Benoit Pouliot carving his place in Buffalo

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, y’all, been quite busy. The Sabres have been erratic to start the new season but scored an impressive win over Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals last night thanks to a clutch goal from a surging player. Here’s a bit on him.

No disrespect to him at all, but based on what his career has been like, you’d never have guessed that Benoit Pouliot was taken three spots behind Sidney Crosby. Selected fourth overall in the 2005 Draft by the Minnesota Wild, Pouliot hasn’t exactly had the career that top-five picks are expected to go on to, especially when compared to other prospects drafted that round that have since become NHL stalwarts.

Besides Crosby, 2005 first rounders Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson, Carey Price, TJ Oshie and Anze Kopitar have all had thriving careers and largely remained with one team. Unlike his contemporaries, Pouliot has bounced around quite a bit and played for Montreal, Boston, Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers and Edmonton. I’m not at all saying that Pouliot hasn’t had a good career and hasn’t been valuable to the teams he’s been on, it’s just not very common to see such a high draft pick journey about the league like he has.The Alfred, ON native is 31 and made Buffalo his seventh team this past July.

With that having been said, Sabres fans weren’t exactly prolapsing when GM Jason Botterill signed Pouliot almost immediately into free agency over the summer. Thought of at most as a third or fourth line player who could help stabilize the team’s shaky penalty kill, nobody was expecting him to be an impact player of any kind. However, one month into the season, Pouliot has been just that.

The Sabres’ start to 2017-18 has not been a good one. 5-8-2 after 15 games, the team has struggled to maintain any kind of consistency and hasn’t won more than two straight games yet. Though Buffalo has largely played better than its record indicates, a handful of players have had very underwhelming starts to the year, most namely Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo, who have just five and four points respectively. With an allotment of marquee names under-performing, the Sabres have received a big boost from a surprising source.

Pouliot has been taking advantage the given situation and turned it into greater playing time and bigger roles than he started the year with. After receiving anywhere from 10:00-14:00 of ice time throughout the first few weeks, Pouliot’s TOI has been averaging out at 17:00 throughout his past four contests, and he has rewarded Phil Housley with five goals and two assists and an even 0 +/- . He’s been finding himself alongside  Ryan O’Reilly and the duo have been bringing out the best in each other.

While seven points in 15 games isn’t exactly fantastic, many of Pouliot’s goals have been quite timely and helped propel the Sabres. He recorded the lone tally in Robin Lehner’s 1-0 shutout of Detroit a few weeks ago and scored a razzle-dazzle beauty last night to give Buffalo a badly needed win.

For a guy who wasn’t expected to do much, Pouliot looks very comfortable with the Sabres. I’m not saying he’ll be representing the team at the All-Star Game come January, but the journeyman could be a key player as Buffalo continues to improve.

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