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Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Lawrence Pilut

May 20, 2019, 3:19 PM ET [447 Comments]
Michael Pachla
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Defenseman--Lawrence Pilut
DOB: December 30, 1995 (age, 23)
Draft: Undrafted Free Agent
How acquired: Signed by Buffalo
Last contract signed: May 15, 2018; 2yr./$2.7 million ($832,500 base salary)
Final year of contract: 2019-20

2018-19 Stats: 33 games | 1 goal | 5 assists | 6 points | -8 | 17:25 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats: 33 games | 1 goal | 5 assists | 6 points | -8 | 17:25 ATOI

What we wrote preseason: The 22 yr. old Swedish defenseman has been making some waves at camp and has caught the eye of Housley. "I think it's just his calmness and poise with the puck," Housley told the media at practice the other day. "He attacks the game the right way. He gets into the play, he'll make those moves on the blue line. It shows the confidence he has in his abilities."

Pilut has never seen a play he wasn't ready to jump into which is the way Housley played the game. However, it looks as if Pilut may have a little more going for him on the defensive side of the equation.

The injury to Bogosian is a huge opportunity for one of the remaining defensemen still with the club to land a spot and Pilut may have had the best camp thus far amongst a group that includes Nathan Beaulieu, Brendan Guhle and Brandon Hickey.

What we wrote mid-season: I think I speak for nearly every Sabres fan when I say very politely to coach Chris Taylor and his Rochester Americans, "You can't have Pilut back." Although the 22 yr. old rookie has only played eight games for Buffalo, he sure looks like he belongs. Pilut's skating is very smooth while his poise, vision and stickwork seem to get him out of almost any defensive zone situation. The 22 yr. old rookie was called up by Buffalo on November 27 and left Rochester with 22 points (3+19) and a plus-19 rating in 16 games with 10 of those points coming on the powerplay. By no means has Pilut been perfect with the Sabres, nor has he really injected offense into his game to this point, but the way he's been able to adapt to the speed of the NHL game as a rookie has been impressive. Based upon the small sample size thus far, this looks to be a very, very good free agent signing by Botterill and the Sabres.

Impressions on his play this year: Pilut certainly showed poise and puck-moving ability early on and certainly looked as if he belonged on the roster. However, as it is with most young players, especially defensemen, the opposition eventually figures it out. Once they had enough tape on Pilut they took away some of his strengths like jumping up ice and pinching in while also laying the body hard on him in the defensive zone.

Pilut played his first NHL game on his second recall November 30 and proceeded to play very well although he did suffer an injury mid-December which may or may not have hindered his development with Buffalo. From that first game until January 18, Pilut played in 16 games for the Sabres, had a goal and four assists and was a plus-4 while averaging ice-time in the high-teens. After that he struggled immensely with only one assist in 13 games and a plus/minus rating that plummeted to his season-ending minus-8.

Those struggles continued in Rochester after he was sent back down, with only a brief stint of good play. The Amerks were swept in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs and Pilut was injured in that final game. Come to find out that he underwent shoulder surgery and will be out five to six months. What once was an extremely strong start to an NHL career turned south and he'll need to rehab physically and mentally before moving forward with his game.

Questions moving forward: What did that last portion of the season do to his psyche? How long will it take him to get up to speed next season following is injury and recovery time? Can he put most of the 2019 portion of his hockey season away? How will he adapt to the opposition and how they're playing against him? Will he start in Rochester, or if Buffalo makes some moves on the blueline, will the Sabres need him? Would it be best for him to spend his 2019-20 campaign in Rochester getting a better feel for the pro game?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com.
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