Jack Eichel may not be the leading rookie scorer, but the Buffalo Sabres freshman continues to show on a near nightly basis why he was selected with the second-overall pick. Eichel, 18, keeps finding his way onto the highlight reel, and he did it again Tuesday with a dazzling assist on the power play.
On a man advantage early in the second period, Eichel set up shop in front of the Florida Panthers’ net with his back to the middle of the ice. Using his body to shield off a check from Panthers blueliner Erik Gudbranson, Eichel took a pass from Jamie McGinn and somehow, someway found a streaking Ryan O’Reilly without so much as taking a peek at where his Sabres teammate was:
The assist was Eichel’s 13th of the season and gives him 26 points on the season, and the 18-year-old center is red hot over the past three weeks. Since Dec. 17, Eichel has scored in all but one of his eight games, and that includes a two-goal, four-point outing against the Boston Bruins on Boxing Day. Over the past eight games, Eichel has racked up 12 points — one-third of his season’s point total.
Following Tuesday’s action, Eichel sits fourth in rookie scoring behind Detroit’s Dylan Larkin (27 points), Arizona’s Max Domi (28) and Chicago’s Artemi Panarin (36). Eichel is second in goals by rookies, however, with 13 and has four power play markers to his name, tied with Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere and Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Marchessault as tops among rookies.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma has been giving Eichel a bigger role in the lineup as the season has progressed and that’s sure to continue with the way the rookie is performing. Eichel has logged more than 20 minutes in three of his past eight games, and is now third in average ice time among all forwards on the Sabres roster.