Jack Eichel sounds like the happiest kid in the NHL right now.
He was one of the top rookie scorers at the midway point and had clearly found his feet in Buffalo, with particular success on a line with Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart.
But it’s not just on-ice chemistry. The Massachusetts native is finding Buffalo to be a second home pretty quickly. He’s living with the family of Sabres veteran Matt Moulson and, after a year in Boston U. dorms on his own, Eichel is loving the family atmosphere.
“They do so much for me, I could never repay them,” Eichel said. “Having a stable home environment, not worrying about cooking meals or doing laundry…it made the adjustment so much easier.”
The powerful 19-year-old center does try to pitch in with dishes and such but hasn’t been tasked too much otherwise. Moulson has two young children, but so far there haven’t been any calls for babysitting. “I don’t know if they trust me enough with their kids,” Eichel said with a laugh. “But the kids love me. It’s my job to keep them occupied.”
Outside of the Moulson residence, Eichel has already settled into a nice routine. He eats at the same local restaurant for every pregame meal with David Legwand and often Josh Gorges and others (Tyler Ennis has also been part of the crew). The teammates take the time to relax and shoot the breeze. And again, it’s a chance for Eichel to get more comfortable.
As another bonus, the diehard Sabres fans of Western New York have shown their devotion early and often when Eichel has found himself in other eateries. “There are so many good places to eat in Buffalo, I don’t think people realize it,” he said. “And people really take care of you. They love their team here.”
While there are no givens in hockey, Eichel having immediate success in the NHL was a pretty good bet, considering he had just come off one of the best freshman seasons in NCAA history, winning the Hobey Baker Award and getting Boston U. to the Frozen Four title game. His NHL debut happened to fall on his dad’s birthday, and Eichel rewarded the big guy with a goal against Ottawa.
“Our team motto is ‘The Next Chapter,’ ” Eichel said. “Being a part of that next chapter in Buffalo and scoring that goal felt great.”