In the 2004 NHL Draft, two players were selected back-to-back that would play seismic roles in changing the courses of their respective franchises: Alexander Ovechkin in Washington and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.
Jack Eichel recently completed his freshman year at Boston University. He and projected No. 1 pick Connor McDavid were considered neck-and-neck for first overall honors for much of the year, and while it appears McDavid has pulled ahead as the consensus top pick, Eichel may go down as one of the best consolation prizes in league history.
The Massachusetts native had a spectacular season in one of the best conferences in college hockey, carrying the Terriers to the Frozen Four and becoming the second freshman in history to win the Hobey Baker Award. Eichel is keeping good company, as Paul Kariya was the only other first-year player to win the Hobey Baker back in 1993 at Maine.
After two sparkling seasons in the U.S. National Team Development Program, Eichel racked up 26 goals and 71 points in 40 games. His 71 points led all of college hockey and were 10 points more than teammate Evan Rodrigues, the second-leading scorer in the NCAA.
Eichel’s 26 goals are the most by a freshman since Thomas Vanek scored 31 at the University of Minnesota in 2003. His 71 points are the most by a first-year player since Kariya racked up 100 in 1993, the last time a freshman led the nation in scoring and certainly during a more high-scoring period in hockey history.
It’s quite possible that Eichel is one of the most promising draft-aged college player the league has ever seen, and while McDavid’s offensive numbers have been more explosive and in a league with a more NHL-like schedule structure, it would be foolish to ignore that Eichel has put up some of the best numbers in NCAA history.
Here's a brief scouting report from Curtis Joe of EliteProspects.com:
When Jack Eichel is on the ice, the pace of the play shifts; if players can't keep up, they are left behind. A consistent scoring threat on the ice, Eichel possesses next-level hockey-IQ, an elite-level skillset, and the natural size and work ethic to let him play his role as a scoring power center. All-in-all, Jack Eichel is that uncontainable, dynamic center that can make other players look out of place in his wake.