BUFFALO – To rookie Jack Eichel, he hasn’t secured a spot on the Sabres yet.
That’s why the slick center, one of the biggest prospects in recent memory, initially hesitated to accept teammate Matt Moulson’s invitation to live with his family. That’s why Eichel, 18, hasn’t switched from No. 41, a development camp number he was given by the equipment staff, to No. 15, a number he picked.
Everyone in Buffalo seems to be wearing a No. 15 Eichel jersey except Eichel himself.
“This is still training camp – I’ve said this all along – I still have to earn a position and earn a role on the Sabres,” Eichel said this afternoon following the first session of camp inside the First Niagara Center. “That’s what training camp’s for and what I’m trying to do. Until then, I’m No. 41, as I wore at development camp and as I wore at the prospects tournament.
“When I earn a number on the team, I decided that would be No. 15. When that time comes, if it does come, I’ll make the change from 41 to 15. But until then I’ll be 41.”
So Monday in Minnesota, Eichel plans to wear No. 41 for the preseason opener.
Eichel skated this morning between Moulson, his left wing, and Zemgus Girgensons, a center all of last season. Right now, the line might be the Sabres’ second scoring line behind the trio of center Ryan O’Reilly and wingers Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis.
Putting Eichel with Moulson, arguably the Sabres’ most pure goal scorer, was a natural move.
“We have some pretty good chemistry off the ice because we spend a lot of time together,” Eichel said. “I’m thinking that’ll translate to on the ice. It usually does, just trust in him. I want to give him the puck because he can shoot it.”
Does Moulson ask Eichel to feed him the puck?
“Every night at dinner that’s what he says,” he said.
Eichel said Girgensons, an NHL All-Star last season, is “one of the hardest-working players.”
“He obviously competes extremely hard on the ice and he’s super skilled,” he said. “If you watch him, he’s kind of always in the right position making a smart play.”