For the first time in his career, Tyler Ennis will not be wearing the Sabres' blue and gold when the 2017-18 season starts. Plagued by injuries and concussions, Ennis has appeared in just 74 games over the past two seasons in Buffalo, scoring just 24 points. He was relegated to a bottom-six role last year, and he had difficulty adjusting after serving as a top-six winger for the first five seasons of his career. Although Ennis will get a fresh start in Minnesota under an offense-first coach in Bruce Boudreau who may be able to get the slick playmaking winger's career back on track, he faces a lot of competition for a top-six role. It's most likely that the 27-year-old endures another season of lackluster production
Ennis, fellow winger Marcus Foligno, and a third-round pick in 2018 were traded to the Wild on Friday in exchange for the Sabres acquiring Jason Pominville, defenseman Marco Scandella and a fourth-round pick in 2018, Michael Russo of the Star Tribune reports. The diminutive flanker was protected by the Sabres in the expansion draft, but ended up being a crucial trade chip for Buffalo in its pursuit to bring back Pominiville as well as a brutish, heavy-shooting rearguard in Scandella. As for Ennis, he only produced 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 51 games of an injury-shortened campaign. When you consider that his ice time dropped by more than five minutes compared to the prior season, it's no wonder that the Swords did away with Ennis. He'll be free-agent fodder in the majority of fantasy leagues unless we see a positive reversal in playing time.
Ennis was one of seven forwards protected by the Sabres for the expansion draft. This is a surprising move by the Sabres, considering Ennis has scored just 24 points in 74 games over the past two seasons due to various injuries. His ice time has dipped in each of his past three seasons, and it's clear that he's no longer considered a core player as the team builds around Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly instead. Still, the Sabres obviously see some value in Ennis, who is the longest tenured player and showed some intriguing chemistry with Eichel during Eichel's rookie season. Protecting Ennis is a sign that the Sabres still have some hope for Ennis, though he won't be guaranteed a top-six role. He has two years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $4.6 million.
Ennis will skate alongside center Jack Eichel and left winger Ryan O'Reilly on Monday against Detroit, The Buffalo News reports. Moving Ennis up the depth chart seems to be head coach Dan Bylsma's last resort to spark a Buffalo offense that has scored just two goals in regulation time over its past three games. Ennis has spent most of the year on the team's fourth line, quietly waiting for his opportunity even though he admits he's struggling in a checking role. With nine points in 41 games in his eighth season in Buffalo, Ennis' future with the team is murky. At 27 years old, he's in his prime, but injuries over the past two seasons have really hurt his development and production. He has a good matchup against a team that doesn't defend very well, but also keep in mind that the Sabres have four defensemen out with injuries, meaning the top line will have to take care of its own zone first, which may hurt the trio's offensive opportunities.
Based on the lines at the morning skate, Ennis will play alongside Jack Eichel and Marcus Foligno against the Ducks on Thursday, the Olean Times Herald reports. The Sabres won their previous game in overtime against San Jose, but it was a costly one as the injury bug has hit the team again. Zemgus Girgensons (mid body) and William Carrier (knee) have already been ruled out and Evander Kane (hand) is a game-time decision, which means the Sabres were forced to call up Derek Grant, Evan Rodrigues and Justin Bailey from AHL Rochester. That has bumped Ennis up the depth chart to the second line, giving him a better chance to extend his four-game point streak. Ennis has been deployed sparingly since returning from injury by head coach Dan Bylsma, but this promotion gives him an opportunity to play more minutes and perhaps boost his production. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on Ennis in deeper leagues to see if he can nail down the top-six role, especially if Girgensons and Carrier's injuries are long-term.
Ennis scored a third-period goal on his only shot during Monday's loss to New Jersey. Ennis has been limited to just 44 games over the past two seasons and has posted only six goals and 17 points. He's also been deployed in a fourth-line role of late, which doesn't help his fantasy prospects going forward. However, the 27-year-old winger does have a three-game point streak going with a goal and two assists.
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