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Sabres Draft Marner, Not Eichel in 2015 Redraft



Jack Eichel Mitch Marner Buffalo Sabres 2015 NHL draft redraft Toronto Maple Leafs

Take a step back into the year 2015. The Buffalo Sabres successfully tanked to finish last place in the 2014-2015 NHL season for the best odds at the expected first-overall pick, Connor McDavid. The consolation prize, Jack Eichel, is a first-overall-worthy prospect in any other year. The Sabres fail to win the lottery and a disappointed Tim Murray in the 2015 NHL draft selects…Mitch Marner?

In a redraft of the 2015 NHL Draft, revisionist history shows us that Marner, not Eichel, would’ve been the better pick at second overall. If the redraft were based on PuckLuck’s WAR metrics compiled from Evolving-Hockey’s raw data, Jack Eichel would actually slip to fourth overall.

McDavid, of course, went first overall to the Edmonton Oilers.

When the Sabres drafted Eichel, he was considered the cornerstone piece in turning around the organization. Buffalo was coming off two last-place finishes, leading to him and Reinhart as back-to-back second-overall selections. The Sabres have moved on from both, with Eichel winning the Stanley Cup in his first full season with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Reinhart is following in his footsteps with the Florida Panthers, as they’re on the brink of winning the Cup after two consecutive appearances.

WAR (wins above replacement) isolates players from their teammates and environment as best it can. That way, we can assess each player on an even playing field, without the boost from being on a better team or the pitfalls of playing for a cellar dweller.

Marner’s Toronto Maple Leafs have had tons of regular season success, as he is part of the “core four” along with Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and William Nylander. He rarely sees the ice without one of the four out with him. Still, the metrics show that he lifts the play of his teammates – even the best ones.

Eichel vs. Marner

Both top-line talents, Jack Eichel and Mitch Marner are different players. Without a doubt, every team in the NHL would take either, but style of play and position preference would play a role in the decision.

Marner tops Eichel in WAR, but not by much. He averages about 0.85 wins added per 60 minutes played over his career, while Eichel averages 0.75. Eichel beat Marner into the league, so if you weigh for recency, Eichel closes the gap a bit at 0.88 to 0.95.

The predictive WAR for each is close for the next three seasons, with Marner expected to average 1.01 wins added per 60 minutes played. Eichel is expected to post 0.94 wins per 60 over that time.

The argument in Eichel’s favor is that he plays a more premium position as a center. The counter for Marner is that he drives play at an elite level from the wing, which renders the position moot.

Would the Sabres have been better off with Marner? The short answer is yes.

The contextual response would be that the difference wouldn’t have been enough to boost the Sabres significantly unless you consider that Marner’s been generally more healthy throughout his career. There are also personality traits and locker room impact to consider, which is much tougher to measure.

As for who, besides Marner, also would leapfrog Eichel in a 2015 NHL redraft, the entire first round was redrafted in this video from PuckLuck.