Jacob Bryson has shown coaches he can handle the NHL

Dylan Cozens was playing on a line with Jack Eichel during Friday's practice

(WGR 550) – Jacob Bryson is not your typical rookie in the NHL. The 23-year-old defenseman spent three years at Providence College before playing one full year with the Rochester Americans.

With injuries to Jake McCabe and Will Borgen, Bryson got called up and has been given a chance to play. In his first four NHL games, Bryson has averaged almost 18 minutes of ice-time. Thursday night against the New York Islanders on Long Island, he played a whopping 24:10.

Despite being small, Bryson is not afraid to go to battle against players much bigger than him and win that battle.

“I am a smaller guy, so I’ve worked around that, but I know being a smaller guy I have to be able to compete with those guys if I want to play in the NHL, so I’ve had that mindset," Bryson said following Friday's practice in Uniondale. "I can knock guys off the puck because it’s a low center of gravity, and I’ve been working on my strength for four or five years. That’s what I do every summer, try to get stronger.”

Ralph Krueger has been very impressed with Bryson. He said he plays a very calm game.

“His poise when pressure is coming at him, when he has the puck; whether it’s on retrievals, when he’s trying to solve pressure or when he’s at the blue line and he’s getting closed in on extremely quickly, he’s so calm and cool," Krueger said after Friday's practice. "He has his head up all the time and makes the right decision.

“We’re extremely pleased with his puck management, but the same thing is going on without the puck. He’s able to read his gaps and take those gaps really quickly, and he always falls back to the good ice and works from there without any sort of panic.”

Krueger said despite feeling the effects of COVID-19 on Thursday, Rasmus Ristolainen felt much better at practice on Friday. Krueger is optimistic Ristolainen will play on Saturday in Long Island.

Krueger confirmed that Dylan Cozens was on Jack Eichel’s right wing on Friday. Cozens spent a little time on Eichel’s wing during the third period Thursday night. Krueger said Cozens earned the chance to play with Eichel.

“Dylan is just so smart. It’s amazing how he’s embraced the habits that we have to have going up our lineup. He’s so responsible when we don’t have possession, because how strong he plays defensively we get the puck back quicker.

“He’s also able to read off linemates and make them better. [It's] quite exciting to see, and he quite quickly is becoming an important centerpiece of what we want to build on.”

The Sabres play the Islanders on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST. Join Brian Koziol for pregame coverage on WGR at noon, when he’ll be joined by Krueger, Bryson and Rasmus Dahlin.