Monday, March 14, 2016

Now we know what Jack Eichel is not

Reprinted with permission from

Jack Eichel broke from the Buffalo zone in overtime yesterday as soon as fellow Sabres forward Evander Kane was in control of the puck. It didn't take but what seemed like a few strides and Eichel was at center ice waiting for the rainbow feed from Kane to drop to the ice. Tracking it Willie Mays style Eichel was on it as the puck dropped just outside the Carolina Hurricanes blue line. He snared it in the faceoff circle and walked in all alone with nobody in the picture frame. A quick, smoooove switch to the backhand and the puck was in the net five-hole.

Oh. And there was only :01 second left on the clock.

The Sabres had the broadcast crew of Rick Jeanneret and Rob Ray out of their normal spots--in the press box and between the benches, respectively--and on the 200-Level of the First Niagara Center yesterday. They had a camera that was focused on those two throughout the matinee and after the game-winner they leaned back in their chairs completely wowed by what just took place. I have the feeling every Sabres fan watching it live had the same reaction. (In case you missed it, or would like to revisit the play like I have many times over, check out the video is below courtesy of NHLvideos.)

What we found out about Eichel yesterday afternoon is that the sky's the limit for him. Since he was overshadowed by fellow phenom Connor McDavid in "McEichel-I" between Buffalo and the Edmonton Oilers, Eichel has five goals and two assists in six games. After scoring two goals yesterday he now has 22 on the year placing him three behind 24 yr. old Chicago Blackhawks rookie Artemi Panarin. Eichel's 48 points is also second behind Panarin (37) and his 26 assists rank him third amongst rookies.

What we also know is that Eichel is not a "two-way, checking forward who can play up and donw the lineup," like Michael Peca, the former Sabres player also known as "Captain Crunch." Peca was a two-time Selke winner for the Buffalo Sabres back in the late-90's/early 2000's leading Ted Nolan's "hardest working team hockey." Peca's career high in goals was 27 (1998-99) and points was 60 (2001-02) when he was well into his career. With 12 games to go there's a possibility that "Jack Flash" can match or best one those at the age of 19 and is regarded as a really good player despite his defensive lapses.

And we also know that Eichel is not Jody Gage, a Hall of Fame AHL'er who played in 1038 games in the minors but only 68 at the NHL level. Not to belittle Gage's accomplishments in any way shape or form, but the two should never, ever be used in the same sentence.

Thank God for that.


Sam "The Forgotten One" Reinhart is quietly having himself a stellar rookie campaign. With his assist last night he now has 15 to go along with his 19 goals. The 20-yr. old converted center has been working his magic on the wing and is part of a very exciting, young line with Kane and Eichel. The trio has really been starting to gel as of the last half-dozen games with all three putting up points.

Yesterday all three were also in on the goal that put Buffalo up 2-1. Reinhart worked a give-and-go with Kane at the Carolina blueline and barreled towards the Hurricanes' net with Eichel streaking in on the right side. Reinhart stopped on a dime just outside the crease and sent a pass to Eichel for the easy tap-in.

Reinhart had some serious jump on the play from the red-line on in. He knew what he wanted to do with the puck and where Eichel would be well before the finish.

Last season Reinhart had a really tough go of it in his nine-game audition for the Sabres and he was sent back to junior and coming into camp there was the possibility that he could be sent to the AHL for more seasoning. Although he added some mass as GM Tim Murray wanted him to, he was still getting knocked off the puck a bit too easily and his skills weren't transferring to the NHL-level like the should have at the time.

To his credit, Reinhart put in the extra time before and after practice, most notably with Ryan O'Reilly, working on all aspects of his game. To the surprise of many he found a home in front of the net on the powerplay and tipped in some goals to build his confidence. He also found an NHL shot which we'd not seen yet, or maybe even knew he had. From there he steadily grew and the "off-the-charts hockey sense" he was noted for during his entire junior career slowly came to the fore.

Back when he was drafted, former head amateur scout Kevin Devine aptly described then what we're seeing now after watching Reinhart for 67 games this season.  "He's got a very subtle game," said Devine of Reinhart prior to the 2014 NHL Draft. "If you watch him only once or twice you say 'What's the big deal?' but when you continue to watch him, you see how smart a player he is. He's a real character kid."

Although all the attention is being paid to Eichel, as is usually the case with a dynamic player like him, Reinhart is quietly doing his thing and the combination of the two, neither of whom can drink legally in the United States, is very, very intriguing moving forward.


The Sabres are off until Wednesday when they host the Montreal Canadians in the final game of their four-game season series.

Until then, enjoy the aforementioned vid and broadcast reactions of Eichel's OT game-winner yesterday:

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