2015-16 Buffalo Sabres Grades: Ryan O'Reilly
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: $7.5 million through 2021-2022
Introduction: We already knew draft day would be exciting last year. No day where you officially get Jack Eichel is ever boring, but we did expect it. The real curve ball of the day was the Sabres finally landing Ryan O'Reilly after years of rumors about their interest dating all the way back to the Darcy era. I never thought it would actually happen, but O'Reilly became a Buffalo Sabre.
Since he has evolved into a fan favorite, showing that he can do a little bit of everything. We saw the set-up skills he was known for in Colorado. He showed a definite scoring touch at the beginning of the season. He can take faceoffs, and if you really need him to he can move to the wing. The guy can even sing. It's not fair.
If Eichel is the Sabres' first line center of the future, they're doing pretty well to have a player of O'Reilly's caliber as a second line player.
Key Stat: O'Reilly took 1,790 faceoffs this season, fourth among all NHL players. The three ahead of him? Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux. That's good company. He won 56 percent of his draws, good for ninth in the league.
Thumbs Up: O'Reilly emerged as one of the team's main leaders, a potential future captain and a player you can trust on the ice in key situations. There were times it felt that O'Reilly was on the ice the entire game, or at least the entire last ten minutes when the team had a lead. Despite the controversy, he was the Sabres' Masterton candidate for a reason.
Thumbs Down: O'Reilly had a very long goal drought this year, not scoring for 24 games, from January 10 to March 29. Although he still played well during that time, he's getting paid the big bucks to put up stats, and after his red hot start it appeared he'd found an even greater scoring touch than he even had in Colorado.
Memorable Moment: O'Reilly scored a dazzling goal in overtime against the Kings, deking out Alec Martinez and firing a shot off while falling backwards.
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 Ryan O'Reilly on his performance this year.
Grade Ryan O'Reilly on his 2015-16 Sabres season.