Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

Eichel Could Use An Energy Boost

That was quite an effort last night in the third period of the Buffalo - Calgary game.

Young Sabres star nets a hat trick, including a couple of power play goals, now second in team scoring, on pace to challenge for a 60-point season. It wouldn't be crazy to vouch for this kid making the trip to Nashville as an Atlantic Division All-Star.

With apologies to Rasmus Ristolainen, whom we in Buffalo love as we enjoy watching his rise to stardom, this is the storyline Sabres fans were hoping -- perhaps not expecting, but hoping -- would be written for Jack Eichel.

There's no doubt the 2015 second overall pick is loaded with talent and is set up to be the face of this franchise for years to come. This isn't meant to insinuate otherwise.

But the Sabres aren't even 30 games in, and Eichel already looks physically and mentally fatigued.

Early in the season, Eichel showed his elite on-ice vision by getting pucks to teammates in ways you wouldn't think possible, but lately he's been more prone to trying to skate through or toe-drag around multiple defenders himself. And that turbo-charged skating burst he had early on doesn't look quite as potent. He's a world class hot rod in need of a tune-up.

His stats aren't bad at all for your typical 19-year-old rookie: 9 goals and 14 points in 29 games. He has a monster of a shot. And he was spectacular enough in a recent game on NHL Network to have Keith Jones on the air comparing him to Mario Lemieux.

But this isn't just another young first-year player here. Those numbers don't jive with a player many tag as "generational", even in Year One. Sabres fans suffered through two of the most awful seasons in franchise history to get him. He's our prized hockey possession. It's important that he's developed, coached and monitored properly.

It's good that we have someone in Dan Bylsma with experience in working with an emerging superstar, but Sidney Crosby was much closer to his statistical ceiling than Eichel -- with 5 points in his last 14 games -- is now.

While Eichel's stellar scoring touch has netted him 9 goals, he also has one of the worst Corsi ratings on the team despite leading the Sabres in offensive zone start percentage. That would be less of a concern if he were playing on the top line. I think he's tired.

Blame it on his linemates all you want, but The Kid has played with just about every top-6 forward on the team. He did have some success with Evander Kane, but the former Jet has meshed well with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to cut him back to 15-16 minutes per night. Or put him on the wing for a few weeks. Or ask his conditioning coach why number 15 seems exhausted lately.

Eichel is on pace for a modest 40 points and is being upstaged and outscored by the likes of Dylan Larkin, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. Conditioning doesn't seem to be a problem for them. No reason to panic, but Buffalo's coaching and training staff has some work to do.

dd@kuklaskorner.com

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Filed in: | The Sabres Observer | Permalink
  Tags: eichel+tired

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]