Tyler Ennis had nine points in 10 regular season games with Buffalo last season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Lost in all the Taylor vs. Tyler hype is the fact there is another youngster with a similar handle who has a realistic shot at the Calder Trophy – Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis.
I tend to quickly fall in fantasy-hockey love with a player when I see consistent overachieving. When he’s meant to be eased in slowly, but produces big numbers anyway, it catches my eye. When the player continues to do that no matter who he plays with (last year it was mostly Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville) I become fairly certain he’ll be a star, barring an injury.
Ennis was drafted 26th overall in 2008, but the reason he was drafted so far down has a lot to do with his size. He’s “bulked up” to 163 pounds now, but he wasn’t quite so stacked as an 18-year-old. The mere fact an NHL team would draft a player who weighs less than 150 pounds says a lot about the player. The fact he was taken in the first round speaks volumes.
Smaller players need to do so much more to get onto an NHL roster. Generally speaking, they are 26 or 27 years old before they start making waves offensively; Steve Sullivan and Martin St-Louis are excellent examples of this. There are exceptions to the rule, but not many. And when there is an exception, it’s because the player is of superstar caliber, as in Theoren Fleury, Paul Kariya and Wayne Gretzky.
I’m not implying Ennis is Gretzky. Or even Kariya, for that matter. But as a small player playing in the NHL at the age of 20, Ennis is in good company.
As with most coaches, Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff is trying to bring Ennis along slowly. But when your team needs goals and Ennis keeps scoring them or setting them up, it’s hard to resist throwing him out there. And that’s what I mean by “overachieving.” In Ennis’ first NHL game, he played just more than 14 minutes, which is third line time. Despite that, he still scored. In his 10 regular season games, he averaged just more than 15 minutes of ice time per game, yet he managed nine points.
You would think that in the post-season he would be kept on the bench or in the press box, as coaches tend to protect their rookies from the intensity that is an NHL playoff game. But the Sabres weren’t scoring and Ruff found himself leaning on Ennis more and more. In the end, Ennis’ ice time in the post-season was about two minutes per game higher than it was in the regular season and he had four points in six games, tied for the team lead with Pominville.
The ice time, the results, the fact he forced the added ice time and the odds he has overcome regarding his size all add up to one thing: Ennis will be a star.
Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: Marc Savard’s concussion problems boost Tyler Seguin’s immediate impact. Far too talented to be sent back to junior, Seguin faced the prospect of plying his trade on the wing. Now there is room for him again at center and I think that will result in another 10 or 15 points this year…
• Mark Streit’s shoulder injury will boost the value of Jack Hillen. The 24-year-old had 11 points in his final 23 contests last season and has started to find his way at this level. Another two players to look at are Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic. One of the two should make the Islanders roster now and either one of them could surprise with a debut of 30 points. My preference is de Haan…
• The Peter Mueller injury (concussion) in Colorado opens the door for rookie Ryan Stoa to get onto a scoring line. After a rocky start to his pro career, Stoa settled down and actually scored in each of his final two regular season games last season. Not worth drafting, but definitely watch him and prepare to pluck him off the wire…
• The Jordan Staal injury (foot) has helped a couple of players. Instead of Evgeni Malkin moving to the wing on Staal’s line, Malkin is instead on the wing with Mike Comrie. As well, there is more ice time to go around and camp hopeful Brett Sterling is taking advantage. He has been lining up with Sidney Crosby and has had some success. At this point, both Comrie and Sterling are worth taking a flyer on towards the end of your draft.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.