Oct 26, 2022

By Suzie Cool


When the COVID-19 pandemic halted the world as we knew it over two and a half years ago, it changed the trajectory for a lot of people. Especially in the world of professional sports.


It was March 11, 2020, and the Rochester Americans had just fell to the Binghamton Devils (now the Utica Comets) 5-2 at the Blue Cross Arena, but it was after the game when the chaos truly ensued.


In the days that followed, each of the respective leagues would cancel the remainder of their seasons one by one, forcing players to return home to nothing but uncertainty and questions.


One of those players being Amerks defenseman Lawrence Pilut, who quickly went from being a top defensive prospect for the Buffalo Sabres to an unrestricted free agent in just a few shorts months’ time and was now tasked with a making a difficult decision as to where he was taking his career.


He ultimately decided on signing a two-year deal in the Kontinental Hockey League in June, a move at the time Pilut felt was necessary for his continued development and beneficial for his career.


“I think just for my career and for me to keep developing as a player and a person,” stated Pilut when asked why he made the decision to play overseas the last two seasons.


Pilut spent the last two campaigns with Traktor Chelyabinsk, scoring 39 points on seven goals and 32 assists in 97 contests while also producing 10 points (1+9) in 20 postseason contests. During Pilut’s final campaign with Chelyabinsk, the defenseman tallied 11 assists, which finished third among the club’s blueliners, in 40 regular-season games.


These two seasons, albeit just a short stint, helped shape Pilut for his future in professional hockey and to immerse himself in a leadership role, something the blueliner might’ve been a little young for in his first two seasons in North America.


“I think it was a good, good thing for me to go there and keep playing hockey and playing an important role for that team. Being one of the leaders in the room and on the ice there, it was a big thing for me, and I felt that I grew a lot from it both off the ice and on the ice. I felt like it made my game more consistent, and it taught me a lot in life, too.”


Not only did Pilut find himself in a leadership role while in the KHL, but he also became a voice in the locker room and someone that the team could heavily depend on.


“Just being a voice all over, you know? Being a voice in the locker room and being one of the guys you can depend on.”


Pilut originally signed a two-year, entry-level NHL deal as an undrafted free agent with the Sabres upon his first stint with the organization from 2018 to 2020. From then on, the defenseman spent the next two seasons splitting time between the Sabres and Amerks rosters during both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 campaigns.


“I think a lot has changed, honestly,” explained Pilut when asked what the biggest difference was when returning to the Sabres this fall. “I mean, the coaching staff, management, everything has been awesome so far. I think just the way they’ve handled everything and how they keep pushing everybody to be their best every day. There’s just like this positivity all around here, the vibes coming in, and I think it's changed a lot since I was here last time.”


In 37 games with the Amerks in 2019-20, Pilut registered six goals and 17 assists for 23 points while also appearing in 13 games with the Sabres before the COVID-19 pandemic took over. To boot, Pilut earned his second straight North All-Star nomination, while also tallying his 100th pro assist over the season and appearing in his 300th pro game.


During the 2018-19 campaign, Pilut’s first in North America, he appeared in 33 games with the Sabres, registering six points on one goal and five assists and making his NHL debut in Buffalo’s 3-2 overtime loss against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 20 of that year. With the Amerks, Pilut totaled 26 points on four goals and 22 assists and named to the North Division All-Star roster for the 2019 Lexus All-Star Classic.


While Pilut made a great impression during his first stint in North America with two AHL All-Star nods, an NHL debut and ample time between both rosters, the defensemen says he’s even more comfortable now that he knows what to expect in his second go-around here.


“Just being more comfortable,” said Pilut when asked what the biggest difference in his game was now compared to his first stint with the Amerks and Sabres. “With two years over there, it gives you a little more routine. I'm a little older coming back here now and I know what it's all about and everything. So, you kind of know a little bit more coming back here the second time around, and you've learned a lot from the last time.”


Already in the 2022-23 campaign, Pilut has established himself as a top blueliner in Rochester, appearing in three games with the Amerks and totaling two assists for two points. Pilut’s play in those three games already earned him his first recall of the season on Oct. 21, joining the Sabres for their four-game western road swing and making his season debut Tuesday in Seattle against the Kraken.


Pilut is no stranger to the NHL. Prior to his time in the KHL, he appeared in 46 games with Buffalo, and now that he knows what’s expected from his game, this stint with the organization is going to be much different.


PIlut is hoping for his consistency and attention to detail will pay off. In return, the blueliner is looking for a full-time roster spot with the Sabres, while continuing to be a voice for the younger players that are ready to take that next step alongside him.


“Just being consistent day in and day out, like working on those small details in practice. Being a little quicker, being very assertive out there and kind of showing the way out there for the guys and to keep pushing each other.”


Pilut then finished with, “We got a lot of young guys down here and I try to help them out as much as possible to try and take it in and take the next step for them too. For me, personally, just the consistency in what I'm going is something to keep working on.”

Back to All