International Ice Hockey Federation

Eichel impresses with play

Eichel impresses with play

Team USA counting on teenager

Published 08.05.2015 17:21 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
Eichel impresses with play
OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 7: USA's Jack Eichel #9 stickhandles the puck over the blue line with Belarus' Ilya Shinkevich #8 chasing during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Jack Eichel is coming into his own. Four games into his first World Championship, the young forward is a leading light.

Thursday’s game was a letdown for Team USA. After three straight wins, a 5-2 loss to Belarus was a setback but one they will have to shake off if there is any chance to advancing to the playoffs and medal rounds of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

To get there, they will need more efforts like the one they got from Eichel.

He’s generating confidence and scoring chances with each game.

“I feel better as the tournament goes on,” Eichel said. “I hope to improve every time I'm out there. A lot of it has to do with being a team player, playing smart, hydrating and just being ready to go.”

Despite the loss to Belarus, Eichel assisted on two goals, including one on a play where he fought off a check then drew defenders to his side allowing him to send a pass across the slot to Brock Nelson for an uncontested tap in.

It was a veteran move by a player who is playing in his first senior men’s World Championship and is only 18.

“When he gets the puck on his stick, especially in the offensive zone, he immediately becomes dangerous,” head coach Todd Richards said of the North Chelmsford, Massachusetts talent.

As smooth as he is, it is easy to forget that he’s only a teenager playing among men in their twenties and thirties. But Eichel is not intimidated though he has made note of the difference in the hockey at this level.

“You’re playing against men and everyone is stronger on their sticks,” Eichel said. “It is more physical and you have to be ready everywhere on the ice. Those are the big differences.”

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A lot of attention has been placed on Eichel this season since he’s eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft. But more than that, he’s possibly the most talented draft age player, next to Connor McDavid, to come along in some time.

It is also probably worth noting that he is arguably the most significant American forward to warrant such attention since Mike Modano.

Know this: McDavid and Eichel will likely go number one and number two in the June draft and both are viewed as potential NHL stars.

Eichel is certainly showing everyone in the Czech Republic watching these games why he is making a strong case for first overall. In four games, Eichel has three assists but the numbers aren’t the only measure of his game.

“He’s vocal at times on the bench encouraging guys,” Richards said. “Maybe he’s getting more comfortable around the guys, around the coaches and everyone else. Maybe there is this leadership there.”

Now with three games left in the group, the Americans must come back and put themselves in a position not only to qualify for the playoffs but do so while getting consistent efforts from everyone on the roster. Judging by what we've seen so far, those efforts are emerging in Eichel's play.

“I think (the loss to Belarus) it was another positive step forward from the offensive side of his game,” Richards noted. “Overall his game is getting better.”


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