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Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--C, Ryan O'Reilly

September 5, 2017, 9:58 AM ET [231 Comments]
Michael Pachla
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Ryan O'Reilly
26 yrs. old
6'1" 210 lbs.
2009, 2nd round (33rd-overall, COL)
Acquired in a trade with Colorado, June 26, 2015

Career stats: 570 games | 131 goals | 230 assists | 351 points | -30

Those who watched O'Reilly's rise in Colorado to a top-six center found themselves enamored with his size, skill and two-way game. Although it had been only a handful of years since Buffalo had someone like that by the name of Chris Drury, for Sabres fans it seemed like an eternity. And when Murray pulled off the deal to acquire him from the Avalanche, in concert with the drafting of Jack Eichel in 2015, visions of a Drury/Daniel Briere one-two punch down the middle had Sabres fans pretty excited.

And we're still excited.

Murray sent a huge package to the Avalanche in the deal for O'Reilly (and forward Jamie McGinn,) but he also received a player that was just entering his prime and was considered one of the best two-way forwards in the game. Murray quickly signed O'Reilly to a seven-year contract extension that summer and once Eichel is signed long-term, the Sabres top-two center spots are locked in for years to come.

That was the idea. Although a hefty price was paid in both cases, O'Reilly with players, picks and prospects, and the fan base going through two years of "suffering" for the opportunity to draft Eichel second-overall, as we head into the 2017-18 season that duo will lead the team up-front.

O'Reilly's time in Buffalo got off to an inauspicious start when a July 2015 early morning incident at a Tim Horton's in Lucan, Ontario lead to charges against him. On the ice for that 2015-16 season, however, Sabres fans got to witness firsthand O'Reilly's game. He lead the team in scoring with 60 points (21+39) in 71 games and was on the ice in every situation while leading all Buffalo forwards in ice time. He had the fourth most faceoffs in the league and the third best faceoff percentage for those with 1700 draws or more. His after practice sessions became legendary, as they especially helped rookie Sam Reinhart adapt his skills to the pro game, and he was also named an NHL All-Star.

The only drawback to that first Sabres season was a 24-game goal drought that lasted from January 10 thru March 28. Even though he was goal-less, O'Reilly was still good for 18 assists during that span.

Last season he had no such drought and overall we saw a similar Ryan O'Reilly as he finished with 55 points (20+35) in 72 games while bringing his plus/minus down from a minus-16 to a minus-1, which was a team-best amongst regulars. Like the prior season, O'Reilly did miss over 10 games in 2016-17 but that was due to back spasms, which began with the World Cup of Hockey in September, and was due to an emergency appendectomy performed on Christmas Eve. With no World Cup and no appendix, hopefully we can see an 80-game season from him.

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 as shown here:

(Thank you, Samboke)

That goal ignited a four-goal outburst by Buffalo which eventually lead to a 6-3 victory for the Sabres.

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. Former coach Dan Bylsma relied heavily upon O'Reilly last season to the point where he wore him down and neither the player or the team benefitted greatly from that. O'Reilly's best season came in 2013-14 with the Avalanche when he scored 64 points (28+36) in 80 games while skating an average of 19:49/game which was by far the most amongst Colorado's forwards. It would seem as if around 20 minutes (which is still a lot) could be the ideal for him.

Buffalo has a new coach in Phil Housley and new systems moving forward and if he can place some faith in other players, O'Reilly's load will be slightly diminished and his ice-time managed better which it should lead to better results, barring injury.

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'. Odds are that in either case we'll still see O'Reilly playing his 200' game, we'll see him still be near the top of the Sabres in scoring, and he should still be running those post-practice sessions for those who wish to join him.

That's why Murray traded for him and that's why the Sabres are lucky to have him.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart

/ C, Ryan O'Reilly /

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen

G, Robin Lehner

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