SUNRISE, Fla. –
The wait for Jack Eichel is finally over. After weeks and months of speculation and inevitability, he finally pulled a Buffalo Sabres jersey over his head Friday night.
General manager Tim Murray stepped up to the podium at BB&T Center and made the 18-year-old Boston University center the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
“It was great. I know what it means to the franchise. I know what it means to the city. I’ve been here a short time, but I know how important it is,” Murray said of the pick. “It was one of the special moments in my drafting career. You don’t get to draft that high very often – nor do you want to. And you don’t get that caliber player very often. It was great.”
Eichel won the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey’s most outstanding player, as a freshman and led the nation in scoring with 71 points (26+45) in 40 games. He was the first freshman to win the award since Paul Kariya do so back in 1993.
He also served as captain for Team USA during the IIHF World Junior Championship and helped BU win the Bean Pot and reach the national championship game. After his collegiate season wrapped up, he won bronze with the U.S. at the 2015 IIHF World Championship, scoring seven points (2+5) in 10 games.
“It’s tough to put into words. Looking back on the entire year, it’s been the best year of my life. This really caps it off,” Eichel said.
“You hear a lot about the draft and everything that goes on here but until you hear your name called and you go on stage and put a jersey on – there’s nothing like it. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
He’s looking forward to starting his career in Buffalo and playing in front of the fan base.
“They’re so passionate about hockey and that means a lot to me,” he said. “To go to a hockey community like that where everyone cares about you and they want to see you do well.”
However, he’s yet to make a decision on yet he will forego his college eligibility and turn pro this year.
“I guess we’ll see in a few days,” he grinned. “Can’t let the cat out of the bag.”
He’s also undecided on a number. His familiar No. 9 is currently claimed by Sabres wing Evander Kane. Eichel sported a No. 15 jersey around BB&T Center because of the draft year and didn’t rule it out.
“I really hadn’t thought about the number, the number choices yet. I’m not really sure,” he said. “Fifteen’s a good number. I’ve worn it before. It’s my dad’s lucky number and my sister’s lucky number. It happened to be the year I was drafted so there’s a lot of significance to the number 15.”