Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O’Reilly Ready to Take on Leadership Role


Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O’Reilly Ready to Take on Leadership Role

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After events over the weekend, it’s fair to say Buffalo Sabres fans are optimistic about the future of the franchise. This positive vibe has also infiltrated the players, including one of their newest acquisitions – Ryan O’Reilly.

In a somewhat surprising move, the center – along with Jamie McGinn – arrived from Colorado, in exchange for Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, prospect J.T. Compher and the 32nd pick in this year’s draft. However, unlike the Robin Lehner deal, the majority of media analysts and fans alike believe the O’Reilly trade was good business by the Sabres.

For his part, the 2009 33rd overall draft pick is both happy and relieved by the move to Buffalo. As he told John Vogl of The Buffalo News: “There were a lot of rumors floating around.

“This was one of the teams I felt like I possibly was going to end up in, and it made the trade a little bit easier. I’m definitely glad I ended up here.”

Feb 22, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Tyler Ennis (63) during the game against the Nashville Predators at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most encouraging things about O’Reilly, is his desire to become a leader in Buffalo, both on and off the ice: “I’ve always wanted to be a big piece like that, have that leadership role and be seen as that by the management.

“With Colorado I wasn’t really looked at as much of a leader as I think I have now with the Sabres. I’m going to have to be a more vocal guy and be more of that off-ice leader and on-ice as well – It’s a new challenge.”

If part of being a leader is being positive and showing belief in your teammates, the Clinton, Ontario native already sounds ready for the role: “It’s never going to be easy, but this is the group that I think we can turn it around and get back in the winning books.”

General Manager Tim Murray has already anointed O’Reilly as the Sabres number one center, and with good reason. Just last season, he led the NHL in takeaways (83) and was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy, after recording only one penalty minor.

Adding to the excitement for Sabres fans, the 2007 Jack Ferguson Award winner will likely line up between Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis (above right). O’Reilly is familiar with both players.

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Of Kane, he told Vogl: “He’s a guy that you give him a chance he’s going to bury it. He creates so much with his speed and his strength that he’s going to make any team more effective, more dangerous.”

In respect of Ennis, the two played together for Canada at the World Championships: “I really liked watching him play. He has great hockey sense.

“For the size of him, he made some huge hits over there. For a little guy doing that, it just shows the character and tenacity of him that he’d definitely be exciting to play with.”

It’s hard to believe that O’Reilly is only 24-years old, meaning he likely still has a long career ahead of him. In the respect, it is encouraging to hear he is open to remaining in Buffalo for the long haul.

He has one season remaining on a two-year $12 million contract, but is looking to signing a contract extension with the Sabres: “I’m excited to get that moving forward and get that behind me.”

Overall O’Reilly is just eager to start preparing for the new season: “Anyone can win on any given night, and with the additions that we’ve made over the last couple days, we’re going to be right in the mix of that.”