by Ray Kuhn
It has not been an easy rookie season for Jack Eichel. He was drafted second overall this past summer by the Buffalo Sabres and did not have nearly as much attention as Connor McDavid (who was selected first). While observers certainly know who Eichel is, he has managed to go under the radar.
There are multiple reasons as to why, and the first one is that Eichel plays for the Sabres. Being selected out of Boston College is another reason why he didn’t receive as much publicity (since he didn’t play in Juniors). We know all about McDavid, but Eichel has also had to compete against rookies such as Dylan Larkin and Artemi Panarin who are a part of successful, veteran teams, Eichel has not been surrounded by much talent to begin his NHL career (other than Ryan O’Reilly, who is currently injured).
Eichel didn’t exactly come out of the gates scoring this season as he managed 14 points in his first 32 games. However, over his last 28 games he has certainly found his groove with 27 points. On the season he has 17 goals and 24 assists and has managed to become a consistent offensive threat.
When it counts Eichel has shown an ability to produce, with six power play goals and nine power play assists. On the defensive end he is a product of his team’s ineffectiveness and I wouldn’t hold his -13 rating against him.
It is easy to forget about him, but it really isn’t fair. While he may not be as prolific as other members of this rookie class, it is still not an indication that he won’t be a perennial All-Star contender. Eichel is still 19-years old and the Sabres will only improve and grow around him. Just because he doesn’t profile as a true “star”, what is generally expected from the Number Two pick, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the potential to be a legitimate NHL contributor.
With Eichel it is not just about the scoring, but more about the complete package. As the Sabres entered the All-Star break, here is what is coach (Dan Bylsma) had to say about his prized rookie (click here for the article).
“Jack can be engaged in the game vocally and that’s really to me a big indicator of where he is on the ice,” Bylsma said. “Doing it night in and night out is a challenge. Traveling and getting in at 5 in the morning is a challenge for everybody, but a challenge for young guys that may not be accustomed to play this many games in rapid succession. Talking translates into him skating. It translates into him using his feet.”
We are just beginning to tap into his potential and Eichel is going to become a name NHL fans are aware of, if they are not already. The Sabres just need to work on that supporting cast.
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