Current team: Boston University
Weight: 194 lbs.
Central Scouting ranking: 2
ISS ranking: 2
NHL comparisons: Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton
He's the name everyone in Buffalo now knows. It's not a question of if the Sabres draft Jack Eichel. It's just waiting for Tim Murray to call his name at the podium in a little less than month.
Jack Eichel is strong, smart and everything a scout would look for in a number one center. In almost any other draft he'd be the clear-cut number one pick. He has the potential to be one of the best to ever don a Buffalo Sabres sweater.
He won pretty much everything he could in college hockey this year, besides his Terriers falling in the NCAA title to the Providence Friars. He won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey, making him the first nominated freshman since Zack Parise and the first to win it since Paul Kariya.
Eichel won the NCAA scoring title, finishing ten points higher than the second place finisher (Eichel's Boston teammate and newly signed Sabre Evan Rodrigues). Eichel dominated the Hockey East Conference, winning the conference's Player of the Year Award, Rookie of the Year Award and tournament MVP and was the only player to unanimously be named to the conference's All-Star Team. He was chosen as USA Hockey's top college player this summer.
Connor McDavid has really always been the majority consensus at the top of the draft board, but there was a time when the two players were really considered 1A and 1B. TSN Craig Button even had Eichel ranked higher than McDavid at one point. An impressive World Junior campaign for McDavid and forgettable one for Eichel this year was when that sentiment changed. There was a gap between the two players, but many believed it wasn't as large as others made it out to be.
As much as the World Juniors may have hurt Eichel's stock (obviously relatively, he never moved further than the No. 2 spot, the World Championships this summer got people raving about him again. USA coach Todd Richards eased Eichel into the tournament, one that featured many top flight forwards. The Americans didn't have those, as the United States has always treated this tournament as a developmental one. By the end of the tournament he was on the first line, playing over 20 minutes and against some of the top competition the other teams could muster. He scored two goals and five assists in his 10 games overseas.
It's hard not to notice Eichel when he steps on the ice. He has a speed and explosiveness that makes zone entries look easy, and the strength to keep the puck away from opponents.
Jack Eichel's winning goal. Quality puck protection. pic.twitter.com/MGGrEkaW0E— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) May 12, 2015
Everyone you see in the draft can obviously get bigger and stronger, but Eichel likely won't have the difficulties jumping right into the NHL like Sam Reinhart did this season. Here's video Eichel lifting weights, and keep in mind this is not this year, but when he was 16-years old.
He has the skill and abilities to step into the NHL right away, which he put on display at the Worlds. Eichel could decide to return to BU for one more run at a championship, but all signs point to him going pro next season.
In Jack Eichel the Sabres get their franchise player, the crown jewel of the rebuild. He also adds to the tremendous talent that the Sabres have at center, arguably the most important position in the sport. His arrival allows for the Sabres to slot Sam Reinhart in at the second center position, or possibly even wing. Add in Zemgus Girgensons, and the Sabres could easily roll three lines for years to come.
Buffalo, he's coming for you.
What They Are Saying
"I saw Jack play with the World Junior team over the holidays up in Montreal. That's a young tournament. That's a 17, 18, 19-year old tournament. This was the World Championships. Jack Eichel was playing against grown men. He's playing against a lot of NHL hockey players. He's stacking up against the likes of Evgeni Malkin when you're playing Russia. He's stacking up against the likes of Tomas Plekanec, who plays for the Montreal Canadiens. These are good hockey players that Jack had to play against. We were counting on him to be a talented hockey player for our team, not just fill in minutes... I think he showed that he was not only a good player, that he had an ability to play in and amongst them. You get it with rare glimpses with great players in our game, when they do something and you see coaches look down the bench and say 'Wow, that was pretty amazing'... This guy can flat out fly."
-Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma
Expectations aren't really high because I know how young he is and where he's coming from. Any glimmer of above average play, let alone spectacular play, I get excited. He was exciting. As a scout, watching on TV he was above and beyond, even knowing how good he was. For what I would expect for a kid going over there and playing with the men, and maybe not playing on the best team there, I thought he was super.
-Sabres GM Tim Murray
"He's fabulous. I'm not hesitant to use the term generational player and I think he's a generational player. I think in any other draft since 2005, and that includes Tavares, that includes Stamkos and others, I think he'd be the first overall pick... I don't think that Jack Eichel is any less of a generational player than Connor McDavid. Is he different? Yes he's different. He [has] blend of power and skill and smarts. The Buffalo Sabres are so well set up... Jack Eichel is a stud."
-Craig Button, TSN
"I think McDavid, there's still a ceiling there. He will get even better at the next level, because there's no other route for him to take... I think the ceiling and the growth from Eichel might be even higher. There might be more substance there than McDavid. Let's face it, this is the first year in Eichel has had to play 24, 23-year old kids at the college level, and he did it so well leads you to believe at the next level he'll advance even more."
-Mike Morreale, NHL.com
"While Eichel may not be quite the high-end talent that Connor McDavid is, he is very close. Eichel has the ability to control the game with a high hockey IQ, a good, powerful skating stride, and offensive skills that are second to none among American prospects for the 2015 draft. Eichel has good strength, allowing him to win battles for the puck and control it in space. He may be guilty of trying to do too much at times, but there is little doubt that he will be a top player once he arrives in the NHL."
"Eichel's skills are elite, starting with his shot. 'It's a real whip release,' said one scout. 'He'll be able to score from anywhere on the rush.' Eichel did that for the Terriers, scoring countless highlight goals, some of which were overtime heart-stoppers. Toss in a powerful stride and you've got a killer producer. But Eichel has more than one dimension. 'I've seen him against men and he catches guys on the backcheck,' said the scout. 'He blocks shots and kills penalties."
-The Hockey News
"He is proving to be such an amazing game-breaker; he’s relentless and driven on the play and has the smarts, speed and skills to deliver a needed scoring drive to tie up or win a game."
-Dan Marr, NHL Central Souting
"When Jack Eichel is on the ice, the pace of the play shifts; if players can't keep up, they are left behind. A consistent scoring threat on the ice, Eichel possesses next-level hockey-IQ, an elite-level skillset, and the natural size and work ethic to let him play his role as a scoring power center. All-in-all, Jack Eichel is that uncontainable, dynamic center that can make other players look out of place in his wake."
-Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects