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Sabres' Bylsma likes what he sees in Jack Eichel

by Mike G. Morreale /

Dan Bylsma was in high demand across many media platforms after being named coach of the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.

The questions came fast and furious about his coaching philosophy, expectations and, most notably, his thoughts about Boston University freshman Jack Eichel.

Eichel, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, is expected to be chosen by the Sabres with the No. 2 pick in the first round on June 26 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Bylsma saw plenty of Eichel this season, so everyone was interested in his opinion.

Bylsma served as a color analyst for NHL Network when Eichel was captain for the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. Bylsma was then an assistant under Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards for the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Championship, in which an inexperienced U.S. team won the bronze medal. Eichel played a big part for his country as an 18-year-old, scoring two goals and seven points in 10 games while skating primarily with forwards Trevor Lewis (Los Angeles Kings) and Brock Nelson (New York Islanders).

"In the World Championship he was playing against grown men, playing against a lot of NHL hockey players," Bylsma told WGR 550 Buffalo. "He was stacking up against the likes of Evgeni Malkin for Russia, and against team Russia, against Tomas Plekanec for the Czech Republic. We counted on Jack to be a talented hockey player for our team, not just to fill in some minutes and hide him. To see how he played against men was really the most intriguing part of coaching him [at World Championship in Czech Republic]. You wanted to know where he was going to stack up. I think he showed that not only is he a good player, he showed not only that he had the ability to play against men."

Eichel, who won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player in 2014-15, led the nation with 71 points, 45 assists, a 1.77 points-per game average and plus-51 rating in 40 games.

"You get rare glimpses of great players where they do something and you see guys and coaches look down the bench and say, 'Wow, that was pretty amazing,'" Bylsma said. "Jack had those moments where his speed and drive to the net made you say 'Whoa, this is a guy who can flat out fly.' And he did it among men.

"That was the biggest thing I took away watching him at the World Championship. Now he's an 18-year-old young man, but he really has flashes of what he can do, how he can skate and how he can play this game."


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