How many hockey players can say that they’ve played in five different leagues over the past four years?
Okay, I don’t have an exact number on how many players can validly claim that – but Shawn Szydlowski is at least one player who can.
Since 2010-11, Szydlowski has suited up for six different teams in five leagues: Erie (OHL), Portland & Rochester (AHL), Gwinett & Fort Wayne (ECHL) and Fort Worth (CHL).
The Sabres prospect has been bounced around lately, but as a physical right winger, seems to be finding his feet with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL.
Szydlowski, now 23, was originally signed by the Sabres on April 8, 2011 as an unrestricted free agent.
He had just wrapped up his fourth OHL season with the Erie Otters, notching a career-high 41 goals and 37 assists for 78 points in 66 regular season games with Erie. He’d also averaged a point-per-game in the playoffs with Erie. As an undrafted overage player at the end of his OHL career, undoubtedly signing an NHL entry-level contract was a solid accomplishment.
He finished his OHL career sixth all-time in points scoring for the Otters franchise (197) and tied for fifth in goals (94).
After signing the deal with Buffalo, Szydlowski was signed to an amateur tryout by the Portland Pirates – who were, of course, affiliated with the Sabres at that time. The right winger played in two games with the Pirates at the end of the 2010-11 season, making his AHL debut with Portland on April 8 to face the Providence Bruins.
After appearing at the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament, Szydlowski began the next season with the Rochester Americans, the new affiliates of the Buffalo Sabres. He appeared to have found a spot in the Amerks lineup, appearing in 38 games and notching eight assists in that stretch.
But on Valentine’s Day of 2012, Szydlowski was assigned to the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators. He made his ECHL debut three days later in a game against the Chicago Express, notching an assist on a power-play goal by Brad Miller.
He stayed with Gwinnett for six games before being recalled by the Amerks on February 29. Back in Rochester once again, Szydlowski appeared in 15 more games but failed to make his mark on the scoresheet.
As the next season (2012-2013) rolled around, Szydlowski was unable to secure an AHL roster spot coming out of training camp. He was reassigned to the Texas Brahmas of the Central Hockey League (CHL) on October 12. Shortly after, the team was sold to a Fort Worth-based investment group and rebranded the Fort Worth Brahmas.
It was there that Szydlowski spent the majority of the 2012-2013 season, appearing in 45 games with the Brahmas. He scored 10 goals and 16 assists and had 41 penalty minutes in that stretch. He also scored six points (2-4) in seven playoff games with Fort Worth.
Szydlowski appeared in seven games with the Rochester Americans that season, putting up four penalty minutes but still not notching first AHL goal.
Once again as the current season rolled around, Szydlowski found himself just outside the AHL realm. He was assigned to the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL on October 23, 2013, and made his return to the ECHL soon after.
So far this season, he’s scored six goals and added eight assists, as well as accruing 36 penalty minutes, in 46 games with Fort Wayne. He’s had several fights this season, including a bout with Chris Lawrence on Kalamazoo on February 7.
Although he may struggle to find a place in the AHL and may never make it to the NHL level, Szydlowski is known as a strong, physical forward. He could make it back up to the Amerks in case of injuries or depletion via NHL call-ups, but only time will tell.
Szydlowski’s entry-level contract expires at the end of the season, so it’s uncertain at this point what his status will be moving forward in terms of whether or not the Sabres will re-sign him.