By Erica Whyte (Posted on May 15, 2019)
“Everything changed in a matter of seconds,” said Rochester Americans forward Taylor Leier as he reflected on locker cleanout day when looking back of the mid-season trade that sent fan-favorite Justin Bailey to the Philadelphia Flyers organization.
Halfway through his fourth season with the Flyers organization, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound sniper was informed that he was getting traded to the Buffalo Sabres. On top of that, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were hosting Rochester in less than 48 hours following the trade.
Bailey and Leier, who were both AHL All-Stars in 2017 for their now former organizations, swapped spots in their respective dressing room and were suddenly sitting amongst strangers waiting to face the team that just traded them.
“It was crazy,” explained Leier, who reached the 20-plus goal mark and 40-point plateau for the second time in his pro career. “It caught me so off guard when the trade happened.”
WATCH: TAYLOR LEIER YEAR-END INTERVIEW
In 69 games between the Amerks and Phantoms, Leier finished the campaign with 42 points, which featured a career-high 22 goals. The 25-year-old forward from Saskatoon, Sask., closed out the season with 16 points (9+7) over his final 20 games with Rochester and added five multi-point outings in 35 contests with the Amerks.
Despite being an immediate and noticeable presence as a member of Amerks, Leier was admittedly initially standoffish with his new teammates.
“At the beginning I did not try to talk too much,” said Leier. “I really wanted to let my play do the talking first. It wanted to get the trust from my teammates and let them know that I wanted to be a part of the success here. I wanted to contribute in any way possible and help the guys win.”
While transitioning to the Amerks appeared to be a seamless one for Leier, who recorded 23 points (11+12) in 35 games, it was not exactly easy coming into a new surrounding after playing for one organization for four seasons.
“The stuff off-ice I think was the biggest challenge,” offered Leier. “When you are going to the rink everyday everyone is new. I didn’t know anyone. New coaches, new systems, new management, new colors. I put on the jersey, and at first was like ‘what the heck’, I’m wearing blue now.”
WATCH: TAYLOR LEIER YEAR IN REVIEW WITH ERICA WHYTE
However, the fresh start with a new club reinvigorated Leier’s play, allowing him to become a go-to guy for major minutes as an Amerk, making an impact both on and off the scoresheet.
“I was really happy with how I played while I was here,” Leier admitted. “I did not have the best start when I was with Lehigh and I thought the second half of my season was individually where I want to be. I was pretty happy with it.”
“It was sweet, because obviously it was a new experience and a new challenge to face. I am happy I went through it.”
As for his summer plans, Leier is looking to decompress a bit then get back to the fundamentals of the game that made him such an effective player in the first place. He is also looking forward to spending time with family.
“I’ll take a couple weeks here to regroup a little bit and think some stuff over,” said Leier. “But I always focus on skating, I think that’s a big part of my game is just being tenacious. I try to be one of the fastest and quickest guys on the ice, so I always work on that."
“During the summer I live in Saskatoon and my house is five blocks from my parents’ house, so it’s perfect.”