Even the day before the draft, Jack Eichel didn’t want to say if he would spend another season with Boston University or sign an entry-level contract over the summer. There was a time when he wasn’t sure himself, but playing in the 2015 World Championship helped inform his decision.
That was the first time he played competitively with and against some of the world’s top professional players. Versus that level of competition he had two goals and seven points in 10 games.
“Before the world championships, I was a little bit unsure,” he told the Buffalo News. “After going over there and having the experience I did, talking to a lot of guys, I came back pretty set on moving on. I could never really make anything public because I hadn’t been drafted yet.”
He made it official Wednesday by signing with the Buffalo Sabres. Along with Evander Kane and Ryan O’Reilly, he’ll be tasked with breathing new life into the worst offensive team of 2014-15. Expectations should be conservative for next season, but there’s no question that the hope is Eichel will develop into the cornerstone of this franchise.
Yesterday, Dougie Hamilton didn’t want to talk about his reasons for wanting out of Boston.
“For me, I’m just going to keep on saying how excited I am to be a Flame and looking forward to the future and everything,” he said. “What’s in the past is in the past and I think I’m just looking forward to being a Flame to moving to Calgary and seeing the city and the fans.”
But it’s clear he no longer wanted to be a Bruin.
It’s been speculated that the 22-year-old defenseman didn’t get along with coach Claude Julien. There was also talk at the draft in Florida that he felt bullied by Boston’s veteran players. And that may mesh with the report that Hamilton wasn’t the most popular figure in the Bruins’ room.
The whole thing is somewhat reminiscent of Evander Kane’s departure from Winnipeg, minus the clothes in the shower.
Whatever led to Hamilton’s unwillingness to sign long-term with the Bruins, it took club president Cam Neely by surprise.
“I really didn’t get any indications of anything negative in exit meetings,” Neely told the Boston Globe. “So I was surprised.”
Neely told the newspaper that the Bruins made three separate offers — one for four years, another for five, and a third for six. The salary, according to Neely, was not far off what Hamilton agreed to be paid in Calgary.
“We wanted Dougie,” Neely said.
But he didn’t want them.
Related: Sweeney explains Hamilton trade: ‘We extended Dougie a very significant contract offer’
The Buffalo Sabres are going to be better next season.
In part, because it’d be hard to be worse.
But mostly because the roster has been significantly improved by GM Tim Murray, who not only drafted Jack Eichel yesterday, but also added Ryan O’Reilly, Robin Lehner, Jamie McGinn, and David Legwand in trades.
We’ll assume Eichel goes pro and does not go back to school, though he still hasn’t announced a decision. The Sabres will also have Evander Kane, the goal-scoring winger they got from Winnipeg. And Sam Reinhart, the second overall pick in 2014, should be ready too.
On top of all that, they’ll have a Stanley Cup-winning head coach in Dan Bylsma.
Though Murray believes it may take some time for the group to gel, he was clearly happy with how his plan had come together.
“I can tell you that our players back home are excited,” Murray told reporters, per NHL.com. “I got a couple texts from different guys, and if that excitement that they showed today carries over into training camp, I believe we can improve by quite a bit. In saying that, we’ve got a long way to go to improve to get to be competitive or a playoff team.”
SUNRISE — One of the worst seasons in NHL history paid off today for the Buffalo Sabres.
With the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Sabres selected forward Jack Eichel, the Boston University phenom that NHL Central Scouting ranked No. 2 among North American skaters. He was ranked behind only Connor McDavid, who went to the Oilers first overall.
Eichel enters the NHL with great expectations. He’s been called a franchise player, even garnering the “generational” label, along with McDavid.
The Sabres finished the 2014-15 season with a 23-51-8 record. Their 54 points were the fewest in the league, two fewer than Arizona managed. They had the worst offense, the worst power play, the worst penalty kill, and the second-worst goals-against average. They were accused of tanking. Often.
Now it’s time to start the ascension. With Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Robin Lehner, Sabres fans may not have to suffer much longer.
Related: Get to know a draft pick — Jack Eichel
Early contender for quote of the day, courtesy Sabres GM Tim Murray:
This morning, Buffalo acquired Robin Lehner and David Legwand from Ottawa, in return for the 21st pick in today’s draft.
In February, Murray swung a blockbuster trade for Evander Kane. Part of that deal included the 25th pick in today’s draft going to Winnipeg.
And, of course, the Sabres are expected in a few hours to draft Jack Eichel with the second overall pick.
Related: Day after voicing disappointment with No. 2 pick, Murray praises Eichel