BUFFALO – Jack Eichel’s not thinking too far ahead. But “if the opportunity presented itself to make the team” next season, he plans to wear No. 15.
Of course, minutes after he mentioned his first NHL number Friday morning, the Sabres tweeted they would be a selling a limited number of Eichel jerseys hours later at the First Niagara Center prior to the development camp scrimmage.
Before the gates even opened, the line stretched from outside the Sabres Store into the atrium. Expect to see Eichel jerseys all over Western New York within a matter of days.
Two weeks after the Sabres drafted him second overall, the rabid Buffalo fans, who had been anxiously waiting for Eichel to pick a number, have already chosen the 18-year-old as their favorite athlete.
But as far as Eichel’s concerned, he might have to wear another number in September before he can earn 15.
“I’m sure I’ll get another number at training camp,” said Eichel, who has been wearing 41 this week, a camp number given to him. “Fifteen’s not my number until I make the team.”
The phenom’s a lock to make the Sabres in October.
Eichel wore No. 9 at Boston University, a digit already taken by Sabres winger Evander Kane. Why did he pick No. 15?
“I had a few numbers that I had in mind,” he said. “I didn’t really want to make it seem like I was already content on making the team. It’s a number that my sister’s worn and my dad’s worn and I have worn before. It’s their lucky numbers and happened to be the year I got drafted. I like the number. It would be really nice to wear it if the opportunity presents itself to be on the Sabres next year.”
When Eichel debuts in October, he’ll become the 21st player in franchise history to wear No. 15, which has accounted for 254 goals. Former captain Gerry Meehan, who scored 94 goals, and Dixon Ward, a big contributor during the 1999 run to the Stanley Cup final, are the most notable.
Some other No. 15s – for example, Adam Creighton and Randy Wood wore it briefly – are recognizable. Others are virtual unknowns. Michel Deziel played his only NHL game in the 1975 playoffs.
From hockey-reference.com, here are the No. 15s in Sabres history:
The Sabres completed their NHL coaching staff Friday, hiring Andrew Allen as goalie coach.
The 38-year-old Allen spent the last four seasons as the Chicago Blackhawks’ developmental goaltending coach, overseeing the netminders with the AHL Rockford IceHogs. Allen spent three seasons as St. Lawrence University’s goalie coach and also coached in Japan before joining the Blackhawks.
He played pro hockey for five seasons, spending time in the AHL and ECHL after playing four years at the University of Vermont.
The Sabres recently announced new coach Dan Bylsma wouldn’t retain former goalie coach Arturs Irbe, who spent one season in Buffalo.
Bylsma hired Dave Barr and Terry Murray as assistant coaches last month and Dan Lambert earlier this week.