Geek of the Week: Eichy Breichy Hart Candidate

Ben Burnett


MacKinnon, McDavid, Pastrnak, and Draisaitl are just a few names that have come up in Hart Trophy conversations so far this season. But a 6-1 loss for the Buffalo Sabres against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, when they just so happened to be missing their franchise center Jack Eichel, should go to show how vital the 2015 second-overall pick is to the Sabres’ surprising start to the year.

Yes, the Sabres are in the playoff picture in mid-December, and it’s no coincidence that Eichel paces the team with 51 points. In fact, he leads the team’s scoring race by 17 points in just 36 games. What he’s accomplished thus far on an otherwise mediocre team is pretty fantastic. With Eichel on the ice at even strength, the Sabres are +21 on the season, a league best mark. When Eichel’s off the ice, however, the Sabres are an average +2 squad.

Looking under the hood of Eichel’s career-high 116-point pace season though we can see some percentages that are bound to come down. He’s shooting 8 percent higher than he’s managed to shoot in any of his four previous years. He’s also on pace for 37 power-play points, a feat that would be difficult to accomplish on a unit that’s been league average this season.

The main reason Eichel has been so successful in 2019 is an extremely high shooting percentage at 5 on 5. Those numbers tend to regress. So moving forward, the expectation should be that he’d see a pace closer to what he’s been able to put up over the first four years of his career.