Who will lead the charge?

Gionta

We’re less than a month away from the Sabres hitting the ice for their season opener against Montreal. With all the excitement surrounding the team this year, many may overlook the current captain, Brian Gionta. 

The veteran forward will be 38 years old by the end of this season and his offensive numbers continue to decline, which is to be expected. Unless he can find some more points this year, there is a chance that it may be his final year in the NHL. 

It’s a big IF right now, but what that means for the rest of the team is that this season is a chance to audition for the coveted “C” a year from now. 

Not to run Gionta out of here, but we’re curious to see who fans think could be this team’s next captain. We’ve taken a look at the candidates and here they are:

Ryan O’Reilly –  After trading for him, O’Reilly stated he wanted to assume a leadership role with the Sabres and aside from the off-ice incident involving a Tim Horton’s, he’s done exactly that. O’Reilly is currently one of the alternate captains and has played a huge role in the team’s rebuild. Coupled with his ability in the faceoff circle (ranked ninth overall in faceoff win percentage last season) as well as being a great two-way forward, the sky certainly appears to be the limit.

Season 4, episode 5 of “Blue and Gold” hammered home the ROR argument, with a quote from Gionta himself.

“He’s a guy that’s gonna be around a long time. He’s a heart and soul kinda guy. He works extremely hard and he’s a great example for all the guys, with all the work he puts in. That’s a guy, that could easily be a captain one day” – Brian Gionta

Kyle Okposo – Although Okposo has yet to step foot on the ice as a Sabre, the team and its’ fans understand exactly what he brings to the table. He’s a proven scorer, an offensive firecracker and has been in a leadership role previously with the Islanders.

Okposo is destined to play on the top two lines and will have plenty of opportunities to put up points, playing with the likes of O’Reilly and Kane. If he can step up to the mark and lead by example, I see no reason for him not to grab an “A” or the “C.”

Jack Eichel – Eichel is soon to be, if not already, the face of the franchise. And more often than not, franchise players wear either the ‘C’ or ‘A’ badge. After being drafted 2nd overall in the 2015 draft, he wowed fans and teammates all season long with his goal-scoring prowess and ingenious play. With his skills and presence already recognized, his path towards one of the games superstars also entails a captaincy at some point.

Sam Reinhart – It’s becoming a nice combo, isn’t it? Jack and Sam. With all of the attention on Eichel heading into last season, Reinhart made sure he was in the spotlight as well, and it became a beautiful 1-2 punch. Reinhart is shaping up to be here for a long time and has earned the respect of teammates with a big rookie season.

Marcus Foligno – Foligno is coming off a stellar campaign with the Sabres in which he recorded and tied career highs in goals and assists respectively. Foligno isn’t afraid to get down to the nitty gritty aspects of the game and is often seen battling down low for the puck in the corners or coming to a teammate’s aid by dropping the gloves. What he lacks in agility, he certainly makes up for in both size and determination. After showing signs of growth last year, more responsibility could be beneficial during the early part of his career.

Zach Bogosian – “BoGo”, as he’s known by fans is another player deserving of wearing a letter on his jersey. From his pregame mixes to huge hits at center ice, Bogosian is one of the larger personalities in the Sabres locker room. Putting your body on the line is something hockey players are accustomed to and this guy is no stranger to it, registering 98 blocked shots this past season. Like Foligno, Bogosian isn’t afraid to mix it up, and could be a dark horse to get a letter in the next couple years. 

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