When in his first game Jack Eichel had outplayed veteran playmakers like Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Thomas Vanek, that can only mean incredible things for the Buffalo Sabres. With key pieces in Tyler Ennis, Ryan O'Reilly, and Evander Kane all being rested in the first preseason matchup in Minnesota, second overall pick Jack Eichel was featured on the top line with Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons. Although there weren't many expectations when it comes to the score sheet, Eichel stuck out in that aspect, as well as every aspect of this game. He was fast, he was accurate, and he was relentless. The best quote is from Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter who said about Eichel "He's everything that you hear. Steady, big, long reach, upright skater. He slows the game down".
The Sabres defeated the Wild 3-2 after being badly outplayed in the first period. With Robin Lehner resting, goaltender Chad Johnson finished with 15 saves on 17 shots. The defense struggled at times but newly signed Cody Franson and prospect Jake McCabe both had impressive debuts. The two combined for over 45 minutes of ice time. Talk about a work load. If McCabe can continue the impressive, physical style of defense that he possesses to go along with the offensive ability, there is no reason for Bylsma to choose a veteran like Mike Weber over the budding star.
As it continues to play out, it looks like Johan Larsson is beating out David Legwand for the fourth center position on the Sabres. Larsson paired up with Nicolas Deslauriers and Marcus Foligno who are set to play on the fourth line come regular season time. Larsson tallied an assist on a Deslauriers goal that came off a rebound. With Larsson signing a one way contract, I don't see the Sabres paying him to be a healthy scratch, can't go from top line last season to a healthy scratch, just isn't plausible.
Anyway back to Jack Eichel, he showed that his offensive talent cannot be denied, however the most important thing to take from this game was Eichel's two way ability on the ice. Byslma put the rookie on the penalty kill and the generational talent thrived. He has incredible vision and an excellent hockey IQ. That in addition to a long reach combines for a pretty darn good defensive skill set. It is good to see Eichel carrying the team and stepping up in the most important parts of the game. There is a clutch gene in Eichel that many don't possess. That will certainly bold well for the Sabres.
Seeing the star pull spin moves on all stars like Ryan Suter is an encouraging sign. It is the first game and there is work to be done, but looking back at what the Sabres have gone through the past two years, better times are coming and that is all because of Tim Murray and number 15 himself........JACK EICHEL!
Buffalo returns to the First Niagara Center on Wednesday to take on the Ottawa Senators.