2015-16 Buffalo Sabres Grades: Nicolas Deslauriers
The Buffalo Sabres 2015-16 season featured plenty of new faces that helped the team finally dig their way out of the league basement. We're grading everybody who played at least 20 games for the Sabres this year, from Bogosian to Ullmark.
Contract: RFA ($637,500 cap hit this year)
Introduction: The defenseman-turned-forward found himself playing all over the lineup this season, from fourth line energy guy to top line winger thanks to a rash of injuries. While he didn't quite fit all of those roles as well as he could have, Deslauriers is very good at the things he does well - mainly, anything that has to do with hitting or punching. He also adds a tiny bit of offensive upside, and as long as he isn't asked to do too much, should have a place on this team next season.
Key Stat: Deslauriers led the Sabres this season with 206 hits, which is impressive considering he averages just over 10 minutes of ice time per game. For comparisons sake, Evander Kane finished third on the team with 171 hits and gets more than double the minutes given to Deslauriers. Add to that his considerable fighting ability (he was tied for the team lead with five major penalties) and D-Lo is the biggest physical presence on the team by a country mile.
Thumbs Up: In addition to his impressive physical prowess, Deslauriers set a new career-high in goals this season with six. The 25-year old also was the most careful with the puck, with only eight giveaways this year, best on the team among regular players. Of course, handling the puck is not what he does best, so those numbers should be low to begin with. Deslauriers is an energy guy who is very well-liked in the locker room, he sticks up for his teammates when called upon, and with his ball-of-fire style on the ice he makes for a perfect fourth-liner for any team.
Thumbs Down: Deslauriers hasn't quite shown the offensive improvement one would hope after a few seasons on the wing, and when pressed in to emergency service on the top line, he was less Jamie McGinn and more Jamie Lannister trying to fight left-handed. Nobody expected him to be amazing, but the number of sweet Eichel and ROR dishes that were wasted on his stick this season was frustrating. For a fourth line player, he isn't trusted with any penalty killing time, and at this point in his career and the Sabres rebuild will find it hard to rise above anything but the 11th or 12th forward spot.
Memorable Moment: Deslauriers, racing in on a two-on-one with Ryan O'Reilly, stretches his stick out and tips the beautiful ROR pass into the net, then gives us the million dollar scream from the picture at the top of this article.
Voting: Using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with A representing a great season (for the Sabres) C an average season, and F a very poor season, grade Nic Deslauriers on his performance this year.
Grade Nic Deslauriers on his 2015-16 season.