I’m not a professional scout. Not even close. I’m a writer with 12 years experience covering pro sports, and ten covering hockey in college, juniors, every level of the minors and the NHL. So, take what I say as an educated opinion and not gospel or me attempting to speak to you in that light. I’m just going to tell you what I saw out of a kid that everyone has a lot of interest in heading into his draft-eligible year, especially given that this was my first time seeing him live.
I wanted to walk out of Agganis Arena being blown away by Jack Eichel. After the first period, I wasn’t sure that was going to be the case. He tallied a secondary assist on a very pretty tic-tac-toe plassing play off an odd man rush that led to a goal by linemate Danny O’Regan, but it wasn’t until the second period that I saw him shift his game to another gear. Overdrive, really. Eichel was dynamic at times in the middle frame. His first goal banked in off a defenseman — it wasn’t pretty — but he read the play and jumped in up the right side of a 2-on-1 to generate the scoring chance to begin with. His second goal though? That’s one of those moments you don’t forget, one that has you saying wow for a while up in the press box. Eichel doesn’t always exhibit excellent speed — average to slightly above average — but he’s able to get his legs going and really accelerate up the perimeter to work his way around defenders when necessary. He did just that on this power play chance, and when many players would have either pulled up and set up in the zone or tried to wrap around the net to create a chance, Eichel was aggressive and snapped a supremely impressive wrist shot from the right faceoff dot through the goaltender and in.
Eichel is by no means a physical player, but is willing to go to the dirty areas in the corners and behind the net, and is good on the wall, especially when attempting to anticipate where the play will go. He’s an aggressive forechecker, however, I’d like to see him forecheck with more of a purpose in the neutral zone…I saw way too many matador like runs that accomplished little else than taking him out of the play, albeit in low-risk, high-reward scenarios.
It is fascinating to see how good he is at 17 years old. I can’t definitively tell you he’s ready for the NHL right now, nor can I tell you that would be the case when it comes time to find that out around this time next season. But it would surely be very interesting to see him try, as well as to see how the draft unfolds in the top two spots, which assuredly belong to he and Connor McDavid.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com