Brian Flynn was a scorer in college.
During his four-year hockey career at Maine, he netted 69 goals, finishing with 156 points for a 1.02 points-per-game average.
He knew that would change once he entered the pro hockey world and his focus became working on whatever he could to add value to his game.
Faceoffs? Sure. Penalty kill? You bet.
He broke into the lineup as a reliable forward with good vision and as a steady defender. Now in his second full NHL season with the Buffalo Sabres, Flynn is starting to see some rewards on the offensive end.
Entering Saturday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche in First Niagara Center (7 p.m., MSG, Radio 550 AM), Flynn has four goals, three assists and seven points.
Consider that in 79 games last year he had six goals and 13 points.
“It’s evolving, no question about that,” coach Ted Nolan said about Flynn’s role. “Some players take a little bit of time. You don’t pigeonhole someone when they’re 22 or 23 and some people take a little bit longer and it seems like he’s just starting to come into his own.
“He has tremendous insight into the game. He has good vision. He studies the game. He’s very strong positionally.”
Flynn was a standout forward at Maine from 2008-12. When the Black Bears’ season ended his senior year, Flynn joined the Rochester Americans for his pro hockey debut.
In the 2012-13 season, he scored 16 goals in 45 games with the Amerks, playing 26 games with Buffalo.
He transitioned his game to the pro level, understanding where he could fit in and embracing the opportunities.
“At Maine I penalty killed and did all that, too,” Flynn said. “When I was going to become a pro I knew that’s what I would most likely have to do. It’s really hard to be a top-six forward in this league and consistently produce. You want to do as many things as you can to add value to your own game.
“If you’re good at faceoffs or good at penalty kill, that just adds a couple more minutes to your ice time every night and gives you some more chances and makes you more valuable to your team.”
His ice time over the past two seasons has remained rather consistent – averaging around 14:30 with about 2:15 of that coming in short-handed situations.
But Nolan noted Flynn is starting to get some power play time, not a lot, but some. And every bit of ice time is an opportunity for Flynn.
He’s been playing on the second line, finding a comfortable groove with veterans Brian Gionta and Torrey Mitchell. A lower body injury to Mitchell means some juggling – likely putting Flynn at center with Drew Stafford at the other wing.
“Center you expend a lot more energy,” Flynn said. “You have to be more aware defensively, not that you’re not as a winger, but center is a lot more skating and you really have to make sure you’re taking care of your own end and hopefully moving pucks up to your wingers in good spots.”
The more Flynn plays, the more confidence he gets and the better he becomes at reading the situation and creating opportunities in the offensive zone.
“I think the more you play you just gain confidence in the league and the pace of play,” Flynn said. “I feel like I can make more plays out there. I think recently I’ve had a little more confidence to do that. As long as you’re not doing it in areas like your own blue line and things like that I think Teddy’s pretty good about it if you want to try and make some plays down low in the offensive zone you kind of have the green light to do that as long as you’re taking care of your own end.”