There are a lot of opinions on Jack Eichel. The product of the tank recently signed an 8 year $80 million contract and, like it or not, is the future of this organization. With nearly 200 games under his belt, now is a good time to look at where Eichel stands and where he might be heading when it comes to a few key stats. All of Eichel’s trend graphs will have data starting after his first ten games, in order to avoid the initial volatility of a moving average.
You hear this at Sabres games quite a bit. I know I’m guilty of yelling it at my television in frustration while watching Eichel look for the perfect pass. People say that he needs to take advantage of his shooting ability and put the puck on net more. Our first impression of Eichel was five goals before any assists, and ever since most fans have been begging for him to shoot over pass. The stats tell us that Eichel is actually shooting the puck quite a bit, averaging right around 3.4 shots per game, whereas NHL forwards with at least twenty games played in a season have averaged 1.8 shots per game over the last three seasons. Shown below is the moving average of Eichel’s shots per game:
After starting close to four shots per game, Eichel’s shot production steadily decreased before turning around and increasing to its current plateau of 3.4 shots per game. The turn around began on February 28th, 2016—a day before the trade deadline— with a six-shot performance against the Los Angeles Kings.
Hit The Net!
Another common phrase I catch myself yelling at Eichel, particularly lately. The excitement built up from watching him load and fire a shot vanishes with the bang of the puck hitting the boards. Despite my frequent disappointment, Eichel actually excels at hitting the net relative to the rest of the league. Shown below is Eichel’s trend of shot accuracy, defined as shots over unblocked shot attempts:
After a hot start to his career, Eichel’s accuracy has gone down a bit. However, the NHL average for this stat last season was 20 percent, and Eichel was second only to Alex Ovechkin in that season (33.3% and 32.9%). So despite the downward trend, Eichel is still in a very good place in terms of his accuracy. That being said, I think this is a graph to keep an eye on over the next few weeks in order to see if this downward trend continues.
Get In The Net!
Almost as disappointing as missing the net is watching a shot from a perfect spot on the ice fly right into the goalie’s glove. This is an area where Eichel suddenly drops from the top of the ranks to less than average numbers. Forwards with at least 20 games played last season had an average shooting percentage of 10.2. As seen below, Eichel has never had spectacular numbers and has a current shooting percentage of 9.7 percent
So, Eichel is hitting the net pretty consistently and in turn generating a solid amount of shots per game. An average shooting percentage has allowed him to produce reasonably well, but perhaps not up to his full potential. Eichel has taken 569 shots in his career thus far, and if he was shooting at 15 percent instead of 9.7 (not that unreasonable of a percentage given the distribution above) he could’ve had an extra 30 goals on top of the 55 he has during his career so far.
The Big Picture
When it comes down to it, all these things are just components of what people really focus on—scoring. Eichel is clearly the franchise player and is expected to produce as such. Forwards with at least 20 games played in a season over the last three seasons averaged .19 goals, .26 assists, and .45 points per game. Eichel’s current averages are .33 goals, .45 assists, and .78 points. His trends, as well as the distribution of previously mentioned forwards from last season, are shown below:
After trending upwards for quite some time, Eichel has seemed to plateau at right around .78 points per game. That’s enough to put him in the just a bit behind the top ten percent of forwards in the distribution above.
All things considered, I think Jack’s biggest concern should be working on fine-tuning his shot. He consistently hits the net and generates plenty of shots per game, but those shots are just not turning into goals at an ideal rate. His ability to produce assists has steadily increased at a faster pace than has his goal scoring, and if he is able to work on his finishing ability and increase his shooting percentage he will see a similar increase in scoring that would bring him much closer to being a point per game player— something that most fans expect to see from their franchise star.