Yesterday evening, the Buffalo Sabres held a team scrimmage to showcase their team, which includes new stars like the 2015 2nd overall pick Jack Eichel, and centers Ryan O’Reilly and 2014 draftee Sam Reinhart. With their rebuild taking a quantum leap forward, fans showed up to the scrimmage to show their support and in doing so, the attendance of 17,115 was a record attendance for a team scrimmage.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) July 11, 2015
Eichel, 18, was the runner-up prize to the Connor McDavid sweepstakes but is no slouch. His expectations are quite high heading into next season, although that’s natural with comparisons being made to the likes of Mike Modano. Expected to be the franchise player that the Sabres have needed down the middle, Eichel performed well during the scrimmage, despite watching Reinhart get the best of him. He did sign a standard entry-level contract, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see him on the roster on opening night.
Reinhart, who was drafted 2nd overall in the 2014 draft and is just 19 years of age, is another promising center that may find himself battling for a spot on the depth chart come next season, especially with the recent additions down the middle. However, he possesses a solid two-way game and has the maturity after playing three full seasons in the WHL, and playing 47 games in his fourth and final season in Kootenay. He received a nine-game look at the NHL level as well, so he’ll be fighting for his spot.
It took a package that included Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, prospect J.T. Compher and the 31st pick in the 2015 draft, but the Sabres landed their second top-six center in Ryan O’Reilly, as well as Jamie McGinn. In his last three full seasons, O’Reilly has hit at least 50 points. Signing a big-time contract a day later, worth $52.5 million over seven years. Despite missing 19 games in the lock-out shortened seasons, O’Reilly has missed just 12 games in his five full seasons with the Avalanche.
The attendance is up from last season’s 8,725. Two seasons ago, the estimate was around 5,000. It just goes to show that with the addition of a few high-caliber, promising prospects and a trade that brings in a second-line center that can come into the line-up instantly and produce, the fans will follow close behind. With the additions of forward Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian in the trade with Winnipeg last season, and goaltender Robin Lehner, the Sabres turnaround could be as soon as next season. If there’s one thing they can sell their fans on, it’s hope. A hope that has apparently been injected into the Sabres fan-base, and seems to be working.