Max Sasson has never led a team in scoring but he continues to climb the ranks and is now a top-six contributor in the AHL with the hopes of building his game up enough so that he can make the final jump of his career one day and become a full-time NHL player.
We saw the debut of Sasson last season when he signed out of the NCAA and jumped right into the Abbotsford Canucks lineup. He spent time in the stretch of the regular season as well as the playoffs on a line with AHL veteran Kyle Rau and now NHLer, Nils Höglander.
The trio was excellent together and Sasson adjusted well in his opening baker’s dozen games that he got into last season. Getting a taste of the AHL playoffs greatly assisted Sasson in the offseason. He quickly learned how much bigger and faster the competition is at the AHL level compared to the players he faced in his two years of NCAA hockey with Western Michigan University.
“I've always thought summer training was extremely crucial, but especially now, coming into the first year pro. I saw last year how physical and hard it was, especially in playoffs. Last season helped me know that I'm not playing against 18 and 19-year-olds anymore. There’s grown men out here that are super strong with the grown man strength.”
Sasson had to prepare a bit differently in the summer as he was used to playing 35 games or so in an NCAA season. At the time of writing this in February, Sasson is well over 40 games played when you include Young Stars, preseason and everything he’s done in the AHL as well.
The summer helped Sasson find another level in his game. He looked like a player who wasn’t out of place when he debuted in the AHL last year but this season has taken on the challenge of being a reliable top-six centre who can contribute at both ends of the ice.
Sasson was on a powerhouse NCAA line last season that was the third-highest scoring line in the NCAA. He’s learned a lot about his game in the short time as a pro, but patience has been a key lesson to learn after such a prolific season to close out his NCAA career.
“I think the most important lesson has been just taking what the game gives you,” said Sasson. “In college, I felt like every single time I stepped on the ice, I was going to create a chance or skate to the middle and that's not the reality in this league or the NHL. I’m just taking what is given and when I get space, I can use my instincts to create offence or make a play.”
He added that it can be frustrating at times because there are times when you will go through most of a game without any good looks and then there are some games where you get four good looks on your first two shifts. Patience has been key for Sasson and it’s helping him grow as a young player in the AHL.