Contract: $925,000, under contract through 2017-18
Introduction: When was the last time the Buffalo Sabres had a superstar forward? A true superstar, not just a local hero, a guy that other teams plan for and other fanbases tune in to watch. You'd have to go back to the early 90's and the days of Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny to find that superstar...or you could stay right on the couch and watch highlights of Jack Eichel from this season.
Taken with the #2 overall pick in this year's draft, Eichel isn't yet on the level of a true superstar who strikes fear into his opponents, but the 19-year old rookie showed enough flashes of that elite skill that Sabres fans will spend most of the offseason dreaming about the heights he can reach in the next few years.
Key Stat: 19:07 - That's Eichel's average time on ice per game, the most among all rookies, and third among forwards on the Sabres. It goes to show just how much responsibility was placed on Jack's young shoulders this year, and how much he stepped up to the plate and handled those responsibilities well. Look for this number, as well as many others, to go up as he continues to grow and improve.
Thumbs Up: Led the Sabres in goals as a teenage rookie, and was second on the team in points behind ROR. Showed impressive speed, fantastic hands, great hockey IQ in the offensive end, and a wrist shot that was quick enough to beat almost any goaltender. Excels at carrying the puck up the ice and entering the offensive zone, and became the Sabres most important member of the power play when put on the half wall.
Eichel played huge minutes against big-time opponents this year, and was the team's #1 center when O'Reilly was out, holding his own against some of the best in the league. He's the type of player who has chemistry with everyone, but he and Sam Reinhart started to morph in to something special towards the end of the year. I can't wait to see what he does next year.
Thumbs Down: Despite his immense talent, Eichel isn't perfect...yet. He needs to improve in his own zone with his positioning and decision-making in order to truly become an elite two-way center. His faceoff percentage of 41% also needs to improve to eventually inherit the #1 center spot. It was clear this season that Eichel was fatigued at times, which makes complete sense for a teenager transitioning from college to the pros with a whirlwind offseason, but the workout warrior that Eichel is should make sure that isn't a problem next year.
Memorable Moment: There are honestly too many to choose from. At the beginning of the season, it seemed like every goal Eichel scored was a highlight reel effort, then there was the four-point night in Boston, and his cheeky, last-second OT goal on the RJ Cam will always be something special. But for me, his first goal in the season opener is something I'll never forget - the player, the crowd, the music, the moment, it was all perfect.
Voting: Using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with A representing a great season (for the Sabres) C an average season, and F a very poor season, grade Jack Eichel on his performance this year.