Jack Eichel was full of confidence heading into the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Connor McDavid went first overall to the Edmonton Oilers, but Eichel was telling teams in the scouting combine that he would be better than McDavid.
The 2023-24 season was the coming out for the 200-foot player version of Eichel. Putting up points was never an issue for the 2015 second-overall pick. Eichel was nearly a point-per-game player prior to joining the Vegas Golden Knights.
Eichel’s 2022-23 season: Eichel had a very consistent season with 67 games played, 27 goals, 39 assists, and a plus-26. Appearing in his first playoffs, Eichel was magnificent. Eichel led playoff scoring with six goals and 20 assists.
General manager Kelly McCrimmon was focused on finding a No. 1 center and found one in Eichel. President of hockey operations George McPhee was surprised about Eichel’s defensive game.
“We didn’t know that about his game, that he could be that good defensively. But he and (coach) Bruce Cassidy worked together, and he’s pretty darn good.”
McPhee to the NHL Network
The numbers support McPhee’s observation. Per Moneypuck.com; Eichel was a plus-5 in his last full season with the Buffalo Sabres in 2019-20 with an on-ice-goal differential of plus-31. His numbers jumped to plus-26 last season with an on-ice-goal differential of plus-41.
Cassidy trusted Eichel’s defensive game as well. Eichel started 12% of his shifts in the defensive zone vs. 9% with Buffalo in 2019-20.
Eichel’s 2023-24 season: It is time to see the generational talent that Eichel proclaimed himself to be during the 2015 scouting combine. Eichel sharpened his overall game and has the support around him to become a top-five center in the NHL.
Cassidy feels Eichel can be in the Selke conversation next year, but his faceoff numbers need to improve. Eichel won just 45.3% of his faceoffs last season. To get to the top 20 in NHL faceoff percentage, Eichel would need to improve to 56%.
Health was a minor concern last season as Eichel missed 15 games.
A solid stat line for Eichel would look something like 80 games played, 85 points, plus-25, and 50% of faceoffs won. Getting in the top five in Selke voting would validate a successful season.
Leading the NHL in playoff scoring for a second season in a row would be nice as well.