Danny O’Regan was one of the key pieces in the deadline deal that saw Evander Kane head to the San Jose Sharks. The 24-year-old was dealt to the Sabres along with two conditional draft picks, one of which can become a first round pick next year if Kane re-signs with the Sharks.
Sabres fans only got a brief two-game glimpse of the former fifth-round pick. The rest of his time in the organization was spent in the AHL with the Rochester Americans to boost their hopes of a long playoff run.
The acquisition of O’Regan completed the 2015 Boston University trifecta with Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues already part of the club. Perhaps we’ll see the trio reignite the chemistry from their college days in the future, but O’Regan wasn’t brought to the Sabres because of his familiarity with Eichel.
He’s the type of player that you want to have in the bottom six of your lineup. The German-born forward is quick, can play in all situations and has the ability to provide offense from the bottom of the roster.
One of his greatest strengths that’s often overlooked is his shot. He has a quick release and a heavy shot that has allowed him to be very productive at the AHL level.
O’Regan won the AHL rookie of the year for his 23 goals and 58 points in 63 games for the San Jose Barracuda during the 2016-17 season. His strong rookie campaign earned him an opportunity early in this past season with the Sharks, but he wasn’t able to stick after no goals and four points in 19 games.
He went back down the Barracuda and started producing again with seven goals and 25 points in 31 games before he was sent to the Sabres. Between the Barracuda and the Amerks, O’Regan registered 13 goals and 40 points in 49 games last season.
The question is, can his production at the AHL level translate to the NHL?
In his small NHL sample size, he’s only scored one goal in 24 games. We’ve seen a lot of players be very productive in the minors, but it doesn’t follow them to the NHL. It’s too early to make that determination with O’Regan, however, the early results are trending in that direction.
The Sabres need to get him an extended look with the big club to determine if he can produce and find a role in the NHL. This is where the discussion of him being overlooked comes into play.
Everyone loves to put their ideal lines together for next season to pass the time and you don’t see a lot of mentions of O’Regan. Players like Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, CJ Smith, Alex Nylander and Sean Malone are usually the names that are talked about.
A thing to remember is none of those players I just mentioned were drafted or signed by Sabres general manager Jason Botterill. Come training camp it’ll be an open competition, but he may be more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt on a tough decision to players he’s acquired like O’Regan.
Bailey and Baptiste have been given plenty of opportunities to earn a permanent spot with the big club. O’Regan or any of the new players that haven’t seen an opportunity yet could jump them in the pecking order for the chance to grab a roster spot.
The other factor working in O’Regan’s favor is his position versatility. A trait we’ve talked about a lot that is important to both Botterill and Phil Housley for their players to possess. He has the ability to slot in as a center or move over to the wing.
O’Regan heads into the summer as a restricted free agent. The contract that Botterill hands out to the young forward may indicate how they see him fitting into the plans next season.
A roster spot won’t be handed to O’Regan in training camp, but he has a much better shot to make the club than some are giving him credit for. The battle for the last few remaining roster spots will be fun to follow come September.