Jack Eichel’s first preseason game in a Buffalo Sabres jersey gives a glimpse into what fans can expect
Buffalo Sabres fans now officially have permission to start getting really excited about Jack Eichel. It may have only been the preseason, but the Sabres 2015 second overall draft pick gave everyone an idea of what to expect.
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Eichel marked his first league action with an assist and the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild. Just to make it even more impressive, his goal came while the Sabres were shorthanded.
Eichel sounded suitably humble, as he described his goal to Dan Myers of NHL.com: “These goalies are so big and athletic these days, you just try to move them and find little holes. Luckily I was able to find one there.”
Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis and Ryan O’Reilly did not make the trip to Minnesota. As such, the Chelmsford, Massachusetts native found himself on the first line, between Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons.
Mar 3, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Matt Moulson (26) celebrates the goal by Buffalo Sabres left wing Tyler Ennis (not pictured) against the Dallas Stars during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Understandably, it took them a while to warm up. However, the positive signs were there, as evidenced by the trio combining for Moulson’s goal, which tied the game at 2-2.
Moulson was full of praise for his new teammate, as he told Myers: “I don’t think he took a stride past the blue line. He’s got that smooth skating style and he’s the type of player that doesn’t come around too often.”
Considering this was Eichel’s first preseason game, it is extremely encouraging that he was the best player on the ice. He took home the first star, after raising his game in the third period.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma came away impressed with what he saw from his star player: “Out of the 17 games I’ve seen him play, it was probably the best I’ve ever seen him play without the puck.
“He tracked back extremely hard, on turnovers he came back and was hard in the D zone. That’s something we talked about before the game, and he was extremely good at it.”
Overall, Eichel must have been pleased with his preseason debut. However, in a recurring – and refreshing – theme, he preferred to speak about the team as a whole: “It should be a pretty big confidence booster for our whole team.
“They’ve got a pretty good lineup tonight and a great goaltender, a lot of good players on that team so for us to come in here and get a win like that for the first of the year, it’s a good start.”
Something tells me Sabres fans are unlikely to remain as calm and grouded as Eichel, who sounds mature beyond his years. Regardless, the future looks bright in Buffalo, and it’s about time.
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