Since his drafting back in June, rookie forward Jack Eichel has been as good as advertised for the Buffalo Sabres and their fans.
The 19-year old has come to town with the right attitude, and has impressed every step of the way. From development camp in July to his first official NHL game against the Ottawa Senators, Eichel has, no doubt, made general manager Tim Murray a happy man.
The young man is going to be a great — potentially legendary — player in this league one day. But that doesn’t mean he’s without his flaws. He wasn’t going to come into this league and score at a point-per-game pace right away. If you were expecting that, you need to reevaluate how you look at talent.
Eichel has shown numerous moments of flair with his skating, incredible ability to recover after a giveaway and even his talent at scoring at nearly impossible angles. What he fails at often, however, is simply getting the puck to the net.
Maybe it’s that he’s trying to prove himself, or maybe it’s still a trust issue with is teammates. Either way, it appears that the former Boston Terrier is trying to do too much on his own. He’s looking to make the big play — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but sometimes it’s better to keep it simple.
After scoring his third goal of the season against the New Jersey Devils, Eichel stated that his goal was proof that just getting pucks to the net was one thing that needed to happen more. After all, good things occur when the puck is at the feet of a goaltender. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the “get the puck on net” mindset is fully entrenched in his mind.
Again, he’s young and to expect him to be at the peak of his potential during his first handful of games is an unrealistic expectation.
One has to wonder if it’s the lack of point production that has Eichel trying to do too much. He has set up team mates with quality chances, but the puck just hasn’t been able to find the back of the net. Yes, Eichel does lead the team in shots with 35 through 10 games, but most of those come on point blank chances.
Now, that isn’t condemning him for getting quality chances. He’s getting open opportunities due to his incredible talent, and ability to break away from opponents with the puck. But when he doesn’t have a clear path to the net, he seems hesitant too often. That will change over time, and with 11 shots in his last two games, including eight against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s apparent that it’s already starting to.
Eichel is improving game-by-game, and once he has it all put together, the rest of the league will have to look out.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.