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BU's Eichel talks Hobey Baker, NHL Draft build-up

by Mike G. Morreale

Boston University freshman Jack Eichel was determined from day one to not only be a success story, but one of the best college hockey players to ever play the game.

He's certainly on that path.

Eichel, the fourth-youngest player in college hockey and No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top North American skates eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, is expected to hear his name announced in short order on the opening day of the draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., on June 26.

He was named Hockey East Rookie of the Year, Hockey East Player of the Year, and was Hockey East Tournament MVP. He is only the second player in league history to win all three awards in the same season; Brian Leetch pulled off the trifecta in 1987. Eichel is also one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player, an honor Leetch didn't win.

He's looking to become only the second freshman in history to win the Hobey Baker. Paul Kariya did it after scoring 100 points in 39 games for the University of Maine in 1992-93.

Eichel leads the nation with 42 assists, 66 points, a plus-46 rating, 22 power-play points, a 1.17 assists-per game average and a 1.83 points-per game average. He is also on a season-high 12-game point streak (nine goals, 26 points).

Eichel and Erie Otters captain Connor McDavid, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top North American skaters, are expected to be hot topics on the agenda this weekend when NHL Central Scouting meets one last time to determine the final ranking of skaters and goaltenders in North America and in Europe.

Eichel, 18, recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer five intriguing questions prior to the start of the 16-team NCAA ice hockey tournament that begins Friday. Boston University will play Yale University in the first round. The Frozen Four will be hosted by Hockey East at TD Garden in Boston, April 9-11.

Your thoughts on being one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award?

"I feel so honored to be nominated with all the great players in college hockey. I definitely wouldn't be in this position without the help of my coaches and teammates. Every season I usually create goals with my dad. I always strive to be the best player no matter what league I'm playing in, so I just tried to compete my hardest this year in hopes that I had a chance to be nominated. It's such a prestigious award and it would very nice to share with my family and friends that have gotten me to this point."

Do you get tired of the comparisons made between you and McDavid?

"I try to block it out, limit my use in social media and reading what other people have to say, because at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what other people have to say about me as long as I'm happy. I care about the opinions from the people around me and my opinion of myself. Everyone will have their own opinion on what I'm doing or how I'm playing, but at the end of the day I'm not really concerned with what everyone else is saying. It's about my team and myself."

How do view the role as captain for any team?

"Whether you have a letter on your chest or not, I don't think your role with the team should change. You should try and be the person you are every day you go to the dressing room. Personally, I try to go in there and keep things loose and lead by example and try to work hard. Whatever it is, you just need to help make a difference. If it's scoring a big goal, blocking a shot, finishing a check or winning a faceoff. I think a leader just does whatever it takes to help his team win and he puts the team before himself. That's kind of what I try and do. At Boston University, we have a lot of great leaders and that's what has made our team so special."

Is there an NHL player you have spoken to this year for advice on the NHL Draft?

"I spoke with (Nashville Predators forward) Colin Wilson a little bit last summer. He's an old BU guy and I've worked out with him at times over the summer. He's given me a little bit of advice on the college experience. I also talked to (Vancouver Canucks forward and former Boston University player) Nick Bonino. He was in town for a short time in February. Those are guys who have been through similar experiences and they gave me their advice.

"They told me to just enjoy the experience and don't be in a rush to do anything or go anywhere. Time will tell what the future holds. Just enjoy it, try to get better every day and don't take for granted anything, because time goes so fast."

How has Boston University coach David Quinn improved your game?

"The coaching staff is trying to get me ready for the next level. I think there are things that needed to be better against older players. I've improved in a lot of areas. Moving the puck, getting off passes, driving the middle, being effective in the faceoff circle, being hard to play against, finishing my chances, one-timers. There are a lot of things you can get better at, and Coach Quinn and the entire coaching staff has done a good job in helping me in those areas."


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