Welcome back to Vegas Hockey Now’s season in review series where we look at every player on the Vegas Golden Knights and their 2021-22 season from Michael Amadio to Zach Whitecloud.
You can catch up on the series here: Michael Amadio, Reilly Smith, Jonas Rondbjerg, Keegan Kolesar, Robin Lehner, Alex Pietrangelo, Nolan Patrick, Shea Theodore, Jake Leschyshyn, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Laurent Brossoit, Mattias Janmark, and William Carrier.
Today’s Player was initially supposed to be Evgenii Dadonov. But on Thursday, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Shea Weber’s remaining contract. So we shift next to Jack Eichel.
Jack Eichel’s 2021-22 season feels like a saga bigger than the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. A year ago he was in limbo with the Buffalo Sabres organization over his injury treatment and future with the organization.
Now he’s the highest-paid player on a Vegas Golden Knights team built for the Stanley Cup. However this past season, the team failed to even make the playoffs, meaning Eichel’s streak of never playing a playoff game continues.
The Golden Knights now have an elite core with Eichel, Mark Stone, Shea Theodore, Alex Pietrangelo, and Jonathan Marchessault. But the team has had few opportunities to mesh together, especially since Eichel’s arrival.
Injuries limited three of the Golden Knight’s top players in Eichel, Stone, and Pacioretty to all play less than 40 games. Next season will provide us with a much better look as to what the Golden Knights can do as a full unit, and Eichel is perhaps the biggest part of that.
In his limited appearances, Eichel still managed to score nearly 15 goals and 11 assists for 25 points. He was as advertised with his speed and puck-handling abilities. One thing that surprisingly impressed me was his ability to play physically, especially after having neck surgery. Eichel was not afraid to throw the body, block a shot, or take a hit to make a play.
Even in a limited season, Eichel had a solid handful of highlights. Let’s review some notable ones.
Of course, Eichel was acquired on November 4th in a blockbuster deal with Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs going to the Buffalo Sabres. Tuch scored 38 points in 50 games with the Sabres and Krebs 22 in 57. Now that the Draft Lottery is over we know that the Sabres will also be getting to no. 16 overall pick.
In mid-November Eichel was welcomed to Las Vegas in style and then finally had his artificial disk replacement surgery. Eichel’s first game was on February 16th in a loss against the Colorado Avalanche. He scored his first goal with the VGK against the San Jose Sharks in his third game with the team.
— AT&T SportsNet™ | RM West (@ATTSportsNetRMW) February 21, 2022
A couple of games later fans at T-Mobile Arena caught a glimpse of what Eichel can do with his speed as he scored his first home goal with the Golden Knights against the Boston Bruins.
JACKPOT 🎰 pic.twitter.com/L72jh3SGWv
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 4, 2022
But without a doubt, the biggest goal of the year that Eichel scored came against the Ottawa Senators as he called game in buzzer-beater fashion.
A goal The Fortress will never forget 🚨 pic.twitter.com/6DSKZ6CEE5
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 7, 2022
Another highlight to mention regarding Eichel was his return to KeyBank Center and Buffalo, New York in March. The Golden Knights fittingly lost the game as both Tuch and Krebs scored and Eichel got a mixed reception in his return. Eichel threw some shade at the Sabres fanbase after the game.
Entire city of Buffalo found dead in downtown apartment. Prime suspect, jack eichel. pic.twitter.com/Im7Q6YgTS1
— heatdaddy (@heatdaddy69420) March 11, 2022
Eichel is currently rehabbing from a broken finger which was inflicted after he blocked a shot against Florida Panthers defenseman Mackenzie Weegar. He is just another name on the bumps and bruises list that the Golden Knights have to put icepacks on this offseason.
At 25 years old, Eichel is still young and in his prime. This upcoming season will be Eichel’s first attempt at an 82-game season since 2018-19 as 19-20 was wiped out due to COVID and in 20-21 and 21-22, he was still reeling from his neck injury.
A clean slate awaits Eichel and the rest of the Golden Knights in 2022-23. This past season was cursed with injuries and uncontrollable factors that would damage any team’s chances. Having the ability of Bruce Cassidy to put out a healthy line of Eichel, Stone, and Pacioretty will certainly change this team.
Thursday’s Dadonov trade gave the VGK a breath of fresh air in terms of cap space relief, but they still have some work to do if they want to resign guys like Reilly Smith and Nicolas Roy. Eichel’s $10 million cap hit presents a huge road block for general manager Kelly McCrimmon, but it could be worth it.
I think we see Jack Eichel re-establish himself as a top-10 player in the NHL next season. He used this past season as a building-block frame, allowing him to get back into the everyday groove of being an NHL’er again. Next season he should be back to his 60-80 point self.