Sabres Scoop: William Eklund, Eichel Update & ‘Donnie Meatballs’ Is Staying

Welcome to the second edition of Sabres Scoop, The Hockey Writers’ weekly column discussing all things Buffalo Sabres. This week, Sabres Scoop co-hosts Jordan Jacklin and Brandon Seltenrich are joined by THW’s Seattle Kraken writer Tom Pepper, and the trio sounds off on some of the biggest storylines, news, and rumors about the organization.

The Sabres provided their fans with plenty of news over the past week:

  1. The team re-signed head coach Don Granato to a three-year contract, and he will be looking to prove himself heading into his first full season.
  2. There has been some discourse on top-prospect William Eklund, who the Sabres are reportedly very high on. It remains to be seen whether the Sabres would pass on Owen Power or Matt Beniers to select Eklund with the first pick or if they would explore other avenues.
  3. There is an update on the Jack Eichel situation, as it’s heading towards a resolution, according to his agent.

Check out our thoughts on these topics below, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

“Donnie Meatballs” Sheds Interim Status, Hired as Head Coach for 3 Seasons

On June 29, the Sabres announced Granato as their head coach and officially committed to their guy. He had been the front-runner for months, with Rick Tocchet, Rikard Gronberg, and Nate Leaman also being interviewed. The 53-year-old, who was previously the assistant coach under Krueger, served as the interim coach for the second half of the 2020-21 season. This was the best option for the franchise, and Granato will focus on being a more offensive team heading into the next season.

Buffalo Sabres Don Granato Dylan Cozens
Buffalo Sabres interim head coach Don Granato talks to Dylan Cozens (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Brandon: Granato said in his press conference that he “never considered pursuing another coaching vacancy.” I’m sure if he wanted to, he probably could have and been hired by another franchise. He also said, “the demand of Sabres fans, and the demand of our Hockey community is where I want to be.” As someone very passionate about this team, and I believe general manager Kevyn Adams and him are, this is uplifting to hear.

Jordan: I believe Granato was the right person for the job. He knows the type of team that he’s working with in Buffalo. Under Krueger, the Sabres were playing too defensive and were not activating their defensemen into the play. This caused a player like Rasmus Dahlin to struggle during the season, and he looked like a shell of his former self. When Granato took over, Dahlin became a different player and started to produce for the team, putting up a goals for percentage of 53.1 percent at 5-on-5. When he was on the ice, he dominated against the opposition’s top lines and played the style of game that scouts praised during his years in the Swedish Hockey league (SHL).

Related: Sabres’ Don Granato Sheds Interim Status, Hired As Next Head Coach

Tom: This is the right move, as we saw a significant turnaround in how the team played after he was named the interim head coach. A lot of the players got behind him and came out and said they loved playing for him. Their record after the trade deadline was a pedestrian 5-9-1 in 15 games, but their younger players showed a lot of promise. Granato wants to be in Buffalo, and the fit appears to be there. They got their guy.

Could the Sabres Draft William Eklund With the 1st-Overall Pick?

Over this past week, it has come out that the Sabres are very high on top prospect William Eklund. This sparked a debate on our show, as the team would have a few options in trying to draft him. They could take the bold choice and select him with their first-overall pick. Various mock drafts, such as Matthew Zator’s, indicate that either Power or Beniers should be chosen in that position. They also could trade one of their forwards like Sam Reinhart and select him with a top-10 pick that they would be receiving in a potential package.

Sam Reinhart Buffalo Sabres
Sam Reinhart, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brandon: If I were in Adams’ position, I would try and acquire another top-10 pick to select Eklund and choose Beniers with the first pick. Not to take anything away from Power, but this is very similar to what happened in the 2013 NHL Draft. Seth Jones was the consensus first-overall pick for most of the season, and he ended up falling to fourth to the Nashville Predators. Colorado wanted Nathan MacKinnon, and that was the right move to make. Three years later, and Jones was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Ryan Johansen. If Adams believes that a forward can make a similar impact from this draft class, he should be selecting either Beniers, Eklund, or both.

Jordan: The scouting department now consists of nine personnel, which has grown throughout the season. It’s challenging to know what their mindset is heading into the draft. I still believe that this team will make the bold selection and choose Eklund with their first-overall pick. Many scouts are high on him as a prospect and think he should be a top-five pick. I don’t know if you pick him over a player like Beniers, but this draft has a lot of uncertainty. I believe Eklund will end up in a Sabres jersey on July 23.

Tom: It wouldn’t surprise me if they went bold and selected Eklund with the first-overall pick. In last year’s draft, the team chose Jack Quinn with their eighth-overall selection over Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, and Anton Lundell. People in the hockey community were upset with that decision. I get the sense that Adams will select the player he believes will stay long-term. I don’t think they are concerned with drafting a player that most deemed should have gone in that spot. He wants to make the Sabres the best team they can be, and we’ll have to see if his decisions end up being correct.

Jack Eichel and the Sabres Are Heading Towards a Resolution

Eichel’s agent, Peter Fish, sent a text to The Associated Press last week. Fish didn’t go into much detail, but stated: “We are communicating with the team and are headed toward a resolution.” A lot can be interpreted from that statement, as it either means the relationship between the two sides is repairing, or a trade is closer than we predict. This led to a lengthy discussion on the show on what the future of Eichel in Buffalo is.

Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brandon: Eichel and Granato go way back to his days in the United States National Team Development Program (NTDP), but we didn’t get to see the two of them work together this past season. I don’t believe the hiring of Granato changes anything, and this statement also doesn’t change my stance. Adams said he hasn’t changed his mind on the surgery in the same breath, and Jack will not be getting the operation. I think he is still heading out the door, and it’s unfortunate.

Related: Trade History Could Predict Eichel’s Value & Destination

Jordan: Honestly, the comments made by the agent grabbed my attention. Maybe there is a possibility that the two sides can work this out? That may be naïve of me to suggest, but it was a positive comment to hear. Even if a trade is nearing, maybe it means the team will not rush him out the door and will take their time to recoup the most assets possible. There are many factors in this situation, but I believe Eichel will still end up traded.

Tom: I still can’t fathom the possibility that the Sabres will be trading Eichel in the coming weeks. With how it’s happening, it’s turned into a surgery issue and does not correlate with what’s happened on the ice. It isn’t perfect for Sabres fans, who believed that Eichel would be the savior of this franchise. Now, it looks like he’s gone and is destined to play elsewhere. I think the Eichel era in Buffalo is over.

Have any thoughts on the topics discussed in this column? Share it down below!

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