The Buffalo Sabres went all out to finish with the NHL’s worst record to get the best odds in the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery in hopes of drafting Connor McDavid. After losing the top pick to the Edmonton Oilers, the Sabres received a pretty good consolation prize with the second overall pick in Jack Eichel.
Jack Eichel responds quickly after Edmonton's opening goal to tie Game 5 at 1-1 just four minutes in. pic.twitter.com/aF3XlKPyT6
— Golden Knights Radio (@VGKRadioNetwork) May 13, 2023
Things did not work out for Eichel in Buffalo and after six seasons and the former Sabres captain forced a trade to the Vegas Golden Knights. McDavid has nearly doubled Eichel in career points and is the odds-on favorite to win the Hart Trophy for the NHL’s most valuable player, but Eichel will have the last laugh this year as the Golden Knights eliminated the Oilers in six games after a 5-2 victory in Edmonton on Sunday.
McDavid had 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) against Vegas, but more than half of his production was on Edmonton’s lethal power play. Eichel had nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) in six games, with seven of the nine points coming at even strength. Through 11 games, Eichel leads the Golden Knights with 14 points and has shaken off the stigma of not being a clutch player that existed during his stint with the Sabres. Vegas is awaiting the winner of Game 7 between the upstart Seattle Kraken and the Dallas Stars to determine their opponent for the Western Conference Final.
If the Golden Knights succeed in winning the Stanley Cup in their sixth season, Eichel appears to be their leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy for the postseason’s MVP.
Another former Sabre that is enjoying some postseason success is Sam Reinhart. The 2014 second-overall pick was dealt to Florida in July 2021. Buffalo received an excellent return in starting goalie Devon Levi and a 2022 first-round pick (Jiri Kulich), but Reinhart has been a key cog in the Panthers advancing to the Eastern Conference Final. The 27-year-old has six goals in 12 playoff games, including the overtime winner in Game 3 against Toronto.
Sam Reinhart scores the OT winner. What a sequence by the Panthers pic.twitter.com/MPeIZhYlX0
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 8, 2023
Reinhart and former Sabres Eric Staal and Brandon Montour will face the Carolina Hurricanes beginning later this week.