(Note: This will be a series leading up to the start of the scheduled NHL season. I will look at each player who will definitely be, or could possibly be, on the opening day roster for the 2012-13 Sabres and speculate on their potential strengths and weaknesses during the year.)
What a difference being healthy can make.
Tyler Ennis is certainly a believer in the healthier is better adage these days. After not scoring point in his first seven games, Ennis went on to post an impressive 34 points in his 41 games for the Buffalo Sabres after returning from an ankle injury.
Centering a line with Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno the last 13 games of the season, Ennis showed the strong puck skills he had shown in his rookie campaign that seemed to be lacking prior to his injury.
The change to center seemed to benefit Ennis the most, allowing him more opportunities to control the puck. His line was almost seamless in their zone, with Ennis’ quick passes and strong skating opening up the ice for Stafford and Foligno.
So, with that performance fresh in the minds of Sabres fans, expectations will be high for Ennis coming into the upcoming season. Ignoring the fact that he is a restricted free agent and has not re-upped yet, Ennis should start the season at the pivot between Stafford and Foligno.
While Ennis will have to work on his faceoffs, he has a real shot to compete with the Sabres’ other talented young center Cody Hodgson. If both players are able to step up their game to the next level this season, Sabres fans will be pleasantly surprised with the result as many teams will be unable to contain both lines consistently.
Overall, look for Ennis to pick up where he left off last season provided he is able to stay healthy. If he is, the Sabres’ need for a number one center would certainly diminish.
Prediction: 76 games, 24 goals and 45 assists for a total of 69 points centering either the first or second line.