47 goals. 51 assists. 98 points.
Those are the numbers that rookie sensations Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart combined for over the course of the 2015-16 season.
By now, you’re probably aware of the numerous records that those two young stars set in their first full season with the Sabres.
One that stands out the most, though, is that they were the second highest rookie scoring tandem in modern day NHL history with 47 goals. That’s better than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane with 45, and Max Domi and Anthony Duclair with 38. The only duo ranked higher than them was Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal with 62 goals in 2006-07.
Reinhart may have been overshadowed by the excitement and anticipation of Eichel at the start of the year, but by no means was he overlooked as the season progressed. The two dazzled with their offensive abilities, scoring highlight goals and quickly became recognized by fans and players around the league.
In the final quarter of the season, Eichel and Reinhart were put on the same line, and it had fans question why head coach Dan Bylsma hadn’t done it sooner. The two combined for 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 19 games.
“As soon as the puck gets on my stick, and I think vice versa as well, I’m looking for Jack. He’s going to get open. He’s going to be there to make the play. I think it goes both ways. We’re looking for each other now. We’ve come a long way together.” – Sam Reinhart
With their combined efforts, they helped the Sabres to a 27-point improvement in the standings from the year prior. It’s a big step, a huge one, but the Sabres will likely need another 12 points or so if they want to make they playoffs, and the duo has been preparing for another big year.
“I worked the hardest this summer that I ever have, and that’s saying a lot with the summer I had before. The gains I had two summers ago were pretty substantial, and I knew the improvements that could be had over a summer. I obviously went back to work and had another good summer and feel great coming in. I’m looking forward to getting started.” – Sam Reinhart
Call it an encore presentation or a repeat performance, but Jack and Sam are setting the stage for another magnificent campaign, and it could be even better. If the Sabres can take another step in the right direction, there may be more than just 82 games to play, something Buffalo hasn’t seen in six seasons.
Starting goaltender Robin Lehner has recently stated that this season would be a waste if the Sabres don’t make the playoffs, and he’s not the only one that believes the team is ready to make it there.
“Obviously there are goals and numbers in the back of your mind but I think for the most part we all have the same goal and that’s make the playoffs. You could say ‘be in the hunt’ or whatever but I think we have the guys in the room and I think we all believe in ourselves and we have the team to do it.” – Jack Eichel
Whether or not they play on the same line this season, Eichel and Reinhart are prepared to help carry this team once again. For two exuberant players who probably don’t even remember the Y2K scare, the 19-year-old (Eichel) and 20-year-old (Reinhart) have the potential to become a couple of the league’s best.
The regular season begins on Thursday for Buffalo.
Get ready for Jack and Sam. Part two.