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Sabres' Eichel talks training, confidence with

by Arpon Basu

TORONTO -- Jack Eichel, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, was among a group of prospects at the NHL Players' Association Rookie Showcase on Monday.

Eichel spoke with about his offseason training, the challenge of cracking the Buffalo Sabres lineup and being linked with No. 1 pick Connor McDavid: You just came from moving into Matt Moulson's place in Buffalo, who approached who on that?

Eichel: He had approached me about it. He texted me after the draft, along with a group of other players, and congratulated me. Later he offered it up, if I wanted to stay with him and his family I was more than welcome to during the year. I thought it would be a good fit. I heard a lot of good things about him as a person, and getting to know him I think it worked out. It's a really nice house, and he's got a great family. You look bigger than you did at the draft, did you put on some weight this summer?

Eichel: I did. I put on a little bit of weight, about 10 pounds of weight, and kept the body fat down. I did a lot of lifting, a lot of training. I actually trained with [Carolina Hurricanes top pick] Noah [Hanifin]. Every day, me and Noah. There's a big group of us though down in Foxborough, Mass. Our trainer's name is Brian McDonagh. He's trained a lot of [New England] Patriots and there's a lot of NHLers in the group; Brian Boyle [of the Tampa Bay Lightning], the Hayes brothers [Kevin Hayes of the New York Rangers and Jimmy Hayes of the Boston Bruins], Charlie Coyle [of the Minnesota Wild], so it's a really good group. [Rangers defenseman] Keith Yandle's there too, he makes it a lot more entertaining. Is Yandle a funny guy?

Eichel: He's hilarious. How long have you been back on the ice, and did you make any changes to your offseason routine this summer?

Eichel: Not really, I just moved the conditioning toward the end of the summer from off the ice to on the ice. You know, just tone it down a little off the ice for conditioning and do more on the ice conditioning. It's a slight change, but other than that not much changed. I skated all summer three or four times a week and worked out four or five times a week. I skated with the guys I worked out with two or three times a week and we have a league that I play in, there's a lot of college and pro players that play in it down on the south shore, south of Boston. Noah plays in it, a lot of the NHL guys play in it. It's pretty good. That's on Wednesday nights. I work with my skills coach Kim Brandvold, I was working with him on Tuesdays, and I also worked with a shooting coach this summer, Glen Tucker. This was actually my second summer working with him. I don't know how many guys add dimensions to their games over the summer, do you think you did?

Eichel: I like to think I did. I like to think I got better in areas of my game. I also got better off the ice in terms of getting stronger, a little bit heavier. You want to think you get faster, more powerful, and you want to think your conditioning level's better. You want to think you're more prepared for the year, and I think that I am. I think I did everything I could in terms of putting my best foot forward in preparation for the season. I think I got better. What do you weigh now?

Eichel: I'd probably say 205 [pounds]. Since the draft, what have you learned about the Sabres organization that you didn't know before?

Eichel: I think I knew a lot about the Sabres prior to getting drafted just because it looked like they might be in a position to draft me. But now I know for a fact how much they care about their players and how much they want to have success. Just by the things that they've done this summer, things that people have told me that they've done says a lot about their organization and what they want to do. Can you give us an example of how much the Sabres care about their players?

Eichel: I get body work, deep tissue body work a few times a week from a lady that I've been seeing all summer and in the spring last year. I'm really familiar with her and she's really familiar with me. So the Sabres flew their massage therapist out to Boston and paid him to meet with her. I think that says something about their organization. Have you had a chance to talk to Dan Bylsma or the Sabres coaching staff in terms of what you should expect and what they expect out of you this fall?

Eichel: Not about that. I think first and foremost the thing that they expect of me and I expect of myself is to go into rookie camp and work as hard as I can. Then go into training camp and do the same and just fight for a spot on the team. Not only that, but earn a spot on the Sabres. That's my first goal and that's the most important thing for me right now, is to earn my spot. What do you think needs to happen this season for you to personally consider it a success?

Eichel: I think that there's a lot of ways to consider a year successful. Obviously you want your team to have success. I think that's the most important thing, for us to win more games than we did last year and to feel good about ourselves. I think that's important. Obviously it seems like we're in this little rebuild, but there's a lot of really good pieces in the puzzle right now. I think we have big expectations in Buffalo. We want to win, and that's what we're going to try and do. Obviously you go into every season wanting team success, but for yourself, what do you think would make this a successful season?

Eichel: I think it's tough to really say. Right now, where I am, I think first and foremost I want to earn my spot and earn my ice time and earn my role. Then I think I just want to do whatever I can to help the Sabres win games. That's how you find individual success. If you have a part in wins and you think you're contributing to the team in one way or another, I think that's how you find success and that's what I want to do. When you were a kid, were you more of a Sidney Crosby guy or an Alex Ovechkin guy?

Eichel: I liked both of them. Really? You didn't like one more than the other?

Eichel: There were years I liked Crosby better, and there were years I probably liked Ovechkin better. So I liked them both. What drew you to each of those guys?

Eichel: First of all, they're so exciting to watch; you want to watch them every time they have the puck. It's pretty special; you never know what they're going to do. Obviously they had a lot of success in terms of putting points on the board and winning when they were young. They came in to two struggling franchises and turned them around pretty quickly. You've been linked to Connor McDavid forever, and there are parallels that could be drawn between Crosby and Ovechkin coming into the League and you two coming into the League. Do you think about that similarity at all?

Eichel: I try not to put any thought into it. I try not to put any thought into comparisons between me and Connor. It's going to be there, it's always going to be there. But the fact is now that the draft's over and all that's done with, I wish him the best in Edmonton and I'm just going to try and focus on myself and do what I can to help the Buffalo Sabres. Would you prefer it if that comparison ended now that the draft is over?

Eichel: I know it's not going to be. It's always going to be there. That's my mindset. But personally I just don't focus on it. Does it bother you at all?

Eichel: No. It's a competitive relationship. How confident are you in your ability to play in the NHL right now, and what role does confidence play in your mental approach to the game?

Eichel: I think it's huge. First of all, I think a lot of other people have confidence in you. But everyone has confidence in you because you have confidence in yourself. You wouldn't be in the position that you are if you didn't have confidence. I think that's something that makes the special players special; they know they're good. It's not cockiness, it's not arrogance; it's confidence and you need it to be successful.

I'm confident that I can play in the NHL this season and I'm confident that I can make an impact and that's what I want to do. I think everything I've done my whole life is to prepare for this, and now that I have the opportunity to do it, it's something that I've always wanted to do so I'm going to make the most of my opportunity. Last question, a former teammate of yours Auston Matthews, the frontrunner to be the No. 1 pick at the 2016 draft, has decided to go play in Switzerland for his draft season. Did you ever consider that and what do you think of his decision?

Eichel: Actually, my agent had mentioned it to me last year before I went to [Boston University]. But for me, I always wanted to go to school. I grew up in an area of the country where college hockey was really popular. I grew up going to Hockey East games and going to the Beanpot, so that was my dream. Whereas Auston, he grew up in Arizona where it's not the biggest hockey market. Nothing against the [Arizona] Coyotes, there's just not as much hockey there in terms of schools or junior teams. So he didn't grow up watching things that I did growing up in the environment that I did.

Junior was more of an option to him, and then they brought Switzerland into the picture so he could go overseas, play against men and prepare himself to play in the NHL next year. I never really thought about it because it was never really something I wanted to do. But if that's what Auston wanted to do, I'm really happy for him. I'm close with Auston, he's a good friend of mine. People tried to tell me to talk to him and things like that, so I gave him my experience in college and how much I enjoyed it. But at the end of the day he's going to be successful wherever he goes, so I just want him to be happy with whatever he is doing.

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