The 29th-placed Buffalo Sabres have just one representative in the 2016 NHL All Star game, but that one rep happens to be worth every single vote.
Ryan O’Reilly was acquired by the team at the NHL Draft in June, and was rewarded with the largest contract in franchise history. The 24-year old has since lived up to the contract he’s been given, proving himself to be a certified number one center in the league.
With 34 points in 40 games, O’Reilly is projected to finish the season with 70 points. His 16 goals and 18 assists has earned him the right to play in Nashville on All-Star weekend, but he credits it mainly to his teammates as opposed to his own skill.
O’Reilly rattled off the names of half a dozen players, including Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart. As for the biggest reason he thinks he was selected, he believes it’s his production.
“I think I’ve scored more,” he told the media after Wednesday’s practice. “Any time you can put the puck in the net — I end up getting bounces that way — it’s something that everyone sees.”
He may be humble about his honor, but his coach is sure to pour on the praise for the first-year Sabre.
“He’s been the heart & soul of our team,” Dan Bylsma said. “He plays that way, practices that way. He’s what we want to be as a team.”
Though the personal accolades are nice, O’Reilly is the first to point out that it’s the team results that mean most. Unfortunately for the Sabres, there hasn’t been many good ones.
The team is just a point out of last place in the NHL at the halfway mark of the season, and certainly have their work cut out if they want to move up the standings during the second half of the year.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.