Before the World Juniors came to town, I spent hours watching highlights of players from all over the world. I didn't just want to be familiar with how the kids on Team Canada played, but I wanted to know what to expect from Habs prospects playing in the tournament, as well as what to expect from other nations.
Connor McDavid is the consensus first overall pick for this year's draft. Barring some sort of horrific injury, he will be selected first. Let's face it, McDavid is being called "the Next One" and is often likened to Sidney Crosby. All of the praise that he receives is warranted and merited. But the guy that will go second overall isn't getting his fair share of the accolades.
Jack Eichel stands at 6'2", 194 lbs, and is a star centerman in the NCAA where he plays for Boston University. In 16 GP with BU, Eichel has eight goals, 19 assists, 27 points, 10 penalty minutes, and is a +21. I've heard comparisons to Mario Lemieux for his reach and use of size. Whenever someone compares a player to Mario, I make a point of seeing them play.
I came into this afternoon's Finland-USA game with one main objective; to answer the question, "Is Jack Eichel as good as everyone says that he is?"
After watching the Americans beat the Finns 2-1 in a shootout, I came away with my answer.
Yes. Yes he is.
Eichel is a smooth skater with terrific vision and hockey sense. He's strong on the puck, and makes great use of his size. He's the go-to guy to quarterback the American powerplay. He kills penalties. He's great with his hands. If it weren't for the fact that he's draft eligible in the same year as McDavid, he would be the consensus first overall pick at the NHL draft.
What have we learned?
Whoever gets the second overall pick at the 2015 NHL draft is getting a tremendous, one-in-a-generation type of hockey player.