If it somehow doesn’t already, the name Jack Eichel should mean something to you. The 18-year-old North Chelmsford-born forward currently skates for Boston University, but he’s projected by many to go first or second overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Along with Canada’s top draw Connor McDavid, Eichel is primed to turn heads at the upcoming World Junior Championship (which, as we all know, is the real reason for the season). In fact, as Canada faces the United States it will largely be projected as McDavid facing Eichel. And in effect, that matchup with unceremoniously determine who will go first in the draft.
For Eichel, he’s almost always been inextricably linked to McDavid. “I remember the first time we played was the Can-Am peewee tournament in Detroit,” he says. “I was playing for Boston Mission and he was playing for York Simcoe. We lost and he had a hat trick.”
On Friday, Eichel will have a chance to step out from behind McDavid’s shadow once more. His American squad will open the World Junior Championship tournament against the Finnish club and he’ll have a chance to make a splash once more, which should in turn help his presence in the draft – not like he needs it.
In fact, Eichel has been earning some serious comparisons to great players already. For Scott Young, the director of hockey operations for Boston University’s Terriers, Eichel is reminiscent of a young Mario Lemieux. That’s lofty praise, without question, but Young knows the score.
“Jack has the same vision of the game, the same hands, and he also possesses the calm that Mario had. There’s nothing that bothers him. He can do it all,” he says. “I saw him play when he was younger, and already it was clear enough. He has an excellent vision of the game, incredible hands, a powerful shot. He loves passing, but if he sees an opening, he won’t hesitate to shoot. Like I said, he can do it all.”
Doing it all has fared quite well for Eichel already, who had 87 points in 53 games last season with the American Under-18 team and put together 45 points in 24 games in the US Hockey League. As he guides the Americans, he’ll be ready. He already represented the United States as a 15-year-old at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics and won bronze at the 2013 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.
At the 2014 World Junior Championship tournament, he was Team America’s youngest player at 17.
Some scouts are sure Eichel is NHL-ready, while others are thinking some conditioning at the university level will serve him better. He has been one of the youngest players on the ice at the NCAA level this season and has been throwing his weight around, so the conditioning experience may not have to serve him long. He may be more prepared than many think and that’s once again where the Juniors come in.
So yes, the name Jack Eichel should mean something to you by now. You’ll be drafting him in your fantasy hockey pools and he’ll be lighting up score sheets. Be ready. Because he damn sure is.