The last freshman to win the Hobey Baker award was Paul Kariya. That puts Jack Eichel in pretty elite company.
At 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, Eichel possesses an ideal frame to be an impact player at the pro level. He also has the skill level to match — if not surpass — his physical build.
The North Chelmsford, Mass., native was a star in his first season for the Boston University Terriers. He recorded 71 points in 40 games to lead college hockey in scoring as an 18-year-old. A 1.77 point-per-game average is a feat rarely achieved, let alone by a freshman.
Eichel has been also been a force for the United States at every level he has represented his country. At the 2013-14 U18 tournament he recorded five goals and 10 points in seven games en route to a gold medal. At this past World Junior tournament he captained Team USA and recorded four points in five games.
Earlier this summer he played with the American senior national team — again, as a teenager — at the World Championships. He had seven points in 10 games and captured the bronze.
In virtually any other year we would be discussing Eichel as a surefire first pick. However, given the context of Connor McDavid, it's an unlikely scenario. Regardless of which team takes him, they're getting a player with an immense ability to play the game.
His ability to play on the puck is at an elite level. He has great vision and can find teammates, changes speeds well on the ice and generates plenty of chances off the rush. With a shot of his calibre he is sure to score at the NHL level. His skating ability puts him in position to complete backchecks. His size allows him to win faceoffs and puck battles.
Like McDavid, much of Eichel's growing pains will simply be a byproduct of learning the nuance of the NHL game. With that said, teams don't pass on players of his ability on the draft floor because they have no NHL games played.
Expecting Eichel to come off the board at number two is a safe bet.