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A piece to the puzzle
In his first four NHL seasons, Tyler Ennis is developing into one of the most potent offensive threats in the Buffalo Sabres organization.
In his 2007-08 season with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Ennis finished the season tied for second in the Western Hockey League in goals (43) and finished fourth in scoring with 91 points. TSN’s Bob McKenzie had Ennis projected as a first round pick, even though he was ranked 33rd on the top prospects list. The Sabres drafted Ennis with the 26th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. At the time of the draft, Ennis was described as small, fast and a guy with a lot of heart,
“A very small player, but very quick, very skilled, absolutely fearless,” McKenzie said. “There are some people who believe he just might be the kind of guy that beats the odds at that height (5’ 9”) and that weight (169-pounds) to play in the National Hockey League. 43 goals in 70 games. He’s more of a one-way, one-dimensional, offensive-type hockey player, but he does that part of the game extremely well.”
After another season in Medicine Hat, and winning gold at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships, Ennis got his chance at the professional level in the AHL. Ennis started the 2009-10 season in Portland with the Pirates. In 69 games with the Pirates, Ennis scored 23 goals, tied for most goals by a rookie, and finished the season with 65 points.
During that same season, Tyler Ennis got his first NHL call-up on November 14, 2009 against the Philadelphia Flyers. In that game, Ennis scored his first NHL goal against Ray Emery, and helped the Sabres beat the Flyers, 3-2. Besides his goal, Ennis had four shots in 14:13 minutes of total ice-time.
Tyler Ennis was later recalled again in March, scoring two more goals and adding six assists during the final nine games in the regular season. In his first postseason against the Bruins, Ennis had a goal and three assists, but the Sabres were eliminated in six games.
Ennis played his first full season in 2010-11 with the Sabres, and has not looked back since. In his rookie season with the Sabres, Ennis played every game, scored 20 goals and added 29 assists. It has been Ennis’ best season to date. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Ennis has scored 137 points in 227 games. Since then, only Drew Stafford has more points than Ennis with 138 points.
Tyler Ennis has been everywhere on the ice from center to wing, third line to first line. Ennis has played alongside many players, most notably in the 2011-12 season with Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford. Their line was an inferno on the ice, and the three of them alone almost helped the Sabres get into the playoffs.
Tyler Ennis started off the 2013-14 season to an abysmal start, and could not help the Sabres produce any type of offense. Since the hiring of Ted Nolan as head coach, Ennis has become one of the most potent offensive threats for the Sabres once again.
In 20 games under Ron Rolston, Ennis only scored twice and add four assists on the score sheet. Since then, Ennis has lit the lamp nine times, and also added 10 assists in 32 games played under Nolan. Ennis has played so well that Ted Nolan has made him the first-line center playing alongside players like Matt Moulson, Zemgus Girgensons, Drew Stafford, and Ville Leino.
What about Tyler Ennis is it that makes him so electrifying on the ice? The first factor is speed. Ennis has proven over his four year NHL career that he can skate, and he can fly at any position on the ice. Ennis can carry the puck pretty well too, and with his speed can tire defenders out trying to chase him around the ice.
Along with Ennis’ unique skating ability, his soft hands can leave any opposing player second-guessing every move he makes. Ennis has an array of shots in his arsenal, including his wicked wrist shot. Ennis has been known to turn defenders inside out with his dangling ability. Once he gets away, he can make an NHL goalie look foolish with any shot. Ennis also has a knack for knowing where his teammates are, and can get them the puck from anywhere.
Even for Ennis’ size, he has proven time and time again that he can be just as physical as a normal sized NHL player. Ennis is not afraid to throw his body around and take his opponents out of the play.
“I’ve never been a big guy, I’ve always been small,” Ennis said. “I’ve kind of used that as motivation. Every time I hear it, I get a little angry and a little motivated, so it’s good to hear sometimes.”
Tyler Ennis is going to be a restricted free agent this July. The newest Sabres general manager, Tim Murray, has to assess Ennis, and how he could be a potential impact player for the Sabres in the long run.
Tyler Ennis is only 24-years old, and still has a lot to give in his young career. Ennis is currently playing the first-line center position, and seems pretty comfortable getting the ice-time he is playing. The biggest question now is can Ennis develop into a franchise player for the Buffalo Sabres?