The Buffalo Sabres are not doing as well as some thought early on, but one offseason move they did make is looking like it was well worth the price.
Ryan O’Reilly looked like a disaster before he even played a game. After getting his way by being traded by the Colorado Avalanche, the Sabres thought they got the steal of the offseason. The Sabres sent Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko and smaller pieces for O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn. The Sabres did not lose any crucial pieces, but got themselves a 24-year-old forward with six years of experience. It seemed like the steal of the century, let alone this offseason.
Just a few weeks after the trade, O’Reilly was arrested for drunk driving. That is when doubt started to creep into the NHL community. O’Reilly clearly made a mistake. In hindsight, this wasn’t the kind of mistake that would ruin the season. Drunk driving is terrible, but O’Reilly was lucky that it only turned into getting pulled over instead of really hurting someone.
We are a month into the season, and O’Reilly is playing out of his mind. He is fifth in the league in points with 13. He already has nine assists, showing he is helping out his linemates. The Sabres are stacked down the middle, but weak on the wing. O’Reilly is helping make his wingers better.
O’Reilly is giving two extremely young, extremely talented centers something to strive to be. Jack Eichel and Zemgus Girgensons are 19 and 21 years old respectively, and they now have a chance to see what a no. 1 center is supposed to look like.
O’Reilly’s play shows that he is able to bounce back from an awful offseason. He is doing everything head coach Dan Bylsma is asking of him. The gamble of giving an unproven young player $7.5 million per season is already paying off. O’Reilly has already put this offseason behind him.