HardFoulSports.com Podcaster Zach Snyder went to the Buffalo Sabres Prospect Game and gives his 3 observations in his solo writing debut.
1) Jack Eichel Disappoints:
I know, I know, this is a bit of an overreaction, and I acknowledge that. However, after all the build up of hype about him fans expected to see something spectacular, whether that’s fair to him or not. Not only did his team lose 5-2, but he was kept off of the scoring sheet. By my unofficial count his +/- was -3. The entire audience was electric at the opening face off as he took the ice. The crowd was always louder whenever he had the puck on his stick. Even after his missed penalty shot and scoreless game, they didn’t give up hope. During the post game shoot out, he was given a standing ovation and the loudest cheer of the night as he went to attempt his shot.
He failed again there.
Altogether he played an average game. The majority of his passes were on point, and his teammates did struggle to receive them. NHL players won’t make those mistakes. His defense positioning was adequate and he showed a willingness to hit players and block shots. He was the best and fastest skater on the ice as well.
Buffalo fans expected him to dominate but he did not. His teammates didn’t help him either, but given his stature, we hoped to see him step up. My takeaway here is that he will need time to develop to the NHL game. If anything I’m sure Jack was disappointed in his performance as well, and I think this will motivate him to work even harder to make sure he’s ready by opening night. Look for him to start as a 3rd line player and work his way up to a top 6 forward as the season progresses.
2) Buffalo Fans are Desperate for Competitive Hockey:
Over 17,000 fans attended this scrimmage. Many teams would love that as an average attendance for their regular season games. Buffalo proved their loyalty, love of the game, and excitement to see Eichel. The 100 and 200 levels were completely filled. Even the upper level 300 sections were filled from each corner to center ice only thinning out in the corners. I can’t imagine any game this season not selling out, especially if the team is in anyway competitive. I guess all the talk about the Sabres tank this past season killing the fan base is proving to be overblown.
3). Sam. Freaking. Reinhart:
Jack Eichel is the prospect Sabres fans are resting all of their hopes on. He’s not alone. Sam Reinhart, the often overlooked 2nd overall pick showed up with something to prove. He responded by putting up 2 goals and 1 assist and by generally being the best player on the ice by far. His skating has greatly improved from last season. He was stronger with the puck, bigger physically, and noticeably faster. As of today he is much more NHL ready than Eichel. His passes were precise all night and played well defensively. He doesn’t appear to be a lock down defender like a Ryan O’Reilly or what we believe Zemgus Girgensons will develop into, but he held his own and was by no means lost. His offensive talent shined and he looked like a leader. Buffalo was reminded tonight that Reinhart is a future all star.
- Jake McCabe was the best defenseman. Excellent positioning and made plays that don’t appear on the score sheet.
- Jason Kasdorf was the best goalie. He shut out Eichel’s Gold squad in his 29 minutes of ice time.
- Buffalo native Justin Bailey played a great game out on the wing and had a highlight goal scoring from his knees from behind the net. Players like him and Nick Baptiste will be the difference for this team in future. Their development into successful scoring wingers is the difference between a good playoff contending team and a great championship team like the Blackhawks.
– Zach Snyder (@zdsnyder)