By now, you should all know that I hate talking about young Sabres. I don’t wanna talk about Tropp or Foligno (OK, he has 3 goals in like 4 games. So, I’m kind of stoked) or Weber or anyone who has been in the league for less than two years. Sorry, Kris Baker, but when you talk about how some 20-year-old currently playing in Rochester or some place in Canada I’ve never heard of is going to be awesome, I cover my ears and sing a Goo Goo Dolls song. (You are still awesome though.) I just don’t live in Mel Kiper’s world, dammit!
Now that I got that out of the way, let me tell you how good Tyler Ennis has become. He’s a center (for now) and he doesn’t suck like Brad Boyes or Ville Leino did at the position. I have absolutely no idea why Ruff didn’t start Ennis at center when he first came up. Face-off percentage? Didn’t want to take away Tim Connolly’s ice time? Miller couldn’t see center ice through Tyler’s NSYNC blond curls? I don’t know, but what I do know is that after a slow start this year because of injuries, Ennis has been on fire as of late. Trust me, if the Sabres can get any scorer on fire at this point, it is worth a post and a “Thank God” from me. Ennis has points (15) in 12 of his last 16 games. He has 7 goals since February 17th, which accounts for almost 20% of the Sabres goals (37) since then. Maybe he’s the guy we should be talking about as our playmaking center and not Cody Hodgson or someone else.
Including playoffs, Ennis has played 142 professional hockey games and has tallied up 85 points (36 goals and 51 assists). He has more goals in his first two seasons than Derek Roy and Drew Stafford did during their freshman/sophomore years. His 8 points in 13 playoff games is better than what Pomer, Vanek, Hank (Heather B. Joke) (Editor’s Note: Hmph. -HB) and #23 (Not Ville but Captain Drury) did during their first 13 playoff games. Yes, we may actually have a clutch guy in the playoffs on our hands for once. If he didn’t get hurt this season, Ennis would be on pace for 25 goals.
More importantly, he’s still a young cat who is showing improvement. That is all I want from my prospects. I’m not a love at first sight kind of guy. With women? Yes. With hockey players? No. I’d rather you show me improvement over time than play like a bat out of hell when entering the NHL only to regress. I don’t need all the love during your first 20 games. Romance me a little. I need like 140 dates (or games) with you. Dinner. Movies. Walking along the beaches. Drinking 40’s on the curb. It takes about two seasons worth of games for me to say I like you. Tyler…I like you. I even wish I had your hair.
Besides his hair, what really impresses me about the kid is how he plays bigger than his size. The guy crashes the net and doesn’t have an issue with getting dirty in the corners or standing in the crease. He can also skate circles around you. He’s like the total package.
Two years ago, when #63 was a pup, he kind of reminded me a little bit of Max because of his size and the way he would skate like hell on wheels, only to turn the puck over. Not a great endorsement by any stretch, but at least he showed something. This year, I see a little Danny Briere in him. I see a guy who has the ability to score whenever he touches the puck. That first goal against Montreal? That was a Danny Briere goal. That was a “FUCK THIS! I’M TAKING OVER THIS BIOTCH!!” goal. It was one to make RJ lose his voice, wake up Harry Neale, or cause Danny Gare to bark like the chick from Coming to America. I’m not the type to compare anyone to Briere because we have done the “This is the next Jim Kelly” and “Kassian is a God” thing too many times in this town… but he’s making it awfully tough for me to say otherwise.
Even with Pegula’s billions to bring in a high-priced free agent, we all know Darcy will probably keep Ennis for years to come. He deserves that. He’s going to be counted on to be a part of the Sabres top six forwards for a while. Maybe he can finally evolve into that clutch sniper the Sabres have desperately missed since Drury and Briere left.
Bottom line: The Sabres are due to find a top tier forward from their system at some point. It has been like 7 years since Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek walked into our lives from Rochester. If Darcy is Mr. Draft guru, he’s gotta get a stud soon, right? I think Ennis is on the path to break that streak and if he can actually be the next Briere, forget the notion of the top six forwards, because we will finally have a legit guy. The go-to-guy that Kris Baker told us about 3 years ago.