After all the hype and preparation, Jack Eichel’s debut with the Buffalo Sabres is only about a month away. Of course he still has to go through training camp and the preseason before he officially makes the team, but barring an injury or surprise turn of events, he should be playing for the Sabres in their opener on Oct. 8.
“I think it’s starting to get real,” Eichel said, per Buffalo News.
While he’s already had to deal with plenty of attention and high pressure situations, the shift to the NHL is still a major undertaking, even for players as talented as Eichel. It should help that he’ll have plenty of support, particularly from veteran forward Matt Moulson, who has opened his home to Eichel.
“I know that everyone who knows him well says great things about him,” Eichel said. “I haven’t heard a bad thing about the guy. The way he offered his house to me shows what kind of person he is. He’s a really generous guy, a good guy to be around.”
Eichel might also end up playing on a line with Moulson, although at this point that’s purely speculation. The Sabres will be entering the season with a bolstered offense after finishing last in scoring in 2014-15 and has a new coach in Dan Bylsma, so one of the interesting aspects of the Sabres’ training camp will be what lines are experimented with and which ones gel.
When it comes to the projected rookie class of 2015-16, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have naturally been getting the most attention by a wide margin, but there are a lot of great prospects that are in position to make their mark on the NHL this season.
Max Domi is a prime example of that. Taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Domi has the potential to provide the Arizona Coyotes with a valuable combination of skill and grit for years to come. He has more modest goals right now though.
“I just want to make the team,” Domi said, per the Coyotes’ official website. “I’m not looking too far ahead. There’s a lot of young guys here that are trying to come in and earn a spot too.”
He came close to earning a spot last year, but ultimately fell just short of making the cut. He responded by recording 32 goals, 102 points, and 66 penalty minutes in 57 games with the OHL’s London Knights.
The expectation is that he will make the team in 2015-16 though and even as a rookie perhaps he can provide a meaningful boost to the Coyotes after they finished the 2014-15 campaign with the second worst offense in the league.
A lot of people have a number they think Connor McDavid will reach during his rookie campaign, but he doesn’t want to go down that road.
“It’s something I don’t really know how to answer,” he admitted when asked by NHL.com what it would take for him to personally consider his rookie campaign a success. “I just have to do the best that I can do. There are no real numbers that I have in my mind. I just want to have as good a year as possible.”
Part of the reason McDavid doesn’t have a specific number in mind is because he thinks imposing those types of goals “can really mess with you.” Beyond that though, he wants to judge himself on more than just how many goals he scores or points he collects.
“Numbers are one thing, but some of the best games I have ever played have been games in which I didn’t get a point or maybe had one point,” McDavid said. “You don’t necessarily have to put up a lot of points to be impactful. There are lots of ways you can impact a game, and that is something I take a lot of pride in, trying to impact the game in any way possible.”
While everything he does with or without the puck is worthy of note, it of course won’t change the fact that the numbers he puts up will influence how other people view his campaign. In some cases the benchmarks people are looking for might be unfair given his age and level of experience, but his billing as a generational talent combined with his stellar work in the OHL have led to that scenario. On top of that, he’ll be compared against Jack Eichel, who will be under similar scrutiny during his first season in Buffalo.
None of that information is likely news to McDavid, who has had to live with the hype surrounding him for quite some time now. He’s aware that the attention he gets is only going to grow as he starts his rookie campaign, but he’s confident in his abilities.
“More anxious to get things going,” he added when asked if he’s nervous about training camp. “I have been talking about it for so long and I have been waiting so long to get going, I don’t think nervous is the right word. Just anxious.”