Tyler Ennis

With Ott gone, who will be Buffalo’s next captain?


Since the start of 2013, three different players have worn the ‘C’ in Buffalo — Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott — and they have all been traded. That’s created something of a leadership vacuum for the Sabres going into the 2014-15 campaign.

Fortunately, there have some candidates to fill that void.

Perhaps the most obvious player is Brian Gionta, who inked a three-year, $12.75 million contract with Buffalo over the summer. The 35-year-old doesn’t have experience within the Sabres’ organization, but he has a strong resume after serving as the Montreal Canadiens’ captain and winning the Stanley Cup.

He could prove to be a mentor for the young Sabres and aide them in their rebuilding efforts. After his tenure with Buffalo ends, the team could then hand the captaincy to one of the young forwards that’s established himself and symbolically complete the transitional period at that time.

The Sabres might also opt to go with a younger option to put the focus more squarely on their future. Tyler Ennis, for example, is an interesting choice. He’s just 24 years old (25 in October), but already has 267 NHL games under his belt. On top of that, he’s starting a five-year, $23 million contract this season, so he’s someone that will be around for the rest of Buffalo’s rebuild and then still be young enough to lead them once the Sabres are on the other side of it.

Ennis plans to learn from Gionta and the other veterans on the team, but he also recognizes that at this point he should take on more responsibilities in the locker room.

“It’s time for us (Ennis and Tyler Myers) to take over now,” Ennis said, per team’s website. “It’s a good balance of older guys, middle guys ready to take over and lot of great young kids coming up.”

Another option is for the team to pass on naming a captain this season. As a rookie, Sam Reinhart isn’t expected to take on that role, but the 18-year-old is, as Flames president Brian Burke put it, an “Einstein on the ice” and might be a serious candidate in a year or two if everything goes right. On top of that, if Buffalo has a bad season, it could end up drafting a potential superstar in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Would it make sense for the Sabres to leave the position vacant for now in the hopes that one of their promising young players will claim it? That’s up to head coach Ted Nolan, but he certainly has a few interesting paths he could take.

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering 10 years of Crosby, Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here’s a detailed look back at Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s first 10 years in the NHL. (NHL.com)

Speaking of Crosby, he’s signed a multiyear partnership with adidas. (Newswire)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play a key role in easing Connor McDavid into the NHL. (Edmonton Sun)

After two polar opposite seasons, the jury is still out on Patrick Roy as a head coach. (Denver Post)

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys pulling off pranks on his teammates. “I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Art McDonald, a Canadian who won recently won a Nobel Prize, talked to the committee members about the Toronto Maple Leafs. (SB Nation)