Buffalo Sabres: An Eventful Few Weeks for Ryan O’Reilly

Jan 16, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly (90) brings the puck up the ice during the second period against the Washington Capitals at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 16, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly (90) brings the puck up the ice during the second period against the Washington Capitals at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

Just like last year, Buffalo Sabres’ center Ryan O’Reilly had an eventful summer, although this time it was for the right reasons.

When Ryan O’Reilly was first traded to the Buffalo Sabres last June, fans were excited to find out what kind of impact he would have. They didn’t have to wait long for this to happen, albeit not in the manner they were expecting.

We won’t go over all the details again, especially as O’Reilly was eventually acquitted of impaired driving charges. Regardless, the Sabres’ franchise is thankful he has had an eventful summer of the more positive variety this time around.

Called up as a late injury replacement for Team Canada, the Clinton, Ontario native took on the role of fourth line center and as one of the penalty killers. And even though he didn’t score any points in six appearances, he still played his part in helping his country win the World Cup of Hockey.

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O’Reilly spoke to Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News and the rest of the media about the experience, earlier this week: “It was a great tournament, some of the fastest hockey I’ve ever played.

“And the team we had, some of the guys I’d played before but a lot of guys I hadn’t. To see the depth of Canada, the skills these guys play with and every little thing they do is just amazing.”

Now, the 2009 second round draft pick is focused on helping the Sabres returning to playoff contention, and looking to use his recent experience as motivation: “I’ve got a little more responsibility and I’m excited with that.

“There are lessons you take. To get a taste of what it’s like to win a championship is a great feeling and something we want to have soon in this room.”

O’Reilly played a significant role in his first season in Buffalo, leading the way in assists and overall points. Certainly, he will be expected to have a similar impact again in the upcoming campaign.

To get an idea of how much the return of the 25-year old means to the organization, listen to Sabres’ coach Dan Bylsma. Speaking to Harrington and the media, he said: “Our team got smarter, it got better, it got harder working.

“Coaches got better today too. When Ryan comes back, he’s that type of player.”

Interestingly though, Bylsma would still like to rely less on a player who led the NHL in average ice time last season: “I played him too much.

Buffalo Sabres
Sep 29, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team Canada centre Ryan O’Reilly (90) hoists the World Cup of Hockey championship trophy after game two of the World Cup of Hockey final against Team Europe at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

“I don’t like saying that, but I played him too much and I’d like to count on him less. The strength of our team could come from more areas and count on Ryan to do a little less.”

After last summer’s drama, there were understandable questions about O’Reilly’s maturity. However, he seems to have learned from what happened and sounds a lot more responsible these days.

O’Reilly said: “Consistency is the big thing. I had solid numbers but there were areas where I slumped or didn’t perform the way I want to. As a leadership role being more comfortable with everyone, I have to be more vocal, grow that way and be a better leader.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Sabres if there wasn’t some anxiety surrounding the former Colorado Avalanche player. In his first action back with the team on Wednesday night, he didn’t return after the first period.

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It turns out that O’Reilly suffered a lower body injury, after tweaking something in a muscle. However, before anyone panics too much, Bylsma said he was only held out for the rest of the game as a precautionary measure.

Overall, this makes perfect sense, especially during the preseason. However, once the real action begins, you can expect the Sabres’ coach to lean heavily on the 2016 All-Star again, no matter how he would theoretically prefer to use him less.

Bylsma said: “If we don’t have anyone to win a draw, I’m putting out Ryan O’Reilly to win the draw and I don’t care if he’s tired or not. He’s going out there to win the draw.”

Next: Anders Nilsson ready to step up in goal

What kind of season are you predicting from O’Reilly? Further, do you expect the Sabres to challenge for a playoff spot? Let us know in the comments section below.