Late Sunday night, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they have dealt one of their captains, and beloved players, Thomas Vanek. Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders, where he will be a huge addition to play along side John Tavares and fellow countryman, Michael Grabner. In return, Buffalo received a first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, and forward, Matt Moulson.
At 29 years of age (30 on Friday), Matt Moulson is considered to be one of the most underrated players in the NHL. Moulson was born in North York, Ontario, and was considered to be one of the worst players in his younger days of hockey due to his size. However, Moulson was determined to overcome his critics and was offered to play at Cornell University in college. When he finished his four-year college career, Moulson ended up with 71 goals (tied for seventh most in school history) and 67 assists 134 career games with the Big Red of Cornell.
In the 2003 NHL Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Moulson in the ninth-round of the draft, but got his first opportunity in professional hockey came with the Los Angeles Kings organization in 2006. In his first professional season in Manchester, Moulson scored 25 goals and 32 assists in 77 games played with the team. The next season, he was called up for 22 games with the Los Angeles Kings, registering five goals and four assists for the club. In his first career NHL game against the San Jose Sharks, Moulson scored his first career goal in a 5-2 win.
After another solid year in the Kings organization, he became a free agent and signed a deal with the New York Islanders in 2009. In his first season with the Islanders, Moulson scored 30 goals and added 18 helpers in all 82 games played. He scored the most goals on the team that season, and for the next two seasons after. He added 31 goals in the 2010-11 season and 36 goals in the 2011-12 season. Last season, he was the second highest scorer on the team, behind John Tavares, but still managed to score almost a point a game. He scored 15 goals and recorded 29 assists and, with Tavares, started to develop a dynamic duo on the first line for the Islanders.
In the beginning stages of the 2013-14 season, Moulson is on pace to have another 30 goal season, and possibly break 40 goals for the first time in his career. Before the trade to the Sabres, Moulson had six goals and three assists in all eleven games played so far. He was fourth on the Islanders in scoring, but is now tied as the leading scorer for the Sabres with Cody Hodgson.
“Matt, I believe, will address our current needs and provide us with support, leadership, and scoring,” said Darcy Regier in his press conference on Sunday night. “Matt comes in right now, has six goals in the NHL, and is off to a good start. He [Moulson] is a goal scorer, and plays in the hard areas and on the powerplay.” Regier also added that he believes that this deal is going to improve the hockey club in the long run.
The next day, Moulson was in Buffalo and sporting the same number 26 that Thomas Vanek wore. Monday night, he made his Buffalo Sabres debut, and what a debut it was. After going down 1-0 early to the Dallas Stars, Tyler Ennis set up Matt Moulson for his first goal as a Buffalo Sabre, and tied the game 1-1. Moulson would score his second of the night to make the score 4-3 in an effort to come back from a 4-1 deficit. In the 4-3 loss, Moulson had the two goals and four shots in 19:48 minutes played. He also spent some time on the first power-play unit, playing where Vanek played, in front of the net.
“Buffalo has always been a great hockey town, and they want to win obviously. When the crowd starts getting up there, we fed off of that and directed all the energy out there. We just gotta keep working out there,” said Moulson after the game.
“He’s a hockey player. In every zone he’s solid. In our zone, d-zone, he was solid. He plays his position, got pucks out on the wall, makes little plays through the neutral zone, gets to the net, give and go. He’s a hockey player, and we’re glad we have him,” said coach Ron Rolston about Matt Moulson’s game.
So what will Matt Moulson bring to the table for the Buffalo Sabres for the rest of the year? His offensive ability could finally bring some scoring to the team. Moulson has shown that he could easily take Thomas Vanek’s spot on the vacant left wing, and on the powerplay. Moulson is 6’1”, but that does not stop him from being a productive hockey player.
Moulson is very good at cashing in on loose pucks and rebounds in front of the net. Moulson also has a laser of a shot, and will let one go when he gets the open space. As of late, Moulson has become a “set-up man” for guys like John Tavares. Matt Moulson has got such good hands, that he has been known for his lacrosse skills as well as his hockey skills. Moulson is not as good as a skater as Thomas Vanek, but he definitely makes up for it with his playmaking abilities. Moulson will also be an unrestricted free agent after the season is over. His current salary cap hit is at $3.1 million per year.
Moulson will help contribute to the Sabres organization immediately. He will play with a guy like Cody Hodgson, and both will have the chance to develop a chemistry similar to the one Moulson had with Tavares. Moulson can definitely help this club in the long run, just as long as he remains healthy and can re-sign with the team before July 1, 2014. His determination and his knack for the game of hockey will be a helpful step up for the Sabres organization right now. Moulson may not stick with the team through the rest of the season, but if he puts up the numbers and production that Buffalo hopes he will, expect him to possibly get a nice raise and extension from the organization.
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