No matter how you spin it, this NHL season is going to be one for the books. From a draft class not seen in years, to an offseason full of interesting and exciting free agent signings, we are in for a real treat. Lockouts and steady rule changes have morphed the game into the high speed skill based play we are starting to see more and more with the newer crops of players entering the pro ranks. The most exciting and well known of this new breed, American Jack Eichel and Canadian Connor McDavid are poised to make a huge splash in the NHL right off the bat. How do these players stand out from their peers, and what can we expect from them in the 2015-16 season?
Jack Eichel, “The Horse”
6 ft 2 in - 194lbs
Coming off a huge season with BU in Hockey East, Eichel also participated in the IIHF World Championships with the USA in the Czech Republic, where the team placed 3rd earning the Bronze medal. He scored 71 points in 40 games playing against guys sometimes 2-3 years older, against men, unlike McDavid, who has been playing the CHL where there is an age-out limit of 20. That’s the beauty with Eichel, at 18; he plays a man’s game. No better example than the World Championships. While not on par skill-wise with the Olympics, the tournament gave us a sneak peek of what’s to come with Eichel netting 7 points in 10 games, on international ice. The excitement doesn’t stop there. Eichel put on quite a show at Buffalo Sabres development camp in June. He even put a puck through the net on a drill.
Prospect camp is time to gauge how a player competes against other prospects in the age pool.
Eichel skates with ease and power, almost a synergy that you don’t notice while he blazes down the ice. It’s a joy to watch him control the puck and set up in the zone. His nose for the net creates an environment that makes the players around him better. Just ask linemates Evan Rodriguez and Danny O’Regan. O’Regan improved to 50 points over last season’s 32 while Rodrigues scored 61 over 14 (Although he did play 10 less games in 2014). Eichel has the toughness of a power forward with the faceoff skills and playmaking ability of an elite center. Do I smell a budding bromance with potential and skill filled Evander Kane?
Connor McDavid, “The Breeze”
6ft 1in - 195
Connor McDavid has been named “the next, next one” and has been followed through his career from a young age. Coming off of an incomplete season due to a hand injury sustained during a fight (The kid can throw um!) he was able to net a whopping 120 points in 47 games.
Mcdavid added to the strong season of teammate Dylan Strome, the third overall pick to Arizona. On top of this, Team Canada won Gold at the 2015 World Junior Championship. McDavid also had his way with the prospect camp he participated in, blowing by his potential teammates with relatively no effort.
As much ease and grace as Eichel shows when skating, Mcdavid somehow makes it look better, easier even. His quick release and unparalleled puck patience separate him from all others in his draft class. Mcdavid also makes the players around him better, a hallmark attribute of an all-star. Although reluctantly, you can bet I will be staying up until 10 pm eastern this season to watch this beauty make his mark on the league. This post is heavy with video, but it’s really the only way to do the play of these two justice, enjoy Mcdavid’s 5 goal game at the end of Oiler prospect camp.
So, how can we even compare these players when up until right after the draft, they hadn’t even said two words to one another? These two unique and special players are prime examples of the growing and flourishing amateur programs in both the US and Canada. Eichel took the college route (Although only for one year. A year where he won the Hobey Baker award as a freshman). Mcdavid took full advantage of the CHL and Major Jr. north of the border. After looking at stats, watching countless highlights and interviews, all I can say is how excited I am to see them play. Nothing that has been seen thus far will compare to an NHL game. Everyone be sure to mark Sun Dec 6 on your calendars, the first time these two future superstars will face off against each other. All indications point to strong rookie seasons, and hopefully a scoring race for the lead come April. The next generation of hockey player is among us, and the future looks bright. Drop a comment below and lets hear your thoughts.
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