BUFFALO – In just half a season here, center Ryan O’Reilly has already become perhaps the Sabres’ most popular player.
In a blue-collar city, O’Reilly’s versatile style and accountable personality have resonated with the Sabres’ rabid fan base. The 24-year-old plays more than any other NHL forward. He leads the team in scoring and has 17 points in the last 17 games. Following games, O’Reilly often passionately laments what he and his teammates couldn’t accomplish.
Not surprisingly, O’Reilly was selected today as the Sabres’ lone representative for the Jan. 31 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville.
O’Reilly, who was acquired June 26 in a blockbuster trade with Colorado, has 16 goals and 34 points in 40 games this season. He has averaged 21 minutes, 56 seconds an appearance – 46 seconds more than any other forward.
Check back later for more on O’Reilly, who will represent the Atlantic Division.
Update: As expected, O’Reilly is honored by the invitation and credited his teammates.
“It’s obviously awesome, awesome news,” he said. “I just found out right at the end of practice so it’s exciting. I definitely want to thank the fans that (voted) for me and especially my linemates. (Brian Gionta), (Sam Reinhart), (Jamie McGinn), (Evander Kane), all those guys that I’ve played with throughout the start of the year and (Tyler Ennis) too, those guys that make me look good.”
O’Reilly, of course, wanted the opportunity to be a No. 1 center. Still, given the Sabres’ sorry 29th-place standing, he’s not totally happy.
“I wanted to prove that I could be a huge part of the team,” he said. “I’m still trying to do it. Obviously, being an All-Star is a step in that. There’s so many other things going forward. If you don’t win hockey games, are a team competing for a Cup, I don’t really think it matters, you know? We want to be a real team, a competitive team, and we’re not that right now. That’s something we have to get back to.”
Check back later for a full story on O’Reilly.
In other news, center Tim Schaller (lower body, day-to-day) and defenseman Josh Gorges (personal day) missed practice today. Coach Dan Bylsma said the Sabres will likely recall someone before they start their three-game road trip Friday.
Meanwhile, the Sabres have assigned goalie Robin Lehner (high ankle sprain) to the Rochester Americans. Lehner practiced with the AHL club today. He should start Friday.