Many Buffalo fans were angry when their team lost out on the number one spot in the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery, which went to the Edmonton Oilers. Without the first spot, the Sabres will most likely be unable to draft Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters, whom is one of the most anticipated rookies of all time.
Well, Sabres fans, we’ve got great news: Jack Eichel is coming to town.
The “Ultimate Consolation Prize” is expected to take the #2 spot in the draft, assuming Connor McDavid goes #1 as according to plan. So the question is, what can Jack Eichel bring to Buffalo?
Eichel, a decently-sized forward out of Boston University, is the second ranked prospect in the hockey world according to several extremely credible sources, including NHL Central Scouting. How did the 18-year-old earn this ranking? Well, let’s take a look:
Eichel at Boston University
Eichel, a Massachusetts native, unsurprisingly chose to play at Boston University, one of the most historic and successful collegiate teams in NCAA hockey history. The 6’2″, 188 pound center wasted no time in proving himself as the strongest player college hockey has seen in quite a long time. In just forty games with the Terriers, Eichel amassed 26 goals and 45 assists. Eichel’s 71 points sat him comfortably atop the nation, 10 points above his B.U. line-mate Evan Rodrigues (who, for the record, signed with none other than the Buffalo Sabres in April).
Eichel received nearly every honor possible from the NCAA and Hockey East. By the seasons end, the phenom had been named Hockey East’s scoring champion, Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, Conference Tournament MVP (as well as champion), and had been named to both First Team Hockey East as well as the All-Rookie team. Most notably, Eichel was the first freshman to receive the Hobey Baker Award (given to the top player in college hockey) since Paul Kariya in 1993.
Eichel and his teammates were beaten in the National Championship game by Providence, which means Eichel couldn’t grasp every honor in college hockey.
As the highest-ranked American prospect in a long time, Eichel has seen his fair share of play on a world-scale, representing the United States. At the age of 15, Eichel was selected to play for Team USA in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics. He then went on to win a bronze medal in the 2013 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, followed by claiming a silver medal in the 2013 IIHF World U-18 Championships. He would claim gold for the first time the following year (2014), in the same tournament.
Later that year, 17-year-old Eichel was selected as the youngest player to sport the red, white, and blue in the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, in which the U.S. finished 5th. Eichel was a member of the same U.S. World Junior Team for this year’s Championship as well, in which the U.S. finished 5th once again.
Eichel made his first appearance on the large-scale international stage this spring, when he represented the United States in the 2015 World Championships. In ten games, Eichel scored 2 goals (including the game-winner in the Group Stage against Slovakia), and tallied 7 assists.
Eichel and Buffalo
Eichel attended an interview with the Buffalo Sabres recently to discuss the future.
“It went really well,” Eichel said, per the Buffalo News. “I got to know all their management and scouts and talk about my season and stuff, so it was a lot of fun. I liked it. It was a good meeting… The odds are that I’ll be selected here, so I’m just trying to get a feel for the city. It was nice to meet the management and see coach Bylsma again. It’s really good. I’ve been enjoying myself.”
Eichel is already familiar with some of the Sabres staff. Dan Bylsma, who was recently hired as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, was an assistant coach for the U.S. World Championship team that Eichel had played for this spring.
Given the chance, Eichel will bring an exciting style of play to Buffalo. Assuming he is drafted by the Sabres, he’s almost guaranteed a spot on the NHL roster come this fall. Eichel carries with him a masterful skill-set across the board, with fantastic instincts, and hockey-IQ that any coach would dream about.
While Eichel is in an extremely unique situation headed into the season, there is one young NHL’er that the young star could compare with in his rookie season; former Boston College stand-out and Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau.
Gaudreau was an immediate-impact player for the Calgary Flames this season. The former BC Eagle had a tremendous rookie season, scoring 24 goals and tallying 40 assists in 81 games with the Flames (he also scored one goal in the final game of the 2014 season, in his NHL debut). On top of that, Gaudreau was chosen as an NHL All-Star. Gaudreau became the first Flames rookie to reach the 50 point mark since future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla.
Eichel will look to produce similar numbers with the Sabres this season. Those numbers certainly won’t come easy to any player, but it will definitely be exciting to see what Eichel can do come fall.
Lastly, the inevitable Eichel-McDavid comparison.
You’ve probably heard plenty of reasons why McDavid is better than Eichel, and even visa versa. The fact is this: until we see the two players on the same sheet of ice once again, we won’t be able to make a judgement on who has the upper hand. The stats will tell you this and the scouts will tell you that, but it’s important to remember the difference in competition. McDavid and Eichel have shown their talents in much different leagues, and until we see them at an NHL-level together, it’s really hard to say who has the upper hand.
Only one thing is for sure: it’ll be one heck of a match-up.
Come draft-day, the world will get much more exciting for Sabres fans everywhere.
Get to know Eichel in his NHL.com Draft Player Preview: