Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

From 'You wanna be a hero?' to 'You wanna stay in the league?' for Tyler Ennis

The former Sabres first round pick in 2008 has signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs

July 06, 2018 - 1:56 pm

Joe DiBiase reporting

Former Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis was bought out by the Minnesota Wild just one day before the opening of NHL Free Agency. Nearly a week later, Ennis has latched on with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In the last three seasons while playing for the Sabres and Wild, Ennis has played 174 games and compiled just 16 goals. That's 7.5 goals per-82-games. For comparison, Ennis had scored 21.2 goals per-82-games in the first six seasons of his career.

Jason Botterill's first trade with the Sabres was shipping Ennis and Marcus Foligno to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville. The Wild bought out Ennis after scoring just eight goals and 14 assists in 73 games. He was a healthy scratch in all but one of their playoff games.

Now in Toronto, Ennis has the opportunity to play with some tremendous talent. Assuming he'd be on one of the Leafs top-three lines, he'll either play with John Tavares, Auston Matthews, or Nazem Kadri. That's an instant upgrade from anything he saw in his time in Buffalo. If he's going to re-establish himself in the league, he has to do it right now.

Once upon a time, Ennis was the most dynamic young forward in the Sabres organization. At age 19, he burst onto the scene late in the 2010 season, and carried that into the playoffs. Ennis scored the overtime winner in the Sabres' last playoff win, Game 5 in Philadelphia back in 2011. It's hard to believe that at age 28, he's on his third team and struggling to avoid having to playing in the AHL or overseas.

The question for Ennis is no longer "you wanna be a hero?", as Rick Jeanneret said as the Sabres took a 3-2 series lead over the Philadelphia Flyers. Now the question for Ennis is "you wanna be an NHL player?" At this rate, if Ennis doesn't turn his production around, he could be out of the league before his 30th birthday.

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