I shot a few questions on Buffalo Sabres new forward Conor Sheary to the folks at Pensburgh to get an idea of the exact type of player that the Sabres acquired.
The writer from Pensburgh Jimmy Rixner (Hooks Orpik) took the time to answer the six questions I put together.
Q: Is he for sure a guy who needs some help from top talent or can he roll around and lead the charge himself?
A: Conor Sheary is a good and valuable complimentary offensive winger for skill players, especially centers. He’s undersized but at his best has very good skating ability that the defense must respect and give some room to. His hands are ok, it’s odd how his seasons have gone he’s had one great playmaking year but a couple substandard ones too. He can get lost in the shuffle a bit at times and is streaky, but he’s got a good shot and is not a perimeter player, he will go to the dirty areas and is a very capable goal scorer from in tight, despite not really having a great shooting ability.
Q: Are his 5v5 numbers for real or did he just get lucky? The Sabres need even strength scoring badly and it looks like Sheary would fill that need.
A: I don’t think Sheary’s production is a fluke or luck. He is a streaky player as I mentioned. He might not do much for 5-10 games, but when in a hot streak he might have a stretch of scoring 4 goals in 6 games or something along those lines. But he’ll generally be good at zone entries and help stars move the puck into the offensive zone and get scoring chances, it’s just a matter of converting them.
Q: Is 20ish goals, 35-45 points his expected output or do you think the ceiling can be higher or perhaps lower?
A: 20 goals and 40 points sounds like a good baseline, with the possibility to add on to that with dedicated power play time which he never really has had. I could see him having a bit more to add in that regard if given the opportunity. He’s also been a very durable player despite size limitations, he’s not physical at all and while he’ll try to win puck battles and for loose pucks, he’s not going to work a lot of magic there and probably come out dispossessed on the majority of them.
Q: Is his speed his best asset?
A: By far speed is the best thing Sheary has going for him. He’s got great acceleration and a good first few steps of twitch to get up to top speed, which is above average for an NHL forward. He falls down a lot which became a running side joke among Pens fans, but I think he recovers well and gets around the ice very well, which is a necessity for a smaller guy.
Q: He said he learned a lot from watching Sidney Crosby. With all the locker room drama in Buffalo, they could use an experienced leader to help Eichel. Did he come off as a good guy in the room?
A: Sheary should be good in the room, he’s definitely not a problem or anything. Coming in as an undrafted free agent he didn’t even bother correcting the pronunciation of his last name for 3+ years of being in the Pens organization. So he’s a “go with the flow” type guy, doesn’t really have the personality of a vocal guy or leader, but much like 95% of the NHL he will be well-liked and respected among his teammates. But probably more of a “fit in” type of guy rather than a leader. Though perhaps in a new environment and having Stanley Cup success (including an SCF OT game winner) he could blossom a little bit there among younger guys who will look up to him. It’s weird to think of that considering where he started on an AHL contract and working up through the ranks but he’s a good player and seems to be a good enough guy as well.
Q: What went wrong in Pittsburgh to force Sheary out? Cap? Play? Replaced by a cheaper player?
A: Sheary became used less and less over the course of last season, I believe he only scored like 4 goals in his last 44 games. And if he’s not producing points, he’s not really a two-way player or helping the team out too much. So he got shuffled down to the 4th line and played 8-9 minutes for most of this past playoff. In many ways he may have been a victim of the Pens bafflingly low shooting percentage last year (and their goalie’s save % struggled all year long too) which probably made perception worse than reality.
Still with guys like Jake Guentzel and youngsters like Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese, it made sense for Pittsburgh to get out of a $3 million cap hit for a middle line winger in Sheary prone to dry spells and who doesn’t add defensive help like a guy such as Carl Hagelin offers. Being able to use Sheary to get rid of the cap hit of Matt Hunwick was a necessary poison pill to swallow since the Pens have enough top-nine wingers (Guentzel, Hagelin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust and maybe Sprong and Dominik Simon) who are either more skilled/explosive scorers and/or better two-way players.