Rosen, Kulich return to Amerks with new energy

Photo: Micheline V

📝 by Patrick Williams

It’s a good thing that Isak Rosen is only 19 years old.

Rest and recovery come much more easily at that age.

The Rochester Americans forward has finally been able to catch his breath following a demanding run of seven games in 11 nights while representing Sweden at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, which ended last Thursday.

Over the weekend, the Amerks opted to sit out Rosen and teammate Jiri Kulich, who won a silver medal with Czechia at the tournament. But head coach Seth Appert has indicated that the duo will be back in his lineup tonight when the Amerks host the Laval Rocket. The contest opens a relatively light week in Rochester, with a Saturday date with Toronto as the only other game on the club’s upcoming agenda.

Rosen came back to Rochester following overtime losses in both the semifinals (2-1 vs. Czechia) and the bronze-medal game, an 8-7 defeat to the United States. The 14th overall pick in the 2021 National Hockey League Draft by the parent Buffalo Sabres, Rosen picked up six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games as Sweden finished fourth in the tournament.

“[It was] very fun to represent your country,” Rosen said, “and I think we did pretty good. Tough outcome for us in the semifinals and the bronze game, but I guess that’s hockey.”

Kulich, 18, went to the Sabres as the 28th pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and was selected for the tournament all-star team at forward after finishing sixth in tournament scoring with nine points (seven goals, two assists). Before leaving for the World Juniors, Kulich had started to heat up for Rochester, with four goals in his last eight outings.

Rosen and Kulich went head-t0-head in the group stage, a 3-2 overtime win for the Swedes on Dec. 29, before their semifinal meeting on Jan. 4.

“Very fun,” Rosen said of the experience facing his Rochester teammate. “He’s a good friend to me here, and it was really fun to play him two times and see the guy always smiling on the ice.”

For Rosen, who has 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 25 games with the Amerks this season, the return to the AHL will be an opportunity to further his development with a strong second half as the club battles to reach the Calder Cup Playoffs. Rochester is currently third in the North Division at 38 points (18-11-1-1) and has won seven of its past nine games.

Appert welcomed the return of Rosen and Kulich to practice Monday, as the Amerks were back on the ice following a 4-3 win at Syracuse on Saturday.

Jiri Kulich won a silver medal with Czechia at the 2023 World Juniors. (Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

“Rosen and Kulich were great,” Appert said. “It was just great to have them back. They’re talented. They’re young. They have energy. They bring a lot to practice.

“We missed them. I missed them. They’re fun to coach.”

Certainly the Amerks could have benefited from having the two NHL first-round picks in their lineup over the weekend. But Appert took a long-term view on what was best for both players.

“It was really beneficial for them [to rest],” Appert explained. “I think playing them just would have been hard. It would have been hard physically and mentally. So, get them rested and fully charged so they can be ready for [Laval].”

Rosen felt that two months of AHL play had prepared him well for the World Juniors, improving both his defensive and physical play. He also enjoyed the chance to take on a different type of challenge in what is always a short, frantic tournament.

“It’s a boost,” Rosen said. “It’s a long season here. Play and then come back with new energy and more confidence.”

Rosen and Kulich impressed Appert with their work in their return to practice. Now the Buffalo organization has a chance to see what both Rosen and Kulich brought back with them from competing with and against the top U-20 talent in the game.

“I think we’ll see that a little bit more in the games to see if they can draw the confidence and the swagger of how successful they were.”