An Ode to Jack Eichel: Hockey’s Forgotten Prospect
Connor McDavid is a wonderful prospect. He’s probably going to be one of the top players in the NHL, if not the top player, before he turns 20 years old. There’s a chance he could be better than Sidney Crosby, arguably the best player this generation has seen. His skating is already elite, his first two and three strides leave all-star defensemen in the dust. His vision and hockey IQ are also off the charts, he seems to be able to create chances that nobody else can see. People are making a very big deal about McDavid and don’t get me wrong, he’s a wonderful hockey player but I’m not interested in talking about Connor McDavid. I want to introduce everyone to Jack Eichel, the other future superstar that everyone is forgetting about.
In any other draft, Jack Eichel is head and shoulders the top prospect available. He’s a 6’2 center with elite speed, an elite shot, and elite hockey sense. Tough not to like that skillset. Last season, Eichel turned in the best freshman season in NCAA Division I Hockey in over 20 years. As an 18 year-old playing in the NCAA’s Hockey East, largely considered one of the toughest conferences in all of college hockey, Eichel put up an astounding 71 points in 40 games on the back of a historic 26 goal, 45 assist season. Keep in mind, Eichel was playing against men up to four or five years his senior. He scored a goal in two out of every three games played, managed over an assist a game and 1.78 points per game. As an 18 year-old freshman.
To say Eichel’s historic season at Boston University generated some impressive results would be an understatement. He won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in College Hockey. The only other freshman to ever win the award in its 35 year history was Paul Kariya in 1993. Eichel led his team to the NCAA National Championship Game where they lost 4-3 to Providence. He helped lead the Terriers to their first conference title in six years and was named MVP of the Hockey East Tournament.
This is what else Eichel was up to at age 18 while the rest of us were studying for our SATs:
- NCAA/Hockey East First Team All-American
- NCAA/Hockey East Scoring Champion
- NCAA/Hockey East Rookie of the Year
- NCAA/Hockey East All-Rookie Team
- NCAA Outstanding Freshman
- Hockey East First All-Star Team
- Hockey East Player of the Year
Eichel’s first season in the NCAA was such a success that in addition to being named captain of the US’ World Junior Team, he was invited to play in the World Hockey Championships for Team USA. Eichel looked the part playing with men 10 years his senior, he finished third on the team in scoring registering 2 goals and 5 assists in 10 games while helping the United States to a bronze medal. Eichel’s game translated well to the larger ice surface in the Czech Republic. His elite speed kept opposing defensemen on edge all tournament, his playmaking ability was on display as 5 of his 7 points were assists. Most importantly, he displayed a defensive tenacity and willingness to play a 200 foot game – qualities that usually escape an 18 year old.
A few weeks removed from his 19th birthday, Eichel is among the Buffalo Sabres team leaders in ice time per game, seeing nearly 19 minutes of ice per game in all situations. Eichel got off to a hot start goal-scoring wise, scoring his first goal in his first NHL game. The playmaking and assists took a little while to get going but he’s settled into his role as second-line center with Tyler Ennis and Jamie McGinn filling in on the left wing for the injured Evander Kane.
So while McDavid gets all the accolades for his speed vision and playmaking ability, Eichel will no doubt have the better career in the goal-scoring realm. His nose for the net combined with his quick release and other-worldly hockey IQ will have him competing for Rocket Richard, Art Ross, and Hart Trophies for years to come.