ‘rooks’ in the AHL have a professional game or two under their belt in the ECHL, but for some, they’re fresh out of college and being thrown into a game with much bigger and faster competitors. The expectations are at an all-time high and the stakes are greater than ever before in their hockey careers.
Sounds intimidating, right?
WATCH: JACOB BRYSON AFTER TUESDAY'S PRACTICE
One may think that a rookie in the AHL would have pregame jitters before their first professional game, maybe a little anxiety and a ton of built-up excitement right before one of arguably the biggest moments in their life. For one rookie on the Amerks opening day roster, though, it was clearly different. Like a seasoned veteran, Jacob Bryson took the first game of the season in stride as if he had his professional debut 10 years prior.
Following morning skate back on Oct. 4, Bryson mentioned how his first professional game happening later that evening would be like any other in his career.
“It’s definitely exciting, but you can’t let the emotions get the best of you, and in my opinion, it’s just another game.”
Spoken like a true professional.
For the last three years, Bryson attended Providence College, where he made his mark recording 73 points in his 121 collegiate competitions. During his junior season, Bryson served as the Friars’ team captain while setting career-highs in both assists (24) and points (28). Following his last collegiate campaign just last year, Bryson received the Hockey East’s Len Ceglarski Sportsmanship Award for the second straight season – an award given to one player in the league who had consistently demonstrated superior conduct and sportsmanship on the ice throughout the year.
After appearing in every single game the last three seasons at Providence College, it’s no surprise that Bryson has seen playing time in every contest with the Amerks since signing his three-year, entry-level National Hockey League contract with the Buffalo Sabres just this past April. In his first four games as a pro, Bryson has experienced a number of firsts from his first pro game, first pro point and even his first three-in-three weekend, which included a day back in his college town of Providence, Rhode Island.
Although a short trip to the New England area, Bryson commented on how it was nice to meet up with a few former college teammates, including a visit from current teammate Tage Thompson’s younger brother, Tyce.
“They had a game at Providence against Holy Cross that night so I didn’t think anyone would be there, but actually Tage’s little brother, Tyce – he plays at Providence and I played with him last year – he came down to the dressing room after so I got to see him which was nice. I saw a few other teammates during the day since they had a game that night. They came over to my hotel just to say hi. I wish I could’ve seen all of them, but it was a nice little surprise.”
With a couple of games finally knocked off the schedule, it seems as if Bryson is being paired up with a strong veteran presence on defense. Arguably one of the best defensemen on the team and in the league, veteran Zach Redmond has just happened to be Bryson’s other half in the last couple of tilts with both tacking on a pair of points during their first weekend road trip to New England.
After being paired up on the back-end in two of three games this past weekend, Redmond commented on what teaming up with the new-age defenseman was like.
WATCH: ZACH REDMOND AFTER TUESDAY'S PRACTICE
“He skates well, and he’s got that calm demeanor,” said Redmond, who was named the AHL’s top defenseman for the 2018-19 season. “You see a lot of first-year guys coming out and working their butt off, and maybe working a little too hard at times and getting out of position. He seems to kind of have that calmness about him and at the same time he can skate his way out of trouble.”
Despite the average hockey defenseman sizing up to be 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Bryson finds himself on the smaller side of the spectrum. Standing at only 5-foot-9 and weighing in at 179 pounds, Bryson has got to play the game with more than just his physical attributes. The mental game that Bryson can bring to the ice is what sets him apart from other defensemen that may have physical size in their favor, but his veteran-like mindset is what puts him on the coaching staff’s initial radar.
Amerks interim head coach Gord Dineen touched on Bryson’s mental game and how it has translated perfectly when hitting the professional level.
“The mental game for a guy who is as young as he is, he’s very mature and steady. He rolls with however the game is going and is consistent as far as his efforts and the way he thinks. His learning curve is really impressive, as far as going into the pro game and how it translates very well to the pro game.”
Although the pressure is on to impress and succeed, Bryson seems to be meshing just fine with the Sabres physical playing style and mental mindset. Not only has Bryson seen ample playing time in the first four tilts of the new season with the Amerks, but he’s already grown in the fact that he has come to terms with overcoming obstacles on his way to the top.
WATCH: GORD DINEEN AFTER TUESDAY'S PRACTICE
Following practice last week, Bryson showed his maturity when commenting on how you have to remain calm and have a short memory in order to be successful at the American Hockey League level.
“That’s a big mindset that the coaches have taught us, that mistakes are going to happen. The game isn’t perfect, you can’t be a perfect player and you got to know that it’s going to happen. You’ve got to know that you can walk away from a mistake, come out the next shift and kind of forget about it and move on. That’s the most important part if you want to be successful.”
Once again, spoken like a true professional.
Only four games in and already Bryson looks to be someone to keep an eye on throughout the Rochester’s 64th AHL campaign. Because when the lights come on and he hits the line, it’ll be no surprise when Bryson continues to rack up his time on ice while looking like a seasoned vet during his rookie campaign in the Flower City.
Another chapter in his book, just waiting to be written.