As training camp draws nearer as August gives way to September, the Buffalo Sabres have made waves this offseason. This has been an offseason like no other for long-time Sabres fans, so, out of all that has happened, what are the five things I'm most excited to see in the upcoming season?
1. The emergence of Tyler Myers as an elite NHL defenseman.
Tyler Myers' rookie campaign could not have ended any better in an individual sense. He did what only one previous Sabres rookie has ever done: hoist the Calder Trophy. In his rookie season he showed the ability to not only be able to play solid defensive hockey, but an even more potent ability to move the puck up ice.
Expectations justifiably high for him entering his sophomore campaign last season, and he stumbled out of the gates. On January 15, Myers was sporting an atrocious -15 rating, hardly the plus-minus an elite defenseman would post. He also struggled on the power play and in his own zone, turning pucks over constantly and playing as though he was lost at points.
Then, the Sabres started playing better hockey. One can argue either way, but I personally believe this was in large part to do with the rejuvenated play of Myers. Myers ended the season at an even plus-minus, playing the second half of the season with the poise and promise he showed his entire rookie season.
In the playoffs against Philadelphia he showed something else that started to bud towards the end of the year: grit. Myers treated Danny Briere like a little rag doll, tossing him around in front of the net, giving him an extra poke or two in the corner. Chris Pronger even backed off of him during one scrum in front of the net.
With the first half of last season behind him, look for Myers to emerge in the conversation for the Norris Trophy this year. Not only will he benefit from the addition of Christian Ehrhoff on the power play, but he will benefit from the steady play of his probable defensive partner Robyn Regehr.
With his combination of size, speed and hockey IQ, Myers will likely cement himself as one of the best young defenseman in the NHL, joining the likes of Shea Weber and Drew Doughty, and the Sabres could not be more excited.
2. Ryan Miller's return to Las Vegas as a Vezina Trophy nominee.
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