The draft hype for Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel was colossal. The great tank battle of 2014-15 was one of the NHL’s most hyped storylines, as whichever team who shot themselves in the foot the hardest would end up with the much coveted generational talent.
McDavid and Eichel, especially the former, were being touted as the next great ones and their faces were plastered on every website and newspaper with their season progress being closely monitored under a microscope. The race to the finish line was ugly. Team’s were progressively trying to get worse and fans were cheering on defeat. It was shameless, but understandable considering the prize.
When all was said and done, the Buffalo Sabres were guaranteed at least one of the two and ended up drafting second, despite GM Tim Murray’s objections. Arizona was pegged for the second spot, but because the NHL draft gods are sympathetic to Oilers every June, Edmonton leapfrogged them and took the top spot. McDavid was drafted in the top spot, while Eichel was picked second.
Through the first few weeks of the NHL season, it seems the hype was completely justified. McDavid and Eichel may not be friends, but they’ve both been dynamic.
Both teams have played poorly, and the idea individuals could single handedly turn around their fortunes in the opening month is hogwash. It’s easy to forget, but Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins only won 22 games in his rookie season. Despite the losses piling up, McDavid and Eichel make watching bad teams must-see hockey.
McDavid has been a beast for the Oilers. The 18-year-old looked lost in his first couple games, but he’s really revved it up recently scoring four goals and nine points in his last six games, giving him 10 points in 10 games. He’s found chemistry playing on the Oilers second line with Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov, and has completely energized the latter, giving the Oilers further hope.
He’s still adjusting to the NHL, so not everything’s perfect, but he’s already doing stuff like this.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 19, 2015
He’s also making goalies look silly.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 22, 2015
Every play McDavid makes is going to be overanalyzed, but the kid has shown why people were calling him the next Crosby and even the next Gretzky. He’s got great vision, breakneck speed and when he hits his second gear, you’re toast.
Eichel has been in a tougher situation than McDavid, as his Sabres have really struggled out of the gate – partly due to injuries – but he has still showcased the potent skill set scouts were fawning over pre-draft.
Eichel’s been shifted around with with numerous line mates for a variety of reasons. Despite that, he’s scored three goals in nine games this season and made some highlight reel plays, even when he’s not necessarily scoring.
Check out Eichel carrying the puck from the top of the offensive zone, and sniping it top shelf. That’s impressive.
He made Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry look silly with a slick move.
The results haven’t necessarily come for Eichel like they have for McDavid, but it’s not for a lack of talent or trying. Eichel has shot the puck a healthy amount, registering 27 shots on goal, which places him among the top-50 in the NHL. He’s had plenty of great opportunities and more points will eventually come.
The crazy thing about the duo is they’re doing these impressive things and they’re not even 10+ games into their NHL careers. They’ve taken on the challenge of becoming pro hockey players and wildly succeeded in their first step. No, they’re not finished products and there will be bumps along the way, but it’s tantalizing to see how they develop.
Where will they be in game 50? Next year? Five years from now? I can’t wait to find out.