Tonight marks the first meeting of the two coveted picks of the “McEichel” draft. The first meeting back on December 6th in Edmonton, Connor McDavid missed because of his lengthy recovery from a collarbone injury. Buffalo lost that game 4-2, Jack Eichel did score his 9th goal of the season that night.
Jack and Connor play two completely different style’s yet are both extremely effective while on the ice, which is rare in your first season as an 18 and 19 year old. Jack Eichel has played in all of the Sabres’ 63 games this year, with 41 points (17 goals and 24 assists). When comparing Jack’s stats to the rest of the rookie class he is, 3rd in points, 5th in goals, 3rd in assists. Jack leads all rookies in shots with 182, which is tied for 28th when grouped with the rest of the league. Jack’s high shot rate means he scores a goal about every 10 shots, and his shooting percentage is 9.3%, which obviously is going to be a lower number than what you see from Connor, because Dan Bsylma wants Jack to shoot the puck more often. Jack’s great season is being outdone by a 24 year old rookie, getting to play on the same line as a Stanley Cup MVP in Patrick Kane. Artemi Panarin has 57 points in 62 games and most likely will win the Calder Memorial Trophy. Jack’s adjustment period to the NHL has been better than most, as he hasn’t seen a long stretch of poor play. He has shown some ineffectiveness in his own zone when he gets pressured. Jack had a turnover prone game recently against the Kings and showed some indecisiveness when pressured. Jack’s game still has some unpolished aspects but for a rookie, he definitely shows that his future is bright.
3rd goal happened that quickly. Eichel behind the net, Girgensons a chance, and McGinn the finish. #15, #28 assists. pic.twitter.com/llm0HRVRgD
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 20, 2016
Guys, Jack Eichel is so good. pic.twitter.com/BWe6S9nt8K
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 12, 2015
Connor McDavid suffered a collarbone injury and missed 37 games which drastically hurt his chances at winning the Calder. If he played a full season, he would easily be a point per game player, leading the pack, but unfortunately for him, he is a smaller build, that could lead to more injuries down the road. Connor has only played in a total of 27 games this season, and has 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists). The fact he is only 12 points behind of Jack with 36 less games played, should show how much more of a playmaker McDavid is. Connor is a faster skater, and gets to his top speed at a quicker rate, leading to more breakaways and his undressing of the goalie for a goal. McDavid is the better talent when compared to Jack, both have their elite level talents, but Connor is just the better player. Does McDavid start to earn the label of being injury prone, he did miss time last year with the Erie Otters after breaking his hand in a fight. Connor only has 55 shots on net in his 27 games played, which is a lot less attempted shots than Jack, even if that rate is stretched out to the same amount of games. Connor’s shooting percentage is 18.2%, almost 10% points higher, showing that McDavid takes shots that have a better chance of finding twine.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 12, 2016
What happened last time we played at home? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/NtRg2TSzop
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 12, 2016
Tonight’s game wasn’t thought to be that special by NBC Sports, as they chose to air Crosby vs Ovechkin, which makes sense based on the 4 teams standings. The first game has one team that leads in NHL in points, along with another team battling for a playoff spot. Add in the two established superstars in Crosby and Ovechkin. The second game has been labeled by us here at talk.hockey “The Battle for the Bottom”. Both teams stand no chance to make the playoffs, but have promising superstars in the making. The game in Buffalo will draw probably the biggest crowd since the beginning of the season, when the excitement was at it’s highest point. Sabres fans will most likely give McDavid the Superstar treatment, mostly from the form jealously, by booing him every single time he touches the puck. Just like they did after Lucic ran over Ryan Miller. Or Whenever Zdeno Chara touches the puck. I’m glad it’s not on NBC Sports tonight, so our fanbase doesn’t have to be shown as bitter, spiteful, and jealous fans.
The Media has made this game bigger than it should be, but it has big implications for those that are rooting for the tank. If Buffalo wants to help themselves out with the draft odds, their best course of action is to lose tonight, in regulation to the Oilers. The Oilers are currently in 29th place with 53 points in 64 games played. Buffalo sits in 26th place with 57 points in 63 games played. This game definitely has a big impact how the bottom will shape up, and if the Sabres want to add another top tier prospect to their cupboard, losing tonight may be in their best interest. Ryan O’Reilly is still on IR, which should see him miss at least 3 more weeks, which will not help their cause to put points on the board. The Sabres shipped out Jamie McGinn on Monday’s Trade Deadline to Anaheim for a Conditional 3rd round selection. Edmonton was much more active in their efforts to bring in picks and prospects, as The Oilers traded defensemen Philip Larsen, Justin Schultz, forward Teddy Purcell, and goalie Anders Nilsson.
Edmonton has more firepower in terms of offensive talent, with Taylor Hall (54 points), Leon Draisaitl (44 points), Connor McDavid (29 points), and Jordan Eberle (38 points). Buffalo only has 2 active players with more than 30 points, Jack Eichel with 41 points, and Rasmus Ristolainen with 35 points.
Buffalo has better goaltending play of late, as Chad Johnson and Robin Lehner have made for a good combo to help keep this team away from last years pitiful record. Edmonton has struggled to find a goalie that can keep them in games, Cam Talbot has had an up and down season, but recently is struggling to stop anything.
This game could either be a 1-0 shootout win, or 6-1 blowout depending on how the game plays out.
My guess is that Edmonton’s offense is too much for Buffalo’s young team, that yet again has to deal with a locker room favorite being dealt away.
Prediction: 5-2 Edmonton
McDavid: 2 goals, 1 assist
Eichel: 1 goal
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Enjoy the “Battle for the Bottom” in Buffalo tonight!