Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Impressions of and questions concerning--Ryan O'Reilly

Reprinted with permission from

Center--Ryan O'Reilly
DOB:  February 7, 1991 (age, 25)
Draft:  2009, 33rd overall
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   

2015-16 Stats:  71 games, 21 goals, 39 assists, 60 points, -16

What we wrote preseason:  A disappointing season for the Colorado Avalanche and O'Reilly's contract status "could probably be looked at as more of a blessing that a young player with his skill-level and experience would be on the market." Buffalo GM said of O'Reilly at the time of the trade, "There's nothing I don't like about him. And I think the consensus from a lot of players that I've spoken to that have played with him and been around him was he seems to be 'the guy.'"

What we wrote mid-season:  O'Reilly "has been a force and has been instrumental in helping linemate Sam Reinhart adapt and succeed. Top player on the Sabres, bar-none, one of the top two-way players in the league as well. Continues to impress on the ice and hates to lose which will serve this young team well moving forward."

Impressions on his play this year:  O'Reilly was all that and a bag of chips until the weight of carrying this very young Sabres team took it's toll mid-way through the season. He went on a 24-game goal-less streak from January 10 to March 26 with an 11-game stint on injured reserve within that span. Despite the drought, he racked up assists during that time (18) and he finished the season strong with four goals and three assists in the final six games. His 60 points lead the team.

But O'Reilly isn't just about points. He was brought in for a number of reasons which included bearing the weight of top-line center duties to alleviate pressure on rookie centers Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, who ended up on O'Reilly's wing for a good chunk of the season. He also brought a tireless work-ethic, a hate-to-lose attitude and unquestioned leadership both on and off the ice especially in helping willing young players like Reinhart hone their craft after practice. O'Reilly is all-hockey, all-the-time and his dedication warrants an appropriate, well-deserved "C" on his sweater when current captain Brian Gionta is ready to pass it on.

Questions moving forward:  What you see is what you get with O'Reilly. He is "the man" right now so there aren't too many questions with him as he's smack-dab in his prime. However, has he plateaued at the 20+ goal, 35-40 assist mark? Or does he have a bit more upside to hit that 70 points? Also, being the ultra-competitive player he is, for all intents and purposes, this will eventually be Eichel's team, how would a possible captaincy for Eichel affect O'Reilly down the road? If at all?

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