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Reinhart Leading Former Sabres

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Sam Reinhart former Sabres

Now that we’re into the All-Star break, it’s only appropriate that we check on how the former Buffalo Sabres are doing across the NHL. Some, like Sam Reinhart, are posting career seasons. Other players you may have forgotten about.

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Overall, there’s 34 skaters and three goalies who used to don the Sabres jersey that have appeared in an NHL game this season. Let’s start with some of the most impressive seasons:

Sam Reinhart, Florida Panthers

There’s no denying the most impressive season put together by a former Sabres skater is the one that Reinhart is enjoying this season. He is currently second to only Toronto’s Auston Matthews in the NHL in goals, with 37 in 49 games. Thanks to his 62-goal pace, the former second-overall draft selection by Buffalo is heading to Toronto for his first ever All-Star game.

The Sabres traded Reinhart for goalie Devon Levi and a 2022 first round pick that turned into top prospect Jiri Kulich. While the future looks bright for the return, Buffalo clearly could use the goals – especially the Panthers forward’s league-leading 20 on the powerplay.

The career-best performance is coming at the right time for Reinhart, as he will be an unrestricted free agency at the end of the season. At the rate he’s going, he’ll be in for a big raise from his current $6.5 million average annual value.

Must Read: ‘It’s Crazy:’ Florida Panthers React to Historic Run by Sam Reinhart

Jack Eichel, Vegas Golden Knights

Former Sabres captain of course enjoyed his 2022-2023 season that saw him raising the Stanley Cup at the end of the season. Before suffering a knee injury in mid-January, Jack Eichel was the center of Vegas’ success again this season.

Eichel has 44 points in 42 games, which is about an 86-point pace over an 82-game season. He’s posted a massive 12.3 goals-above replacement per Evolving-Hockey, which equates to an extra two wins added for his team based on his play this season.

Like Reinhart, Eichel earned an All-Star bid but is forced to miss due to injury. The Sabres traded the former second-overall pick to Vegas in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a 2022 first round pick, and a 2023 second round pick. The first rounder was used to select Noah Ostlund, and the second rounder was traded along with a 2024 fifth round pick for Jordan Greeenway.

If you combine the goals-above replacement totals this season for Tuch, Krebs, and Greenway, Eichel still has 7.4 more goals-added. The forward depth has been beneficial to the Sabres, though, so perhaps it’s a classic case of the sum of parts is not greater than the whole.

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Ryan O’Reilly, Nashville Predators

The Predators are the latest beneficiary of Ryan O’Reilly’s underrated services, this time with the center playing a pivotal role in driving the team’s offense. While he’s known as a defensively responsible player, head coach Andrew Brunette’s run ‘n gun system is allowing O’Reilly to regain his scoring touch.

O’Reilly has 42 points in 51 games played, which is a 67-68 point pace over a full season. He’s on pace for 27 goals, which would be one less than his career best. Nashville’s currently a middling team in a retooling period, but have O’Reilly under a cost-controlled value contract for three seasons after this one’s end.

Of course, the Sabres are thrilled with how Tage Thompson has developed as part of the return from the O’Reilly trade back in 2018. O’Reilly went on to win a Stanley Cup the ensuing season, but Buffalo ended up with the more dynamic player in the long term. The 2019 first round pick acquired in the trade also panned out to be defenseman Ryan Johnson, who is making an immediate impact in his rookie year for the Sabres.

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Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins

Linus Ullmark may not be in the running for back-to-back Vezina Trophies, but his quietly enjoyed another very successful season in Boston. He’s been a little overshadowed by running mate Jeremy Swayman this season, but Ullmark is currently 11th in goals-saved above expected according to Evolving-Hockey.

Goalies are a big byproduct of their team environment, and there’s no doubt Boston sets their netminders up for success as well as any team in the league.

On top of his 12.47 GSAx, he’s 15-6-0 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

Must Read: NHL Sources Agree, ‘Ullmark’s Not Going Anywhere’

Justin Bailey

While the first four players mentioned are the obvious former Sabre contributors across the league, there’s been one surprise returner to the NHL ranks this season. Buffalo-born Justin Bailey latched on with the San Jose Sharks mid-season, and he’s been a breath of fresh air for an otherwise struggling club.

The former Buffalo second round selection played parts of three seasons for the Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, and Vancouver Canucks before spending all of the 2022-2023 season in the AHL. The Sharks signed him after 16 AHL games this season, and Bailey hasn’t looked back.

While he’ll never be a top point-scorer, with eight points in 30 NHL games this season, Bailey is sixth among all former Sabres in Evolving-Hockey’s goals-above replacement per game. Making a positive impact on one of the league’s worst teams is difficult to do for a journeyman pro player, so he’s definitely earned the shoutout.

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Other Former Sabres

There’s plenty of other former Sabres making an impact around the league. Goalie Jonas Johansson held down the net at the start of the season until Andrei Vasilevskiy was ready for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Evan Rodrigues is playing top-line minutes for the Florida Panthers with Reinhart and Aleksander Barkov. Marcus Johansson and Marcus Foligno are middle-six mainstays with the Minnesota Wild.

Some seasons haven’t gone according to planned, including Taylor Hall’s injury-shortened campaign. Hall will not return this year after season-ending knee surgery. He was supposed to be superstar rookie Connor Bedard’s wingman, but instead only appeared in 10 games for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Here’s the complete list of former Sabres to appear in the NHL this season, ranked by Evolving-Hockey’s GAR:

  1. Sam Reinhart, FLA
  2. Jack Eichel, VGK
  3. Ryan O’Reilly, NSH
  4. Curtis Lazar, NJD
  5. Evan Rodrigues, FLA
  6. Brayden McNabb, VGK
  7. Brandon Montour, FLA
  8. Justin Bailey, SJS
  9. Marcus Johansson, MIN
  10. Jimmy Vesey, NYR
  11. William Carrier, VGK
  12. Joel Armia, MTL
  13. Marcus Foligno, MIN
  14. Zach Bogosian, MIN
  15. William Borgen, SEA
  16. Jake McCabe, TOR
  17. Rasmus Ristolainen, PHI
  18. Chad Ruhwedel, PIT
  19. Colin Miller, NJD
  20. Conor Sheary, TBL
  21. Marco Scandella, STL
  22. Mark Jankowski, NSH
  23. Hudson Fasching, NYI
  24. John Hayden, SEA
  25. Taylor Hall, CHI
  26. Alex Nylander, PIT
  27. Dmitry Kulikov, FLA
  28. Vinnie Hinostroza, PIT
  29. Robert Hagg, ANA
  30. Nikita Zadorov, VAN
  31. Tyler Myers, VAN
  32. Evander Kane, EDM
  33. Nicolas Deslauriers, PHI
  34. Ilya Lyubushkin, ANA

Former Sabres goalies, ranked by Evolving-Hockey’s GSAx:

  1. Linus Ullmark
  2. Jonas Johansson
  3. Scott Wedgewood

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