Buffalo - July 8, 2014 - As a Sabres fan, there are only so many things to look forward to.
Sure, we’ll all be happy when the season starts and that feeling will linger until right around the 15-20 game mark, but after that? It’ll be all eyes on Tank Watch and the 2015 NHL Draft.
Naturally, Sabres fans can’t wait for that day. With the roster the Sabres have on paper, they seem like a strong candidate to finish near the bottom of the standings for the second year in a row, putting themselves in a position to grab another franchise player to pair with 2014 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart.
By now, we’re all familiar with the prized prospects: Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Both have received rave reviews and are viewed as generational players, but which one would the Sabres like to build their franchise around?
The Case for Connor
How can one even argue against this kid? Since the age of 15, he’s been touted as hockey’s “Next One”. Sidney Crosby said he sees himself in the young Erie Otters center and some scouts even feel that McDavid is ahead of where Crosby was at this age. McDavid is the prodigy, the chosen one and the player every franchise – whether they have a shot at him or not – is salivating over.
For one thing, McDavid was considered one of the top centers for Team Canada heading into the 2014 World Junior Championships, though his youth may have limited his opportunities in the tournament. But it’s his work in the OHL with Erie that’s really grabbing attention.
“McDavid is having at least as big an impact in Erie as Crosby did in Rimouski, maybe bigger,” another scouting director says. “The support around them would be comparable but McDavid is doing it in a stronger, deeper league. And it wasn’t until Crosby’s draft year that Rimouski was really in the mix for a league championship. Right now Erie is right there with 10 straight (wins). No one wants to play them.”
And the talk of him being ahead of The Kid in this stage of his development is real to many scouts:
“Of all the exceptional players (that the OHL granted early entry to play in the league at 15) he’s by far the most exceptional,” a Western Conference scouting director says. “I don’t care if John Tavares scored more points at 15 than McDavid did last season. McDavid is a far better two-way player than Tavares was. Maybe McDavid’s numbers at 16 won’t quite be there with Crosby’s at 16, but his upside is higher. Skating is what separates him (from Crosby). Crosby’s greatest asset is his strength on his skates. His balance makes him impossible to push off his skates. McDavid has that same strength but he’s even harder to push off the puck because he’s moving faster.”
There’s not much else you really can say about a kid dubbed the “LeBron James of hockey”. Scouts, executives, fans and fellow players fawn endlessly about the young McDavid and he’s about as sure a prospect as there ever has been. But he isn’t the only “sure fire” prospect available…
Just Take Jack
Called “the best American prospect since Mike Modano”, Eichel is considered to be the best American prospect, well, ever. He’s following in the footsteps of US National Team Developmental Program alums like Rick DiPietro, Erik Johnson and Patrick Kane, who all spent time in Ann Arbor with the program. One thing those three had in common? All first overall picks.
While with the USNTDP last year, Eichel only had the fourth-most productive season in the history of the program. Only Kane, Phil Kessel and Andy Hilbert had better seasons than the 87 points Eichel put up. At 6’2”, he’s considered a “five-tool” player; the total package.
Unlike the sleek, cunning McDavid, Eichel is a powerful force. He’s big, fast and drives to the net with fire. Add in his elite hockey IQ and you have the makings of a Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry with the two 2015 draft classmates.
The one caveat facing Eichel is that he is a commit to Boston College for next season. Whoever takes him will likely want him to be one-and-done so that he can potentially join his NHL club for the 2015-16 season, whereas McDavid could join his team as soon as necessary.
Either prospect would be hard to pass on at this point. Hopefully, the Sabres will have one helluva choice to make come June 2015.
Follow me on Twitter: @TwoPadStackRW