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Impressions of, and questions concerning--C, Ryan O'Reilly

April 14, 2018, 11:24 AM ET [437 Comments]
Michael Pachla
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Center--Ryan O'Reilly
DOB: February 7, 1991 (age, 27)
Draft: 2009, 2nd round (33rd-overall,) COL
How acquired: Trade with Colorado at the NHL Entry Draft, June 26, 2015
Last contract signed: 2015--7yr./$52.5M
Final year of contract: 2022-23

2017-18- Stats: 81 games played | 24 goals | 37 assists | 61 points | -23 | ATOI 20:49 min.
Buffalo Career Stats: 224 games | 65 goals | 111 assists | 176 points | -40


What we wrote preseason: "O'Reilly is the complete package who's all-around game will continue to see him garner the most minutes amongst the forward group. In 2015-16 he helped anchor the league's ninth-best penalty kill for Buffalo and last year he was a fixture for the Sabres on the league's top powerplay. Although he's not Eichel when it comes to a franchise-changing skill-level, O'Reilly has shown plenty of his own skill and when paired with his determination, we see the results.

"O'Reilly's the type of two-way player you want and need, one that can be relied upon no matter what the score or what the situation. The only questions heading into the 2016-17 season is whether or not O'Reilly will take over the captaincy and what his reaction might be should Eichel wear the 'C'.


What we wrote mid-season: "The 26 yr. old center is another one who will be the first to admit that he needs to be better, as he's told us that time and time again. He sounded sincere the first 50 or so times he said that but it's gotten to the point where his words just seem empty anymore. O'Reilly is notorious for rather long goal droughts and this year is no exception. However, as the team's top two-way center, he's expected to pick up his defensive play when his offense grows cold. Sure, he takes every key faceoff and has most of his zone starts in the d-zone, but a team-worst minus-16 rating? He needs to be better."


Impressions on his play this year: A terrible start to the season didn't help him or the team very much. At the end of season presser he confessed that he "lost his love for the game" at times and one could bet that much of that occurred during those first three months where he and the team got beat down. Then again, as one of the vets in a leadership role on the Sabres, like he said right from the get-go of that interview, he needs to be "mentally tougher," especially in those tough situations.

O'Reilly is respected by the players as one of the hardest to play against and has some real solid traits, most notably his faceoff acumen which was shoved down our throats as some sort of positive in a lost season. Coach Phil Housley used him in every situation once again and misused him by having him take faceoffs for other lines before heading to the bench. Despite him being top-10 in ATOI for NHL forwards, O'Reilly had only two penalty minutes and that has him looked upon as a possible Lady Byng candidate for "sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

The captaincy of the Buffalo Sabres looks to be gone for him as this is Jack Eichel's team. And it should be. How many times have we heard that this team lacked mental toughness and intestinal fortitude these past few years? Many, and he was a part of that veteran leadership group. His game is well respected throughout the league, as it should be, and I think most fans in Buffalo respect what he brings to the ice. Just not as the leader for this young, and soon to be younger, group of players moving forward.


Questions moving forward: Where will he end up next season? Should he stay in Buffalo, can he accept a secondary leadership role to Eichel? Does he have the intestinal fortitude to be a part of the solution which may include some very rough times early next season in Buffalo? Will he be able to accept the things he cannot change with the team and the courage to change things he can, mostly within himself? Does he possess the wisdom to know the difference and the maturity to allow it to be as such?


contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com)
O'Reilly's locker cleanout interview via sabres.com:


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