It was August 9, 2011 when the Sabres announced they had signed two players to one-year contracts: Michael Ryan and Paul Szczechura. Ryan had previously played in the Buffalo organization, but many fans – including myself – were left wondering… who the heck is this Szczechura guy? Is he any good? How exactly do you say his last name?
In his first season with the Sabres organization, Paul Szczechura has done a great job at making a good name for himself. The Brantford native, who wears #38 for the Amerks, has tallied – you guessed it – 38 points this season.
Seventeen goals and 21 assists in 47 games this season with the Amerks is pretty impressive. “Chewy,” as he’s been dubbed, also saw some NHL action this year. In nine games with the Sabres, he had a goal and three assists and was eventually playing on the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.
So… how did we get here?
The 26-year-old was born November 30,1985 and grew up playing minor hockey in Brantford (yes, the home of Gretzky.) In 2001, he was drafted in the OHL Priority Selection by the Barrie Colts, but instead chose to pursue a college degree. Szczechura went on to play four solid years at Western Michigan University in the CCHA.
Undrafted, he signed with the Iowa Stars and played his first 14 AHL games in the 2006-2007 season. Szczechura also played 29 games with Iowa the next season, before signing an NHL contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 24, 2008 and playing for the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL.
“Chewy” made his NHL debut on December 2 of that year, scoring his first NHL goal just six days later. Over two seasons, he played a total of 83 games with the Lightning and 68 games with the Admirals. For the 2010-11 season, he spent 79 games with Norfolk and saw no NHL action, scoring 21 goals and 30 assists for a career high fifty-one points.
Then, that fateful day of August 9 came, and Szczechura became a member of the Buffalo Sabres organization.
He suited up for the first time in the red, white and blue in a November 4 win over Binghamton, thanks to a knee injury sustained during the prior season’s playoffs with Norfolk. Szczechura picked up his first point with Rochester that game, tallying an assist on a Zack Kassian goal.
Looking at his stats from this season so far, it’s pretty clear that Szczechura is a star. His plus-14 rating is tied for first on the Amerks, while his 17 goals and 21 assists are both tied for second in their respective categories.
There’s no telling what the off-season will bring for the young forward, as his contract with the Sabres expires. However, if his impressive numbers are any clue, Buffalo will re-sign him and Szczechura could potentially earn a spot on the NHL squad next season.
For now, however, he’ll just keep scoring for Rochester as they enter the final stretch of the AHL regular season, which caps off on April 14.