In a rink in Edmonton, where he played hockey growing up, Tyler Ennis was about to take the ice last week when he took a call that will impact the rest of his life.
While on the phone with his agent, the 24-year-old center agreed to a new five-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres. Then he hit the ice.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe how far I’ve come’ and really how excited I am to be a Buffalo Sabre,” he told Andrew Peters and Rob Ray on Sabres Hockey Hotline on Tuesday.
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Later that day, he went to his parents’ house to make the contract official. He joked that he didn’t get too emotional.
“When we signed it, they were a little teary-eyed. Being the tough guy that I am, I didn’t cry but I was holding it back a little bit,” he said. “It was pretty cool. I’m proud and I’m really excited to improve my game and take Buffalo to the next level. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Last week after development camp wrapped up at First Niagara Center, Sabres general manager Tim Murray said while he’s not sure what position Ennis might play five years from now – whether he’s at center or on the wing – he does see a role for Ennis on the team.
“He had 21 goals this year on a not-very good team, playing as a No. 1 center, getting the bad matchups. I thought considering his slow start – I wasn’t here for that but I keep being told about it – he had a pretty successful year individually,” Murray said. “Hopefully that translates into having a better year with better players around him.”
Murray has already started to add talented veterans to the roster. On July 1, he signed wings Brian Gionta and Matt Moulson and traded for defenseman Josh Gorges. They’re players that can not only contribute offensively, but also provide a leadership presence in the locker room.
Moulson played 44 games for the Sabres last season and spent a lot of time on a line with Ennis and Drew Stafford. Ennis was happy to see the three-time 30-goal scorer return to Buffalo.
Ennis will look to learn from Moulson, Gionta, Gorges and the other older players like he did when he entered the NHL back in 2009-10.
“I think when I first came in to the League, our whole room was full of leaders,” he said. “I remember guys like Mike Grier. They were awesome for everyone.”
Ennis said that he and defenseman Tyler Myers are among the players already on the team that will be looked upon to step up as leaders.
“It’s time for us to take over now,” Ennis said. “It’s a good balance of older guys, middle guys ready to take over and lot of great young kids coming up.”
As far as the center ice position goes, Ennis knows he still has lots to improve on. While he did score a career-high 21 goals last season, he’d like to work on winning more faceoffs and being better in his own end, particularly down low.
“I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do still”