The Buffalo Sabres have ruled star forward Jack Eichel out with an upper-body injury. This announcement comes before the team will challenge the Philadelphia Flyers on the road. Sabres PR provided the original information with Elliotte Friedman providing clarification shortly afterwards.
UPDATE: WGR Sports’ Paul Hamilton relays a message from head coach Ralph Kruger that Eichel will be out for at least a week.
Eichel is back in Buffalo and will be out a minimum of a week and he needs further evaluation to see if it will be more.
— Paul Hamilton (@pham1717) March 10, 2021
Sabres Jack Eichel Out
Eichel was not scoring goals at his usual rate, but this is still devastating given his overall impact. The 24-year-old is the current scoring leader with two goals and 18 points in 21 games. He is a victim of serious bad luck as he is shooting just 3.3 percent on 61 shots. This is a player who had never shot below nine percent in any of his previous five seasons. The bad luck shows up in advanced stats as well; Evolving Wild’s model currently has Eichel with .8 expected goals per 60 minutes, but his actual rate is just .28. It is a puzzling year for someone who is typically among the league’s best and still sports outstanding possession numbers.
The Sabres famously drafted Eichel second overall in the 2015 Draft after Connor McDavid. The Massachusetts native isn’t as productive as his Canadian counterpart, but there’s little doubt that Buffalo skater is a top talent. He has scored at least 56 points in every full season and might have hit that mark again this season with just a few more lucky bounces boosting the scoring rate. In total, Eichel has 139 goals and 355 points in 375 games and is second in career production from 2015 draftees.
How Buffalo Replaces Eichel
This injury certainly damages a campaign that has already gone sideways. The team is last in their division with multiple players playing below expectations. There also isn’t much depth to call up in the hopes of salvaging the remaining games.
The most logical move might be shifting promising rookie Dylan Cozens to Eichel’s spot centring the first line. Sam Reinhart would move up to Cozens’ spot on the wing with someone back-filling for Reinhart. It’s also an opportunity for a taxi squad candidate like Rasmus Asplund to get more time on the ice. Regardless of what Buffalo does, it’s safe to say this injury is a bad thing and might accelerate some decisions on a rebuild.