The Buffalo Sabres aren’t a bad team, but they aren’t a good team either. Predicted to be a playoff team this season, inconsistent goaltending and (at times) questionable coaching has killed the team’s chances and they seem bound for watching the postseason for the sixth straight year. Despite this, however, 20-year-old Jack Eichel is not struggling at all and is quietly having a phenomenal season.
Eichel sprained his ankle the night before Buffalo’s season opener back in October and he missed 21 games as a result. Many were questioning how the injury would effect the young gun, but it’s very clear that it hasn’t. Eichel is scoring at a torrid rate and currently has one less point than games played. He leads the Sabres with 45 points (18+27) despite playing in just 46 games.
While it may be very sad that Buffalo’s leading scorer is a guy who missed a fourth of the season, it is also a testament to Eichel’s incredible ability. He is currently 14th in the NHL in points per game with .98, and while that may not seem super impressive, it is when you consider that he trails only the likes of Tyler Seguin and John Tavares. Also, with only half of the season played at this point, that is formidable to say the least, so much so that The Hockey Writers recently called him one of the NHL’s most underrated players.
Eichel is also riding an 11 game point streak currently. The Hockey Writers stated that if he played the whole 82 games this season, he would score 80 points. Eichel obviously will not reach that mark, but it is worth noting that he is currently on the same level as his 2015 Draft contemporary, Connor McDavid.
McDavid is having an incredible season in Edmonton and will undoubtedly be a finalist for the Hart Trophy, currently leading the NHL with 74 points. However, since Eichel returned on November 29, he and McDavid have the same points total. Had Eichel not missed the first 21 games, he could possibly have just as many as McDavid.
There’s many reasons why Eichel doesn’t get the same attention that players like McDavid, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine get. For one, he’s American (we all know the NHL doesn’t like them) and plays for a small-market American team. If he played for a large market and/or Canadian team, Eichel would be the talk of the League right now. He’s proving more and more that he should not be slept on. The kid who is destined to be an elite threat is on the cusp of becoming one.
The fact that the Sabres are playing so poorly yet Eichel is thriving is a testament to how good he is becoming. He has been a bright spot for the Sabres in a frustrating season.