Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O’Reilly excels in the circle

Just like everyone else on the Buffalo Sabres, Ryan O’Reilly has had his struggles this season, but one place where he’s flourished is in face-offs.

The Buffalo Sabres currently have about four leaders on the club that contribute on a regular basis. Forward Ryan O’Reilly has certainly been one of those top performers.

After arriving from the Colorado Avalanche, O’Reilly instantly found a form of leadership among his teammates. Before the 2017/18 campaign started, Buffalo named O’Reilly one of the four alternates that the Sabres would carry this season. TIP’s own Paul Taylor noted his belief that O’Reilly should be the captain of the Swords.

To combine with O’Reilly’s outstanding leadership qualities is his on-ice performances.

Over the course of two years in Buffalo, the center has amassed 41 goals and 74 assists for 115 points. O’Reilly is already on pace for another 20-goal season, with seven goals and nine assists in 27 games.

What’s even more captivating from the 26-year-old, is his brilliance in the face-off circle.

O’Reilly is currently second in the NHL in the circle with a 61 percent face-off percentage, only a half a percent behind Antoine Vermette. Phil Housley obviously trusts his alternate captain in the dot. The former member of the Avalanche averages near 25 face-offs per game, which is miles above the league average.

It gets even more interesting when splitting O’Reilly’s numbers in the circle. He’s very strong in the offensive zone with a 62 percent win average, which blows away the NHL average of near 50 percent.

O’Reilly notches the same percentage on the man advantage, which again, is way above the league average in that category. The Ontario native still remains near the league average when using his opposite hand, with a near 60 percent rate.

What makes O’Reilly so successful in the circle?

When watching him take a face-off, you’ll notice that as soon as the puck drops, O’Reilly quickly shifts his stick in a complete 90-degree angle. In most cases, this enables him to cover the puck and quickly move it back to his teammates.

The former Lady Byng winner has unreal velocity when getting his stick down. When he’s in his own zone, NHL rules allow him to put his stick down first. The second the puck leaves the referee’s hand is the moment when O’Reilly starts to move forward and scramble for the puck.

There’s absolutely no doubt O’Reilly is the best in the circle on the Buffalo Sabres. The former World Cup winner with Team Canada is making his case for the best in the NHL as well. O’Reilly has brought his complete package to the Sabres; something fans could only wish would happen with the rest of the team.

Does O’Reilly have a case for being the best player on the Buffalo Sabres? Should he be the captain? Let us know in the comments below.