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Eichel poised for a breakout season

Jack Eichel is on the precipice of a monster season.

Everybody knows it.

It’s axiomatic, it’s palpable.

The young phenom had more than a respectable season last year, but it was cut short due to a devastating high-ankle sprain injury the day before the season opener. Still, in 61 games Eichel showed why he’s been accorded the title “generational talent.”

57 points in 61 games is fantastic output for any NHL player, let alone a 20-year old sophomore in the league. Couple that stat with a .93 points per game (good for 11th in the league), Eichel showed a marked improvement from his rookie season. He played in 20 fewer games, yet finished with one more point. There’s no question that his ankle was not 100 percent either.

So what does a third season look like for Jack? Well, according to NHL analyst Kevin Weekes, “anything less than 75 points is not enough.” This is not an unreasonable assumption at all. He may even hover around 85 to 90 points based on a couple very important variables such as his health and the team that surrounds him.

Based on his own trajectory, Eichel should have a dominant season. Additionally, there are plenty of other reasons and incentives as to why he will have a breakout campaign.

Eichel’s future can also be contrasted with that of other elite, young NHL stars. He will always be in the shadow of Connor McDavid, for obvious reasons. There are, though, a few other young guns starting to steal the spotlight. Players like Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Leon Draisaitl are asserting themselves as some of the most exciting players in the game.

Draisaitl, funny enough, actually beat Eichel out by 0.005 in points per game – which led to Jack missing out on a $2 million bonus. Of course he brushed it off, but it undoubtedly serves as some extra fuel to the fire. When asked about being a point-per-game player, Eichel plainly responded, “I wasn’t though.”

Eichel doesn’t keep a constant eye on exactly what McDavid is doing or worry about whether Matthews and the Maple Leafs are better than himself and the Sabres.

He’s worried about himself. If you ask Jack, if he thinks he has reached his potential yet, the answer would be a resounding ‘no’. Eichel believes he can be much better: “I think that I haven’t scratched the surface of where I can be, but I played pretty good at times.”

On the opening day of Training Camp, he echoed this sentiment. 

 “I think I have a lot to prove. Actually I think I’ve proven nothing, so it’s a huge year for me personally and as a team. We want to take the next step as a team, and for us to do that, we need some guys to take the next step as players, and I need to be one of them. I just need to step up around the room, on the ice, big situations for my team, and do more and prove that I can be our go-to guy.” – Eichel

Everyone remembers his locker day cleanout from last season as well. He was visibly distraught. His short quips with the media gave us an up close and personal look at just how much he hates losing. He’s also asserting himself as a leader on this Sabres team.

In every game this preseason, he has worn the “A” on his sweater. Not only that, he’s been the unquestionable top-line center and even found himself on the penalty kill. Yes, the preseason is meaningless and a small sample size, but Jack’s performances foreshadow some positive things to come.

Phil Housley and the Sabres may even have found themselves with a solidified first line. It’ll make die hard fans gush with nostalgia and joy to see Jason Pominville on the top line with Eichel. In one preseason game Pominville scored two goals, both assisted by Jack:

Eichel is ready to take the next step this coming season. He’s established himself as the face of the franchise. It shouldn’t be surprising if he finishes in the top five in scoring this season. It also shouldn’t come as a shocker if he dons the “C” by opening night or some time this season. The most important thing he can do, though, is help jettison the Sabres into the playoffs. McDavid did it; Matthews did it. It’s now Jack’s turn.

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NHL Standings

TEAMGPRECPTS
Atlantic Division Leaders:
Z8254-23-5113
X8250-20-12112
X8249-26-7105
Metropolitan Division Leaders:
Y8249-26-7105
X8247-29-6100
X8242-26-1498
Wild Card leaders:
X8245-30-797
X8244-29-997
-----------------------------------------
8244-30-896
8236-35-1183
8235-37-1080
8234-39-977
8230-39-1373
8229-40-1371
8228-43-1167
8225-45-1262
TEAMGPRECPTS
Central Division Leaders:
P8253-18-11117
X8252-20-10114
X8245-26-11101
Pacific Division Leaders:
Y8251-24-7109
X8244-25-13101
X8245-27-10100
Wild Card leaders:
X8245-29-898
X8243-30-995
-----------------------------------------
8244-32-694
8242-32-892
8237-35-1084
8236-40-678
8233-39-1076
8231-40-1173
8229-41-1270
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