BOSTON, MA - Is Jack Eichel ready to make the jump from the NCAA to the NHL? Boston University Associate Coach Steve Greeley says without a doubt, in fact he says, "I thought he could play for any NHL team in January of this year."
While the hockey superstar from Chelmsford, Massachusetts has yet to definitively say whether he will leave B-U next season or not, Buffalo Sabres fans are drooling over the prospects of having Jack Eichel in blue and gold next season. Eichel led the nation in scoring this past season with 26 goals and 45 assists for 71 points in just 40 games. He won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation's top college hockey player and developed even beyond expectations of the coaching staff at this institution known for producing great hockey players.
Greeley says that the thing they were most surprised about was how quickly he became a leader on the ice, on the bench and in the locker room. When Jack arrived at Boston University he was just 17 years old, in a college hockey world where 19 or 20 year old freshmen are the norm.
Greeley says that by November the seniors were listening to him, and he was listening to the seniors. There was a sense of mutual respect that developed quickly. "We were extremely impressed. You talk about what our expectations were, that wasn't one of them", Greeley added "He had a confidence to lead our team whether it was in between periods, in between whistles.. our seniors were listening to him and he was listening to our seniors. I think it is going to be very similar in the NHL. It'll take some time for him to become a leader, doesn't happen overnight when you are playing with men, but he will be a leader in the NHL and a guy who can be captain".
The presumption is that the Sabres will use their second overall pick in next month's draft to pick Eichel. It is also presumed that he will turn pro, rather than returning to B-U. If that plays out, he will have at least one familiar face in the locker room. The very same weekend of the NHL Draft lottery, the Sabres offered a free agent contract to Eichel's Boston University line mate Evan Rodrigues.
Rodrigues is from nearby Etobicoke, Ontario (just north of Toronto), he says his family is excited that he will be (if he makes the Sabres roster) just 2 hours from home, rather than the 8 or 9 hours it takes to drive to Boston. He says his mother is already making plans. "She was already telling me she is going to bring food down whenever I want it, so my family is definitely happy."
Rodrigues says it would be very exciting to play in the NHL with EIchel because they have such great chemistry, but it wasn't what drove his decision to sign with Buffalo. He says he just felt that the Sabres offer him the best opportunity to play.
Eichel will get a good taste of Buffalo and Western New York next week as the NHL Pre-Draft Combine comes to Buffalo for the first time next week. Players report Sunday night, they will undergo interviews with teams Monday and Tuesday, medical evaluations Wednesday and Thursday and hen the physical fitness testing Friday into Saturday. All of this is in preparation for the NHL draft June 26-27 in Sunrise, Florida.