Jeff Skinner has been a difference-maker since coming to the Buffalo Sabres.
The Buffalo Sabres have also been a difference-maker for Jeff Skinner. The 26-year-old left winger is currently on pace to have the best season of his NHL career to date, if he maintains his current pace.
Through the first twenty games of the season, Skinner has appeared in every game and recorded 21 points. Entering Monday night’s game - his 600th in the NHL - he lead the Sabres in goals (14) and was second in points behind only captain Jack Eichel.
Skinner’s season so far isn’t just impressive on a team level; it’s impressive on a league level. His 14 goals are second-most in the NHL, tied with Brayden Point and bested only by Boston’s David Pastrnak (17 goals). Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each had 13 goals entering Monday evening.
It’s only been 20 games, but so far, things are working well for Skinner and his teammates.
This season is Skinner’s ninth in the NHL. He’s appeared in all 82 games in a season three times in his career before, including last season when he put up 49 points (24-25). His career-highs include 37 goals in the 2016-17 season, 32 assists in his rookie season (2010-11) and 63 points, which he accrued twice (2010-11 and 2016-17).
Jeff Skinner's 13th goal— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) November 14, 2018
1-0 Buffalo pic.twitter.com/NI4kZQzpyI
Right now, if Skinner were to maintain his current production pace and appear in all 82 games for the Sabres, he’d finish the season with 57.4 goals, 28.7 assists and 86.1 points. That would mark career-highs in both goals and points for the winger, and even if he doesn’t quite maintain his current pace - which may not be entirely sustainable - he’s still likely to end the season upwards of 60 points.
Last season, only two Buffalo Sabres finished with 60 or more points: Eichel (64 points in 67 games) and Ryan O’Reilly (61 points in 81 games).
We’ve already talked about how playing with Eichel and Jason Pominville has helped Skinner. It’s the Sabres’ top line and one of the best-producing lines in the NHL. Skinner is a good player, Eichel is a good player, and Pominville is a good player; individually, they’re good. Together, they make each other - and the teammates around them - better.
That line has a combined six goals, seven assists and plus-five rating in the team’s recent five-game winning streak. Skinner is an elite goal-scorer and is one of the NHL’s primary points leaders. He has had a huge impact on the Sabres since joining the team, and if things keep going the way they have so far, he’ll continue to be a big presence for Buffalo on the scoresheet and could help lead the Sabres up the standings.
Of course, then, the next question will be his contract - but let’s save that for another day.