Sabres captain Jack Eichel’s leadership continues to grow


Buffalo Sabres’ Jack Eichel (9) prepares for a face-off during the second period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres Golden Season came to an end on Tuesday without a playoff berth for the fifth straight season in captain Jack Eichel’s career. After Eichel aired frustrations about how fed up he is to miss the playoffs again, it’s hard not to make the comparison to Michael Jordan’s work ethic when it comes to wanting to win.

“Looking at how much of a leader Michael Jordan was, I couldn’t help but think about Jack and his competitive drive and trying to make his teammates better this year and how big of strides we took,” Jake McCabe said. “All he cared about this year was just trying to be the best captain of his he could be day in and day out, just trying to lead this group. He did that extraordinarily.”

In the Sabres end-of-season press conference with the media on Wednesday and Thursday, player after player sang their praises for their captain, and how his leadership has continued to grow throughout his NHL career.

“I’m extremely confident with the players that we have in a leadership role, and it starts with Jack,” Kyle Okposo said. “Jack’s a 23 year old, and he’s only going to continue to get better, he’s only going to continue to grow in that leadership role. He has done that. He demands a lot out of teammates, out of everybody, because he puts in everything he’s got.”

“He wears his heart on his sleeve, that’s how he is. He’s growing as a leader. I think when it’s all said and done, he’s going to be a top-tier captain in this league, and he’s going to do a heck of a job leading. In saying that, he can’t do it by himself. I think if you ask him, I would hope he would say he has a good leadership support around him, especially with Jake and Marcus this year.”

Eichel put together a fantastic fifth season in the league. From breaking his career goals scored record, to the 17-game point streak that started in November and ended only when he missed a game due to injury, he continued to prove to the world, and to his teammates, what kind of a player he was.

“It was just a matter of time for him to show what he was capable of,” Sam Reinhart said. “We’ve all seen glimpses of it from games that he’s played, but this year it was every game. It was great to see, and great to be a part of for sure.”

“All of the guys in the locker room have been working really hard, especially Jack,” Rasmus Dahlin said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever played with. All of the guys take after him. We really want to win in Buffalo, we really want to be a winning team.”

Eichel was on pace to break his single-season point record before the COVID-19 crisis ended the season with 13 games remaining. When reflecting on his fifth year in the league, and how his leadership has been shaped, Eichel gives a lot of credit to his head coach.

“I think that, first and foremost, the person that I’ve got to give the most credit to is Ralph [Krueger]. I think just being around him everyday, the way that he handles himself, being able to learn from him, being able to build a relationship and go to him for advice, I think it’s been so big for me,” Jack Eichel said. “He’s one of the greatest natural born leaders that I’ve ever been around on a day-to-day basis, I think that he looks at life never mind hockey, so it’s been a pleasure working with him, and I couldn’t be happier to have him as a coach.”

“In terms of me, there’s a lot of good leaders in the room that I go to for advice for just about anything. Just trying to bounce things off them, personally I just try to be myself, just try to work as hard as I can every day, I try to compete during practice, I try to compete as hard as I can in the games, and hopefully that becomes contagious.”

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