Ever since Daniel Briere and Chris Drury departed, the Sabres have been searching for a No. 1 center. Since they haven't been able to find one, they have suffered offensively and in the faceoff circle.
After a phenomenal second half last season, Tyler Ennis began to emerge as a potential candidate. If the Sabres want to build a playoff team, a top center is the biggest need.
Does Ennis fit the bill?
Once he fully healed from his injuries, Ennis totaled 34 points in 48 games last season. During the last 26 games of the season, Ennis recorded 11 goals and 16 assists, totaling 27 points. That's over a point per game which is what a team's No. 1 center should be able to give you.
Other No. 1 centers in the league include Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks and Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators.
Ennis also finished the last 26 games with a plus/minus rating of 12. Very solid numbers to build off of.
Many people looked at Ennis' 2010-11 season as a decent start, but no one pictured him as a No. 1 center, considering the fact he played left wing. He seemed to improve when he played center as opposed to his numbers at left wing.
If the numbers he totaled in his shortened 2011-12 season were averaged out throughout a full season, he would have finished with 25 goals and 32 points, totaling 57 points.
While that isn't a point per game, Ennis is only 22 years old and still has room to improve.
I believe Ennis would thrive on the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. His ability to attack the zone and create opportunities for the Sabres top goal scorers would lead to an increase in all of their play.
While his height and size may be an issue, Sabres fans should be reminded of Daniel Briere's lack in those areas and how he still manages to succeed in the NHL.
Briere is 5'10" and 179 pounds while Ennis checks in at 5'9" and 157 pounds. While Ennis most likely won't add any height, he has stated he wants to add weight in the offseason to become more of a force on the boards.
Adding the weight would make him a mirror image of Briere and since he posted better numbers in his first two full seasons than Briere did, the Sabres may have found a key piece to their offense.
Since the Sabres whiffed on acquiring a top line center last offseason (Ville Leino), they should be weary to throw money at another one this year, especially because there are no top line centers available.
With Ennis growing and maturing, he should be given the opportunity to take over as the Sabres top line center and see how he reacts to working with the team's best offensive players.
He posted ridiculous numbers the last 26 games of the season, and as a result, the Sabres were one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
After all, it's been five years since Briere and Drury, what do the Sabres have to lose?
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