Connor McDavid’s return from injury, paired with his tremendous play, has overshadowed some fine performances by other rookies throughout the league over the past few weeks, but Buffalo Sabres freshman Jack Eichel made his presence felt in a big way Sunday afternoon.
Eichel didn’t waste any time, either. Less than two minutes into Sunday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, he collected an errant pass in the neutral zone and headed back into the Sabres’ zone. Eichel was being pursued by Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, but he peeled off the ice for a line change at the same time as the rest of his teammates. That gave Eichel an opportunity, and he took it.
With the Avalanche changing, Eichel turned up ice and cut towards the left wing. On his way down the ice, he dodged one check, slipped the puck past another and then deftly slipped the puck onto his forehand before wiring a shot past Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov:
Eichel’s awesome goal was his 17th of the season and gives him 38 points on the season. His goal was one of three opening period tallies for the Sabres, who chased Semyon Varlamov in less than five minutes of action. Varlamov allowed two goals on two shots in 4:42 of action.
While Buffalo is nowhere near making the post-season, Eichel’s play has been a source of great joy for Sabres fans. His end-to-end rush was another in a growing number of outstanding plays he’s made this season, and Eichel is more than ready for a top line role. His 18:45 average ice time heading into Sunday’s game was the sixth-most of any rookie player.
Following Sunday’s performance, Eichel now sits tied with Detroit’s Dylan Larkin for second place among rookie scorers. However, Eichel is still 14 points back of Chicago’s Artemi Panarin for the rookie scoring lead.