The Buffalo Sabres have built an impressive stock of young talent that is poised to serve the franchise well in the coming years. In an effort to help these youngsters, GM Tim Murray has added veteran pieces to supplement his roster. Buffalo’s veterans will provide value for the club by helping to teach the team’s young players about what it takes to be successful at the NHL level.
Last summer, the Sabres brought veteran forward Brian Gionta and defenseman Josh Gorges into the fold. Murray added to his club’s veteran presence this offseason by acquiring forward David Legwand. Legwand and goaltender Robin Lehner were acquired from the Ottawa Senators for a first round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. While Murray has been criticized for paying too high of a price in this deal, Legwand provides a veteran presence down the middle.
Legwand begins his tenure with the Sabres nearing the end of his solid NHL career. The 34-year-old has played in 1,057 NHL games since he was drafted second overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators. His best years are perhaps behind him but Legwand’s experience will be an important asset for the development of the Sabres’ youth. Here is a look at David Legwand’s hockey upbringing, NHL career, and how he can help the Sabres as the franchise builds towards a return to post-season contention.
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Legwand’s Road to the NHL
David Legwand is a native of Detroit, Mich. He began playing for the Compuware Ambassadors of the NAHL during the 1996-1997 season. According to EliteProspects.com, Legwand scored 21 goals and 62 points in 44 games with the Ambassadors.
The following season, Legwand began playing in the OHL for the Plymouth Whalers. During 1997-1998 season, Legwand scored the most goals and tallied the most assists among OHL rookies. According to TSN.ca, Legwand finished his first OHL season with 54 goals and 105 points in just 59 games played. For his efforts, Legwand was the 1997-1998 recipient of OHL’s Red Tilson Trophy for the OHL’s most outstanding player.
The forward played two seasons for the Plymouth Whalers. During his OHL career, Legwand scored 85 goals and 185 points in 114 career games with the Whalers. On a side note, Terry Bridge of the Sarnia Observer reported that Legwand, along with former NHL defenseman Derian Hatcher, purchased the OHL’s Sarnia Sting in March 2015. Legwand remains active with the OHL in this new ownership role.
Legwand’s solid play as a youngster earned him a strong reputation among NHL scouts and it led to him becoming a high draft selection. According to Hockey-Reference.com, the Nashville Predators selected Legwand with the second overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Legwand was drafted behind Vincent Lecavalier who was the top overall pick in this draft.
Legwand’s NHL Career Before Buffalo
The Sabres bring Legwand to their organization in what will be his 17th NHL season. The veteran played his first game in the NHL during the 1998-1999 season and earned a regular role with Nashville beginning with the 1999-2000 season. Injuries have been an issue for Legwand during his career but he has lit the lamp 223 times while notching 604 points in 1,057 career NHL games.
Legwand’s scoring has declined in recent years. According to Sabres.com, the veteran hasn’t reached the 20 goal mark since the 2008-2009 season. In 80 games last season for the Ottawa Senators, Legwand scored 9 goals and 27 points. He has 55 games of playoff experience during his career where he scored 13 goals and 28 points. The Sabres’ official website shows that he will wear number 17 for Buffalo this season.
The majority of Legwand’s NHL career was spent with the Nashville Predators where he played from the 1998-1999 season until the 2013-2014 season. In March 2014 he was traded to his hometown Detroit Red Wings and in July 2014 he signed a two-year deal with the Ottawa Senators as an unrestricted free agent. According to GeneralFanager.com, Legwand will make $3 million with Buffalo this season and then he will become an unrestricted free agent.
Veteran Leadership at Center
David Legwand has experience as both a center and a winger. Throughout his career, he has produced decent numbers on offense while also making contributions on defense. His game has declined in recent years but he brings a wealth of experience that will be valuable for the Buffalo Sabres’ young players.
Perhaps Buffalo’s most important youngsters are centers Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Similar to Legwand, the Sabres selected Reinhart and Eichel second overall in their respective draft years. Both Eichel and Reinhart are very talented young forwards who will be given the opportunity to make immediate contributions with the Sabres this season.
Between the draft and offseason acquisitions, the Sabres are in position to make strides this season. The 2015-2016 Sabres are a mix of veterans, young NHLers entering their prime, and young prospects competing for their first taste of NHL action. Buffalo has a lot of potential but it may still take some time before the Sabres return to the post-season.
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The Sabres’ future will rely heavily upon their young talent. Buffalo’s veterans such as Gionta, Gorges and Legwand will play important roles as mentors to help the Sabres’ youth learn the tricks of the trade. As a center, Legwand can have a profound impact on the development of Reinhart and Eichel. His knowledge, experience, and hockey instincts that he’s refined over the course of his NHL career will be valuable for Eichel and Reinhart to draw upon as they earn more permanent roles with the Sabres.
Legwand’s two-way game can serve as an example for these youngsters and he can help them develop their game in a similar manner. As Legwand prepares for his first NHL action with the Sabres, his ability to serve as a mentor to Buffalo’s young talent will be crucial. He has the opportunity to play a strong role in the development of Eichel and Reinhart who will be instrumental pieces of the club’s future.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW