BUFFALO – It’s official: Jack Eichel will play for the Sabres next season. The 18-year-old is turning pro.
Eichel, the second overall pick Friday, signed a three-year, entry-level deal today and will leave Boston University after one season.
It was widely expected Eichel would join the NHL. The center spoke glowingly about the city and team after getting drafted, saying he wanted to be a part of the Sabres. Players of his caliber rarely return to school. The Hobey Baker Award winner just finished a dynamic freshman season in which he scored 26 goals and 71 points in 40 games.
But Eichel wouldn’t announce his decision at the NHL Draft, only saying it would come soon.
Now, the Sabres have one of the greatest prospects in recent memory in their arsenal.
Stay tuned for updates. The Sabres have a news conference scheduled for 5 p.m.
Here are some quick highlights from Eichel’s news conference inside the First Niagara Center. Sabres general manager Tim Murray called today “a great event in this organization’s history.”
Eichel on leaving school to turn pro:
“Looking at the Sabres organization, there’s such a bright future here. It seems like such a no-brainer. It’s a dream to be playing professional hockey.”
Eichel on his goals:
“I still have to make the team first, I think that’s my first goal. After that, I really haven’t thought about it much. It’s really been a whirlwind the next week. I’m sure I’ll be able to sit down and set some goals for myself personally. Everything’s gone so quickly right now I’m trying to grasp it all.
On what helped him pick the NHL over college:
“Before the world championships, I was a little bit unsure. After going there, having the experience I did and talking to a lot of guys. I came back pretty set on moving on.”
He added: “Playing at that level, I was able to gain some confidence. It’s not the NHL, but there were a lot of great players over there, being able to compete with them. I gained confidence in myself, my own abilities. With the right attitude and work ethic, I think I can make an impact next year.”
Murray, meanwhile, said he’s still trying to acquire a defensemen via free agency or trade. The Sabres have some interest in some unsigned ones, he said.
The Ryan O’Reilly contract extension talks, Murray said, are “pretty close.” Both sides have exchanged proposals.
Murray also said he received a call about restricted free agent Brandon Saad but passed on the youngster. Chicago traded Saad to Columbus on Tuesday.