A Quick Preseason Look at Marcus Foligno Entering his Contract Year

Fifty days remain until the start of the Buffalo Sabres regular season. Comparatively speaking, it’s very easy to say that this season has more anticipation than the past five years combined. The obvious reason being the offseason moves that have drastically improved the Sabres line combinations. For the first time in maybe 3 years, fourth line players are finally playing on the fourth line. Here’s what I predict the lines to look like come the 8th of October:

Evander Kane – Ryan O’Reilly (legal issues pending) – Tyler Ennis
Matt Moulson – Jack Eichel – Zemgus Girgensons
Marcus Foligno – Sam Reinhart – Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers – Johan Larsson – Jamie McGinn

Josh Gorges – Zach Bogosian
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber – Mark Pysyk

Robin Lehner
Chad Johnson

Obviously nothing is set in stone. Could Girgensons leak into the first line? Yes, and many people feel as if that is the first line move to happen this season if Ennis can’t seem to gel with ROR and E. Kane. If Ennis is to debut as a first line winger, he will have to utilize his hockey IQ and playmaking skills that make him a standout player on this Sabres team. This could be an early season storyline to follow, but one that may slip under the radar is the performance of Marcus Foligno.

This will be a contract year for Foligno, with his two-year 3,750,000 contract ending at the conclusion of this upcoming season. Signing his entry contract in 2011, Foligno has found it very tough to find a stride in the NHL, whether it be due to injury or lack of opportunity alongside skilled players.  Last year he missed a good portion of the season with a hand injury after going toe-to-toe with Bruins’ bruiser Matt Bartkowski.

 

(Remember, the NHL didn’t even hold a hearing for this hit)

If Foligno finds himself on the third line as a winger, he will have to prove to be a consistent player all throughout the year. When he was healthy, in the past two seasons, Foligno failed to find the score sheet for stretches of 10+ games. His worst stretch being early last year from October 17th to November 22nd (11 games).

This season will be a clean slate for Foligno and a chance to prove that he has what it takes to be a tough, power-forward in the Sabres bottom six forwards. In fact, I believe that the upcoming season could be a breakout year for #82. After four up and down years between the AHL and NHL, playing alongside some questionable talent, Foligno will be on a line with a high-quality center and a winger that could help him excel throughout the season. I don’t want to set expectations, but if Foligno wants to stay in Buffalo he will need to show some consistency early in the upcoming season. If he fails to find his groove early on, I could see Tim Murray reaching for the phone prior to the All-Star Break or even earlier.