Jack Eichel is yet again proving that he is among the best in the game at doing what he does, producing points at an elite level. Despite the fact that he only played in 61 games this season, he tallied an extremely impressive 24 goals and 33 assists. Add this to the fact that Eichel is playing on a Buffalo Sabres team that has only scored 199 goals this season, good for 24th in the NHL, and it makes his offensive production all the more impressive.
Jack Eichel is the Next American Hockey Superstar
The best way to solidify an argument that Eichel is the next superstar is to first look at his point production compared to other American stars in the first few years of their careers. The second, and arguably the most important, is to look at the individual statistics to see even deeper into the numbers and play of Eichel. This can also show us what strides Eichel has made in his individual play, aside from the eye test, from his rookie year to now.
Comparing Eichel to His Fellow Americans
Who better to compare Eichel to than Patrick Kane? Kane has consistently found himself among the NHL’s top scorers throughout his career. He is an elite talent, despite many people disagreeing purely on personal opinions of his often-questioned character.
Kane was the first American-born hockey player to win the Hart Trophy in the 2015-16 season when he racked up 106 points in the form of 46 goals and 60 assists. But what we really want to look at is how he fared in his first two seasons, to be able to better compare it to Eichel at his current point.
Kane was drafted first overall in 2007, and came right into the NHL. During his rookie season he had 21 goals and 51 assists in a full 82-game season. He wasn’t able to improve on that mark in his sophomore campaign, notching 25 goals and 45 assists in 80 games that year.
While Kane’s 46 goals and 96 assists dwarf the 48 goals and 65 assists Eichel has put up so far, it was also done in 20 more games. Take into account that Kane had a 0.88 point-per-game pace, and compare it with the 0.79 that Eichel is sporting, and the difference looks a lot smaller than before.
A few arguments can be made in the favor of Eichel, however, as Kane undeniably had a stronger surrounding team than Eichel currently does. A young Jonathan Toews, a still-producing Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Dustin Byfuglien, and Robert Lang looks much more enticing than the likes of Ryan O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, Evander Kane, and Kyle Okposo.
Another argument that can be made is that individual point production was higher in the 2007-08 rookie season of Kane than in the 2015-16 rookie season of Eichel. There was two 100-point scorers in Alex Ovechkin (112) and Evgeni Malkin (106), and the top eight scorers would have fallen somewhere between the league leader in points and second in points respectively. With point production down, that makes the 56 points for Eichel a little less pale in the reflection of the 72 points from Kane in his rookie season.
Another American-born forward you could try and compare Eichel to is that of Ryan Kesler. Kesler also plays center, so point production could be more closely tied and easier to compare to the production of Eichel.
That being said, Kesler took a bit more time to to adjust, relative to Kane and Eichel. In his first NHL season, back in 2003-04, Kesler had two goals and three assists in 28 games, good for a 0.18 point-per-game pace. Compare that to the massively better 0.69 Eichel had in his debut season and it makes it all that more impressive. Kesler then went on to have a 0.28 pace in his sophomore campaign, significantly lower than the 0.93 that Eichel sported this season.
For the sake of being fair, the first season that Kesler broke 50 points in a season was in his fifth year, when he had 59 points in 82 games, good for a 0.72 point-per-game pace. This is only slightly better than the rookie season of Eichel. An impressive point in the favor of Eichel.
While it’s obvious that they don’t play the same style, this is the easiest way to compare the two of them. So if Eichel can continue to outperform the career point production of Kesler, 245 goals and 551 points in 897 games, he will undeniably prove himself as the heir to the American Hockey throne.
2017 IIHF World Championship
Eichel was named to the roster for Team USA for the upcoming IIHF World Championship. This could easily be a pivotal tournament in proving that he is indeed the future of American hockey. Being named along the likes of an almost entirely inexperienced roster, in regards to NHL play, he can step up as a leader, whether that be vocally or just by doing what he does best, scoring.
One thing that can be said for sure, however, is that Jack Eichel is the next american hockey superstar.