The Buffalo Sabres have had an underwhelming season, another campaign where it’s almost impossible they’ll make the playoffs and will finish roughly where they were last year.
So has anything changed? Here’s a look at the individual performances of the Buffalo Sabres sophomores compared from the 2015/16 season to 2016/17.
Jack Eichel has the hopes of the entire team pinned on him. In his rookie year, he missed just one game, getting 24 goals and 32 assists for 56 points and finishing fourth in Calder voting for Rookie of the Year.
After missing the first 21 games with an ankle sprain to start 2016/17, the 2015 second-overall draft pick has slowly gotten to an elite level as of right now, at almost a point-per-game with 50 points in 52 appearances*. Equally impressive is that the centreman is producing as a dual-threat, with 21 goals and 29 assists.
Despite the team’s fortunes not reflecting his performance. Eichel has improved in almost every way. This includes an increase in his Corsi rating, from a 53.9 to a 54.2 percent.
More from Tip of the Tower
- Cam Phillips making his mark on Toronto Argonauts offence
- Toronto Argonauts: 4 storylines ahead of matchup against Redblacks
- Federico Bernardeschi ready for new challenge with Toronto FC
- Toronto Argonauts overcome Roughriders in entertaining Touchdown Atlantic
- Buffalo Bills: Von Miller drawing inspiration from Bruce Smith
The one criticism may be his defensive game. His zone starts are heavily slanted to the offensive zone at 62.5 percent, while his faceoffs percentage is at 39.
Meanwhile, Sam Reinhart has already scored more in 2016/17 than he did in his rookie season. The second overall pick in 2014 has played 71 games, scoring 16 goals and dishing out 27 assists for 43 points.
In his rookie campaign, Reinhart was more of a scoring threat, with 23 goals in 79 games. However, he has also added 19 assists for 42 overall points.
The difference in goals may be alarming at first, but after spending a bulk of the year either playing on a wing with Eichel or centering his own line, the B.C native will be a pass-first player. This is confirmed by his draft-year-stats in junior, where Reinhart got 69 assists in 60 games for the Kootenay Ice Dogs.
Reinhart is also a disciplined player, only taking eight penalties minutes in each season with the Sabres. His offensive zone time is more even than Eichel’s at 53.2 percent, while his faceoff percentage is only marginally better at 40.9 percent. (More time in the defensive zone may be the cause for a lower Corsi at 49.2 percent.)
When judging Reinhart’s performance this year, it is important to note he has played various roles. With injuries to both Ryan O’Reily and Eichel, coach Dan Bylsma has had him centering the top line, as well as the checking line and playing wing with both O’Reilly and Eichel.
Despite the poor season, in which the Sabres seem to be stuck in a rut, there has been an improvement for their two top youngsters. Eichel will need to bring a more rounded game and Reinhart may benefit from a consistent role, but only time will tell if they can impact the team’s fortunes.
*Please note that all statistics in this article are up to date, as of Monday, March 20, 2017.