Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel a rare bright spot in a lost season

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 9: Jack Eichel
BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 9: Jack Eichel /

Even as the Buffalo Sabres struggle at the bottom of the standings, Jack Eichel continues to offer at least some hope for the fan base.

If you want evidence of how poor this campaign has been for the Buffalo Sabres, consider their current two-game winning run. This is only the second time this season, the team has won two consecutive games.

As such, it really is no surprise the Sabres sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. And don’t look now, but they are only two points better off than the Arizona Coyotes, for the worst record in the NHL as a whole.

Best highlighting this sorry season for the Swords, is a lack of firepower. Despite having a roster that contains the likes of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo, they have still scored the fewest goals in the league.

However, it hasn’t been all bad in Western New York for hockey fans. Step forward Jack Eichel, who has continued to perform throughout all the ups and (mostly) downs.

Eichel leads the Sabres in goals and assists, standing 13 overall points ahead of the next teammate entering Thursday’s slate of games. By the end of the 2017-18 season, he will have easily surpassed his previous career best for points scored.

At a time when you could stop pushing yourself in an increasingly disappointing campaign, the 21-year-old is stepping up. He currently finds himself on a seven-game points-scoring streak, which is his longest of the season.

This streak was best highlighted in the Sabres’ most recent game, against the Edmonton Oilers. Understandably, most people concentrated on the matchup between Connor McDavid and Eichel, who were the first two players selected in the 2015 draft.

In the end the clash was a major letdown, as the Sabres won 5-0 in Edmonton. However, what really stood out was the fact McDavid was pointless, while Eichel finished the contest with four points, including a goal.

We’re not suggesting Eichel is now better than McDavid, who is a special talent. But you can at least make a justifiable argument the Sabres’ young star has performed more consistently this season.

Interestingly, one area where Eichel has been consistently better than McDavid since they were drafted, is scoring goals. As per WGR 550‘s Joe DiBiase, the Sabres’ assistant captain has scored seven more times (68-61).

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While we’re on the subject of goals, the 2015 second overall draft pick reached an impressive milestone on Tuesday night against the Oilers. He became just the fourth player in franchise history to start his career with three consecutive 20-goal seasons, joining Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Thomas Vanek.

Of course, the main thing Eichel has missing from his impressive resume is a playoff appearance, which will still be the case come the end of this season. No matter how good he is on an individual basis, this will be held against him for as long as it continues.

In truth, with the talent at their disposal, the Buffalo Sabres should be doing better than they are right now. For now though, all Eichel can do is continue to produce and develop.

In that respect, the center’s coach is well aware of the effort he is putting in. As per John Vogl of The Buffalo News, Phil Housley said:

"“When you go through tough times like this, you really find out a lot about yourself. I think Jack has done a great job going back maybe 20, 25 games where he made a decision about coming to play and playing the right way and playing at both ends of the ice. He’s been terrific.”"

As terrific as that is, at some point Housley and the rest of the organization have to get their act together. Otherwise, there’s no telling how long Eichel will be waiting for that first taste of playoff hockey.

Next: Could Sabres trade for Alex Galchenyuk?

How optimistic are you that the Buffalo Sabres will improve next season? Further, how confident are you that Eichel will eventually lead them to the playoffs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.