Last season, the Buffalo Sabres were one of the worst offensive teams the NHL had ever seen. They did not have a single player score 50 points, and only one managed to make it to the 20-goal plateau, Tyler Ennis. They were purposely built to be a stinker of a team, and boy did they deliver.
Next season, however, is going to look much, much different. The Sabres have added multiple weapons in a variety of different ways: through trades, the draft and free agency. So today, let's play a little game and predict who will be the Sabres leading scorer when it's all said and done next season. The candidates are:
Why he could: Ennis has been the team's leading goal scorer for the past two seasons, and that's on two of the worst hockey teams ever to lace up the skates. While he's spent most of his time on the team's top line, the team's top players next season will be far better than former #1 centers Phil Varone and Paul Szczechura, and a rising tide around him should help lift Ennis' boat.
Why he won't: While in the past, Ennis been the best forward on a team of scrubs, he'll have to contend with a number of other offensive dynamos next year for the team's scoring lead. Moving from center to wing will likely decrease his assist total, and it remains to be seen how Ennis will play when he's not the focal point of the team's offense.
Why he could: Kane is an offensive powerhouse, bringing speed, strength, and finishing ability to the wing. He's scored at a rate of 28 goals per 82 games over the past four seasons, and that's while being increasingly misused by the Jets. After a long off season recovering from surgery, with a fresh start and with a big chip on his shoulder, Kane should be fired up to prove his critics wrong and help the Sabres make the playoffs.
Why he won't: While Kane is a great goal scorer, he likely won't rack up the assist numbers needed to lead the Sabres in scoring.
Why he could: The wunderkid from Boston has all the potential in the world, and has the hope of a franchise on his shoulders. He showed in the world championships that he can hang with NHLers already, and will likely get the opportunity to play with top talent in Buffalo and contribute on the power play. His scoring prowess was evident in college, and should translate well to the NHL.
Why he won't: Eichel has future star written all over him...but not this season. It will likely take him a few years to reach his final form, and while he'll almost certainly make a good impression this season, it would be highly unlikely for a rookie to lead his team in scoring.
Why he could: Sabres coach Dan Bylsma has already named O`Reilly as the team's #1 center, and those are the guys who usually lead their teams in points. The franchise center is the one of three players on the Sabres roster to have previously cracked 60 points (and I don't see Brian Gionta as a threat to ever do that again) and he'll get every opportunity to score on the power play and the team's top line.
Why he won't: O`Reilly will almost certainly face supplemental discipline for his recent arrest and DWAI charge after driving his car into a Tim Horton's restaurant. If he is suspended, the league (or the Pegula family) could be looking to make a statement, and missed time for O'Reilly will mean missed points come the end of the season.
Why he could: Moulson is just a few seasons removed from scoring 36 goals and 69 points, a season in which he was paired up with dynamic center John Tavares. Next season, he'll likely be paired with another dynamic center in Ryan O`Reilly or Jack Eichel, and should see his point totals rebound.
Why he won't: At age 31, Moulson's best seasons are likely behind him, and depending on which line Bylsma wants him on, Moulson could be buried a bit behind younger, more dynamic players.
Who do you think will be the leading scorer for the Buffalo Sabres when it's all said and done next season? Let us know in the comments.