Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Buffalo Sabres forward Brian Flynn is the type of player who goes about his business on the ice with little fanfare. Last season was his first full season with the Sabres and despite his ability to score, he spent a lot of time in a checking role and on the penalty kill.
It was a messed up season last year in Buffalo, and many things were out of whack, but Flynn just trudged through and did what was asked of him. The numbers weren't staggering, in fact they were rather pedestrian--six goals and seven assists in 79 games--but throughout the season you'd often hear his name mentioned as one of the better players on the ice. And many times you'd also hear how well he was progressing.
Flynn took the long road to the NHL. After two years of prep school hockey, he spent a year in junior with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs because he didn't feel he was ready for college hockey.
He would follow that one-year stint in junior with four full seasons on the Maine Black Bears of Hockey East. By the time he signed his pro contract with the Buffalo Sabres, he was three months shy of his 24th birthday.
Flynn's road to the NHL may have been long and somewhat painstaking, but was a methodical one that allowed him to grow and mature with each step. With the Junior Monarchs it was a filling out his frame to play college hockey. With the Black Bears it was about using his speed and developing his scoring touch. And by the time he hit the ice with the Rochester Americans for the 2012-13 season, it was about applying his skills at the professional level against men.
In 45 games with the Amerks he scored 16 goals which was tied for second on the team. Both Mark Mancari who lead the team with 22 goals and Nick Tarnasky who also had 16 played more than 70 games that season. When the coaching change hit Buffalo in February of 2013, Flynn got his opportunity with the big club soon thereafter.
He had a solid 26-game introduction to the NHL (6g, 5a) but unless you're an Alex Ovechkin or Patrick Kane, relying on offense (or potential offense) is not enough. Flynn needed to work at developing his two-way game. Which he did. At the end of the 2013 season Flynn was quoted as saying, "I have the belief that I can play here. This is where I belong. I know how hard you have to work to stay up here. It took a long time, a lot of hard work, a lot of hours to get here. This is where I really want to play. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to stay here."
So when he found himself in a checking role and on the top penalty-kill unit after yet another coaching change, it was just another step for him in his hockey development.
Flynn is to the point now where he knows he can play and contribute at the NHL-level and knows what needs to be done. Throughout his short pro-career thus far he's shown the adaptability to play either wing or center and he should have plenty of confidence heading into the 2013-14 season.
There is a spot for Flynn on the big club and there's no reason to think that he won't continue to grow as a player. And for the youngins who've been drafted as well as the free agents in camp, they should take note of the character and professionalism Flynn embodies. He "did it the old-fashioned way, he earned it."
Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster:
LW, Matt Moulson/C, Tyler Ennis/RW, Drew Stafford
Cody Hodgson/Zemgus Girgensons/Brian Gionta
Brian Flynn/Marcus Foligno/--
LHD, Josh Gorges/RHD, Tyler Myers
Andre Benoit/Rasmus Ristolainen