When the Buffalo Sabres lost the NHL Draft Lottery to the Edmonton Oilers, the immediate attention went from dreaming of Connor McDavid to realizing Jack Eichel is bound for Buffalo. The Hobey Baker winner led his Boston Terriers to the NCAA National Championship as a freshman, and is expected to be one of the top American players to make it to the NHL since Pat Kane in 2007.
For the Sabres organization, as well as their fans, there is a bit of concern, however. Ever since the Terriers lost to Providence in the NCAA Championship, there has been a lot of speculation that Eichel could go back to college for another season. Though not future shattering, the move could put off Buffalo’s attempt at a quick rebuild for at least another season. After the Sabres, likely, select Eichel come June’s draft, the full court press will be on to get him signed and up to the NHL level.
That is, unless, the press is already on.
Buffalo announced on Wednesday that the team has signed former Boston forward Evan Rodrigues to a two-year, entry-level contract. Not only is this a former teammate of Eichel’s, but it also happens to be his former linemate.
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“Evan is a very talented young player who has displayed exceptional growth during his four years at BU,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray said via press release. “We look forward to adding another talented piece to our group.”
In his final season at Boston, Rodrigues scored 21 goals and tallied 40 assists for 61 points. His production was second behind that of, you guessed it, Eichel. Prior to this season, however, the 21-year old scored just 60 points through 105 games.
It’s unclear whether this will have an impact on Eichel’s decision to go pro or stay in college next season, but it won’t definitely hurt Buffalo’s chances of convincing the 18-year old to come to the NHL. In addition, I think the idea of playing on a line with the likes of Tyler Ennis and Evander Kane could be convincing enough for Eichel to make the jump.
The effort could’ve received a boost had the Sabres been able to sign goaltender Matt O’Connor from Boston as well, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening. Nevertheless, the Sabres are going to take Eichel with the second overall pick in June, and it appears that the push is already on to give him every reason possible to sign right away.