Sep 18, 2023

By Warren Kosel


When Zach Metsa joined the Rochester Americans towards the end of the 2022-23 regular season, he didn’t expect to do much other than take advantage of being around the organization’s top prospects.


His immediate goal was to learn how to be a professional from guys like captain Michael Mersch, familiarize himself with the style of play and fully immerse himself in the organization’s culture.


But then an opportunity presented itself for Metsa, who after signing a two-year AHL contract with Rochester just weeks after captaining Quinnipiac University to its first-ever NCAA National Championship, was inserted into the lineup by Amerks head coach Seth Appert for Game 2 of the North Division Semifinals against Syracuse on April 22.


The 24-year-old’s performance was obviously an impressive one, considering he’d go on to play the next 13 games of Rochester’s unprecedented run to the Eastern Conference Finals, something the Amerks haven’t done since the 2000 postseason.


Metsa’s insertion into the Amerks lineup, especially a week following his arrival, and at such a pivotal time of the season, should come as no surprise, however. Overcoming the odds and proving his worth has been an unfortunate requisite for Metsa at all levels of his career, even at an early age.



Fast forward to the present and he’s still continuing to prove doubters wrong. Not only was he invited to attend and compete in the Prospects Challenge, an annual event designed to showcase the organization’s up and coming prospects, he was designated an assistant captain as a testament to his outstanding leadership qualities.


“He’s just a guy that everybody has said isn’t good enough and then he just keeps proving everyone wrong,” said Appert following Saturday’s 4-2 win over New Jersey, which improved the Sabres to 2-0 in this year’s tournament and 5-0 dating back to last year’s event. “He wasn’t supposed to be good enough to play AAA hockey, then he wasn’t supposed to be good enough to play in the USHL and then he wasn’t supposed to be good enough to play in college and then he was the eighth defenseman at Quinnipiac and then he becomes the captain of a national championship team. He wasn’t supposed to be good enough to earn an NHL contract and then come playoff time last season, we couldn’t take him out of the lineup.”

“I’ll never doubt that kid because his inner drive and belief in himself is higher than other people’s doubt in him.”

And based on his performance during Buffalo’s first two games against Montreal and New Jersey, he could potentially be someone the Sabres consider for an NHL contract down the road as a depth signing.


“He’s certainly trending in the right direction towards that,” Appert added.



Even though Metsa has had to defy the odds every step of the way, the designation to wearing the ‘A’ this weekend for the Sabres was admittedly a surprising one, but a humbling honor, nonetheless.


“It’s pretty cool, to be honest, I didn’t expect it. I was pretty shocked yesterday,” said Metsa after being named one of Buffalo’s alternate captains for the tournament. “I know it’s kind of like a summer prospect thing, but seeing a Buffalo jersey with my last name on it with an ‘A’, it’s definitely an honor.”


Coming off the success with Quinnipiac last season and being part of the Amerks’ playoff run paid dividends for his confidence as he enters his first full season.


“Confidence is everything,” said Metsa. “Getting those games, especially early on to kind of just prove to myself that I can play at that level, it meant the world. Going into the summer, it boosted my training, and I knew what I had to work on to be the best I can be at the American League level.”


Metsa comes to Rochester after completing a five-year collegiate career at Quinnipiac University (ECAC) from 2018-23. In 177 career games with the Bobcats, he registered 31 goals and 90 assists for 121 points while also totaling 360 shots on goal. 



As a graduate student during his final collegiate campaign, he recorded a career-high 28 assists and finished with 37 points for the second straight year while leading the Bobcats to their first NCAA National Championship and serving as team captain. 


Following the 2021-22 season, Metsa received the ECAC Hockey award as the Best Defensive Defenseman after leading the nation with an on-ice rating of +38. In addition, he topped all Bobcats with 27 assists and 37 points in 42 games.


The 5-foot-9, 180-pound blueliner earned the first Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey Michael Torello Award, which is presented annually to a Bobcat player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance and resiliency and the ability to overcome adversity. 


The Delafield, Wisconsin, native spent three seasons in the USHL, amassing 24 points on four goals and 20 assists in 64 career games between the Waterloo Blackhawks, Sioux Falls Stampede, Youngstown Phantoms and Central Illinois Flying Aces from 2014-2018. Additionally, he skated in 57 contests with the Merritt Centennials of the BCHL, posting 27 points (3+24) in 2016-17.


Although his path to pro hockey wasn’t a conventional one, Metsa’s determination allowed him to persevere and knock down barriers along the way.


“It’s kind of normal, at this point. My mindset is that you just have to keep proving yourself. Nothing is ever given. I don’t want anything to be given to me, I want to be able to earn it. I have confidence in my game and in my abilities, so wherever I go, whenever I step on the ice it’s just play my game and do the best I can and hopefully prove people wrong or at least make them think twice.”


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