By: Gabrielle Nordstrom
Edited By: Kylie Augis
The second overall pick in the 2015 draft has finally made it to not only the playoffs, but the Stanley Cup Final.
June 26, 2015, Sunrise, Florida at the BB&T Center, the 2015 NHL draft is currently taking place. Connor McDavid was just drafted with the first overall pick to the Edmonton Oilers. Next up are the Buffalo Sabres. The room patiently waits for the pick to be in. The team makes their decision and starts their trip up to the stage. Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray makes his way to the podium, everyone waiting and anticipating the selection of center Jack Eichel.
“Buffalo selects Jack Eichel.”
Today is June 11, 2023. Jack Eichel is now part of the Vegas Golden Knights competing in the Stanley Cup final. His first time playing in the final, and his first ever playoff run.
Sabres fans believed selecting Eichel would be the turnaround the franchise needed. But, almost 10 years later, the Sabres are still struggling and Eichel has moved on.
Eichel gave the Sabres everything he could in his time with them, but he was not repaid nicely. In March of 2021, Eichel suffered a neck injury ending his season. This hit caused a herniated disc in his neck. No athlete wants to be taken out of their game therefore, Eichel did anything he could to get back to playing. No treatment was working and he requested to get a surgery that no other NHL player has received; an artificial disc replacement (ADR).
The Sabres’ medical team quickly shut down the idea of that surgery. They figured Eichel would be fine with a few months of rehab, which proved to be false later on. He spoke to other professional doctors who suggested the surgery as it would be the best long-term option.
After months of the team and Eichel trying to get on the same page, it came down to Eichel being traded. On Nov. 4 2021, the Buffalo Sabres traded Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights, along with a 3rd-round pick, in return for Forwards Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and 2 draft picks: a 2022 1st-round pick and a 2023 2nd-round pick. Eight days after being traded, he underwent ADR surgery.
About three months later, Eichel played in his first game in nearly a year. He ended up playing 34 games with Vegas last year, his first season with them, putting up 25 points.
Fast forward another year, he helped propel his team into the playoffs, putting up 66 points in 67 games. Now, Vegas is competing for the best trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup, in the finals against the Florida Panthers.
This is Eichel’s first trip to the playoffs. In 21 games so far, he has put up 23 points, putting his name in the conversation of who will win the Conn Smythe trophy. The Conn Smythe trophy is awarded to the playoff MVP.
Eichel and his team are currently up 3-1 in a seven game series, their next game is June 13. Does Eichel have what it takes to bring Vegas their first Stanley Cup?