The 2009-10 season offered Sabres fans their first look at the future.
Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Myers, and Tyler Ennis all showed that they are ready to take on a bigger role with the team. Next season, these three will certainly play a more pivotal role.
Gerbe played 10 games with the Sabres and won the AHL rookie of the year during the 2008-09 season. While he had 56 points in 57 games with the Portland Pirates, Gerbe registered just one point while with Buffalo.
But this season was much different for Gerbe. He notched five points in 10 games with the Sabres during the regular season, and added two points in two games during the playoffs. He stuck to his role and elevated his offense when the Sabres needed it most.
Myers was also a nice surprise this season.
The 6’8” Calder Trophy nominee was not expected to have this type of year. Myers finished with 11 goals and 48 points and played in all 82 games this season.
Myers proved to be a quick learner. He even taught several teammates how to play quality defense.
Tyler Ennis provided an even bigger surprise at the end of the season.
Like Gerbe the year before, Ennis won the AHL rookie of the year, finishing with 65 points in 69 games for the Pirates.
But Ennis saved his best production for Buffalo; he had nine points in the team's final 10 games. The 20-year-old also led the Sabres with four points in six playoff games.
Rather than praise the youngster for his hard work on the ice, Sabres GM Darcy Regier has stated that Ennis does not have a guaranteed spot on next year's squad.
“I warned him on not being sure that he’s going to play here on the start of next season,” Regier told Sabres.com.
Regier’s warning is yet another move that will surely baffle Sabres fans. Luckily, Buffalo has added more talented youth to their lineup.
On Thursday, the team signed Nick Crawford, their sixth round pick in 2008, to a three-year, entry level contract.
Crawford may soon join Myers on the blue line.
After receiving criticism for not being offensive enough in the Ontario Hockey League two seasons ago, Crawford improved dramatically. He led all defensemen in scoring this past season.
The 6’1” Crawford had 70 points with the Saginaw Spirit and Barrie Colts this season, and finished second in the OHL’s top defenseman voting.
Players like Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, and Ryan Miller came up through Buffalo’s system. They are now pivotal players within the organization. Gerbe, Myers, Ennis, and Crawford will likely exceed their predecessors in almost every way.