DOB: October 28, 1996
Draft: 2015, 2nd overall
How acquired: Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed: October 3,2017; 10y,/$80 million begins in 2018-19
Final year of contract: 2025-26
2017-18- Stats: 67 games played | 25 goals | 39 assists | 64 points | -25 | 20:28 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats: 209 games | 73 g | 104 a, | 177 pts. | -54 | 19:41 ATOI
What we wrote preseason: "Eichel has shown that this is his time now and it's not so much about his play or production as it is about whether or not he's ready to take the reigns as the leader of the team." Eichel had maturity issues after the 2016-17 season and the problems he had with a Buffalo team that regressed was manifested in how addressed the gathered media at locker cleanout day. He was accused of overtly "brooding and pouting" at that interview in 2017 and that display of immaturity certainly didn't have the look of a future captain.
Yet despite that, going into the season it was felt here that "the Sabres need to get out of the doldrums...[they] spent two years in the tank to get the opportunity to draft a franchise center who has an immense passion for the game and they should give him the reigns."
Buffalo did not name Eichel captain, nor did they sew the 'C' on anybody last season.
What we wrote mid-season: --"Jack-trick." That's how Sabres broadcaster Dan Dunleavy called Eichel's first NHL hat trick on Friday (December 15, 2017.) It was a good call by Dunleavy after Eichel produced a dominant performance against the Carolina Hurricanes. We're not sure if that might prove to be one of those watershed moments, but he was dominant in that game. The Sabres need more play like that from him. He just wasn't good enough through the first third of the season. He's said that and it sounds like he means it. The future of this team is on his shoulders and if that four-point outing vs. the 'Canes is his way of fully accepting that responsibility, the future looks pretty bright."
Impressions on his play this year: Eichel, like the team got off to a rough start and they found themselves behind the 8-ball only two weeks into the season. Less than a week later, with the team still struggling, Eichel began a career-long eight-game goalless drought (3 assists, minus-4 rating.) By the time he began to emerge from that in the middle of November, the Sabres were pretty much toast.
A lot of what we saw from Eichel on the ice this season centered around amazing but there were times that he just didn't have it, it just wasn't working or he wasn't bringing it enough which lead to a fairly inconsistent season. The talent is there, but the great ones find a way to bring it every night and Eichel's not quite there yet. However, he knows what he has to do to help bring about change to this club. At his locker cleanout interview Eichel was much more mature than last year and he talked about trying to change the losing culture. "All you can do is focus on changing yourself," he said. "It starts every day at practice, your work ethic, coming to work ready to compete, ready to get better."
He sure sounded the part of Buffalo's future captain, but now comes the hard part for the 21 yr. old--carrying the weight of a struggling franchise on his 6'2" 206 lb. frame.
Questions moving forward: Will the message of changing oneself be taken to heart and can he get that message through to the rest of the team? Does he have any idea of the task at hand? Will he be able to tap into some of the leadership qualities of a Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews or Connor McDavid which ultimately is tied to bringing it every day? Will he lead by example and get this team to come out of the gate ready to play on a daily basis? What will his training regimen be after consecutive seasons suffering high ankle sprains (one on each side?) Can he hit that elusive point-per-game mark? Will he become more consistent in his production and stay away from those six, seven, eight-game goal-scoring slumps?
(contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com)
Eichel's locker cleanout interview via sabres.com: