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BU coach thinks Eichel will be in NHL 'all next year'

by Mike G. Morreale

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Boston University coach David Quinn doesn't know how many 19-year-old players are actually ready for the NHL, but he's willing to make an exception for freshman Jack Eichel.

Eichel, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American players eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, said he has a good idea of his intentions to either turn professional or return to Boston University as a sophomore following the draft. He just isn't ready to announce his decision publicly.

The first round of the draft will be held Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports); rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports).

Eichel is expected to be selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 2 pick in the draft. It's anticipated Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, No. 1 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, will be chosen No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers.

While Quinn didn't come out and admit his star center would forego his sophomore season of eligibility and turn professional in 2015-16, it certainly sounds as if he has surrendered to that fact.

"I think Jack brings an awful lot to the table and he's got a chance to be ready for the NHL," Quinn told "Whether he's ready or not, he's going to be put in a situation where no matter who drafts him, the Oilers or Sabres, he's going to be in the NHL all next year; that's the reality of it.

"It's been his dream to play in the NHL his whole life."

Eichel said he and Quinn have discussed the positives of either turning pro or returning to Boston University since the college season ended on April 11 with a 4-3 loss against Providence College in the NCAA championship game, one day after Eichel received the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player.

"To me, the only question he has to ask himself is does he have enough respect for college hockey to even entertain the thought of returning to BU?" Quinn said. "If he does, he's going to have to fight human nature because of the fact he came to BU, scored the most points and was the best player in the country [as a freshman]."

Quinn, who will be present at the draft, said there is absolutely no shame to Eichel admitting the fire no longer burns to excel at the college level after accomplishing so much in his first season. He understands how those thoughts might be replaced by an insatiable appetite to prove himself at the next level.

"If he doesn't have enough respect for college hockey, that's not being critical of him or egotistical or cocky, that's just understandable," Quinn said. "To me that's the only question he has to ask himself. If the answer to that question is no, then that's the end of the discussion and he moves on.

"If he comes back to college, he has to be completely all in and not second guessing himself."

Eichel's 71 points were the most by a college freshman since Paul Kariya had 100 points at the University of Maine in 1992-93. He and Kariya are the only freshmen to win the Hobey Baker. The 6-foot-2, 196-pound right-handed shot also led the NCAA with 45 assists, a plus-51 rating, 23 power-play points, a 1.12 assists-per-game average and a 1.77 points-per-game average.

Quinn was asked what possible benefits would come out of Eichel returning to the Terriers next season.

"When you win the Hobey Baker and lead the NCAA with 70-plus points, I don't think he has anything more to prove, but he could certainly get better while he's in college next year," Quinn said. "I mean he didn't win a national title. He's got areas in his game that need improving like most 18-year-old players."

Quinn believes the biggest obstacle for Eichel in making his decision is his absolute love for college hockey, particularly in Boston. He said he thinks the native of North Chelmsford, Mass., knew he would enjoy it, but the journey far exceeded his expectations. Still, Quinn thinks Eichel has just begun to scratch the surface of the type of player he can ultimately be.

"There's not an area of the game that he cannot be great at," Quinn said. "He should be a great penalty killer. He got a lot better in faceoffs over the second half of the season and he's got to improve his one-timer. I also think he can be better on the power play and work on taking shorter shifts.

"There are things to get better at, but he has such a burning desire to be great and he's so incredibly competitive that it's just a matter of time before he does get better in all these areas."

Eichel finished with a 51.1-percent efficiency on faceoffs last season after struggling early in that phase of his game.

"He knows he'll play pro hockey for a long time, but college is a pretty special time in people's lives," Quinn said. "People get caught up in the hockey end of it, but he's still a kid. We're human beings, first and foremost, and he has friends at school. At the end of the day this will come down to one thing only, and it's about having enough respect for college hockey to play another year of college hockey."


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