1) Jack Eichel taking his game to the next level
Eichel had already proved he belonged in the NHL entering the 2018-19 campaign, just by virtue of his performances. And yet criticism remained, due to a combination of his perceived attitude and the Sabres’ overall lack of success.
In our opinion, while there may have been some credence regarding the 22-year-old’s attitude, it was never as bad as portrayed by the media. (And in fairness, what teenager isn’t surly? It’s just that the majority of them don’t have to grow up under the glare of the public spotlight.) Regardless, he has shown more maturity this season, as he becomes more comfortable and fully embraces his role as captain.
As for the team’s lack of overall success, this was also unfair on Eichel. He was drafted by a team which was the worst in the NHL and undergoing a full rebuild; it was always going to take time for the franchise to get back on track.
As the 2015 second overall draft pick has grown, the rest of the team has benefited. He is easily on course for the best season of his four-year career, and has become especially proficient at setting up his teammates.
The Sabres may or may not make the playoffs this season — more on that later — but that’s okay. The franchise is in good hands for the long-term, as their captain will only continue to improve both on and off the ice.