When the Vegas Golden Knights were eliminated from the 2021-22 NHL playoffs last April, fans were disappointed and angry. A good portion of that anger was directed toward star center Jack Eichel, acquired via trade in November of 2021 but did not debut until mid-February. The former Boston University star was brought in to be the number one center and lead the team back to a Stanley Cup Final. But the team failed, which means Eichel failed.
Now the Vegas Golden Knights have a new coach and a new outlook. Vegas wants to get back to the postseason and make a run at an elusive Stanley Cup, and Eichel is at the forefront. The top-line center needs to be the elite player he was in Buffalo, where the North Chelmsford, Massachusetts native totaled 355 points in 375 games. Eichel was a franchise player in Buffalo and was paid handsomely for it at a $10 million cap hit. In 2019-20, Eichel peaked at 36 goals in 68 games, but Buffalo finished sixth in the division and seemed to be going nowhere. The injured disc caused a rift between Eichel and the Sabres, resulting in the trade.
Eichel did not fit into the Sabres’ plans and then drew the ire of Golden Knights’ fans after missing the playoffs. Coming into this season, the pressure is on Eichel to produce. The former second-overall pick has a coach who will demand effort and production each night. After the Knights’ first loss of the season, head coach Bruce Cassidy said his skilled players were “quiet.” The highest skilled of the bunch is Eichel.
Vegas started the season 3-0 but has lost two out of three since. The wins are against Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and Winnipeg. The losses against two of the favorites in the NHL (Calgary and Colorado). But Eichel has returned to his point-per-game self for Vegas with seven points in six games, six of which came in the last four contests. The right-shot center seems to be fitting in and finding his stride after only playing 21 games last season.
Playing center on a bad team was a drain on Eichel and skewed his defensive numbers some. The 6-foot-2 center compiled a minus-69 with the Sabres but has started the season with the Golden Knights with a plus-4 and has been a bright spot for Vegas. If the Knights are going to compete in a top-heavy Pacific Division, Jack Eichel will need to be the elite center he has been in the past. Eichel’s contract expires after the 2025-26 season and has a no-movement clause (NMC) throughout the rest of the deal. Jack Eichel is the man in Vegas, and the Golden Knights will go as far as he takes them.
The hope is that Eichel takes them to a Stanley Cup, which has eluded the Golden Knights even though the franchise has had early success since entering the league in 2017-18. Vegas fans aren’t used to missing the playoffs, not nearly as much as Jack Eichel is. Jack Eichel has never played a postseason game. Vegas fans hope that trend ends this season.