Buffalo Sabres Roster: Jack Eichel’s Linemates


Handling a talent like Jack Eichel can be tough. He will definitely make the Buffalo Sabres, but new head coach Dan Bylsma will want to limit his time a bit and not throw him right into the fire. There are so many options with the new Buffalo Sabres roster and all the different line combinations, but I have been a big proponent of Jack Eichel playing with 2 specific players.

This doesn’t mean others are not quality options, but when I look at the potential forward lines, I continue to envision Jack Eichel centering Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta.

First, Eichel is young and playing with the captain (Gionta) could only benefit him. Gionta is a true professional, he knows the process, and he’s a fantastic family man to be around. Putting young Jack with Brian can help him off the ice on how to be a professional. There are so many things off the ice that Eichel will be learning about and having a seasoned veteran like Gionta is the perfect person to help him.

Showing Jack there are responsibilities that need to be taken care of off the ice (see Nikita Zadorov and his slip ups) is crucial. What better way to show him than through a guy who has three children?

When it comes to playing with these two on the ice, their different playing types can mesh well with Eichel.

Marcus Foligno is a big, north/south type of player that likes to bang bodies and gets a large majority of his shots in front of the net. Foligno has shown some quick hands and offensive ability while being defensively sound. He gets deep on the forecheck and is willing to play the physical game, including fighting.

Foligno and Eichel can work down low with their strength and get plenty of chances in close. Add Gionta’s quickness, they could have an effective cycle and can open up the points. With the size of Foligno and Eichel, they can cause some havoc in front of the net for screens and tips.

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  • Brian Gionta is more of the skill that can benefit with Eichel in open space. Gionta makes small passes and chips that help propel offensive movement for someone like Eichel who can really fly when he gets some room. Gionta has a nice, quick snap shot that he can let go if he gets some room from the top of the circles and below. Eichel has an underrated playmaking side to him that can give Gionta the space to let a shot go.

    I know some may think is it isn’t right to put such a highly touted prospect on the 3rd line, but I’m here to calm those nerves. We saw what happened to Mikhail Grigorenko when he was placed on the bottom two lines. He didn’t develop to the liking of Sabres fans and it was a tough relationship that ended on draft day when he was sent to the Colorado Avalanche.

    Jack Eichel is not in the same position as Grigorenko. He’s not a strictly skill player. He is a power forward that has the abilities of a playmaker, sniper, and two way forward, whereas Grigorenko….not so much.

    Eichel is going to be great, but throwing him into 1st line role is simply the wrong move. Give him 3rd line minutes where he can get his feet wet and grow not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. He can watch the game and how it is played night in and night out without straining his body already. He’s 18 years old, he doesn’t need to be going 110% already. It likely wouldn’t happen, but he could burn out and take a step back if he is pushed too hard in his first year.

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    Let’s not forget, Jack won’t be the only one benefitting from this. Foligno and Gionta would be playing with a player that is dynamic in so many ways. He’s strong and tough down low, has a wicked shot, and has underrated playmaking abilities. Instead of having someone who will occasionally contribute offensively, this could be a well balanced line for the Sabres.

    In hockey, there are constant changes and times where a 3rd or 4th line will be out there against the oppositions 1st or 2nd line. Jack will have an opportunity to go against these lines in doses, not all the time. He’s a smart kid on the ice and he can pick up how to play with them consistently over time.

    To me, this seems like a win-win. Jack Eichel gets time on the ice with a veteran and a hard nosed player while Brian Gionta and Marcus Foligno have the chance to play with someone that can make them an effective 3rd line.

    Again, there are so many options for Dan Bylsma to arrange his lineup, there is no way to predict who will be playing where. Even if Eichel doesn’t play all season with these two, Gionta and Foligno can certainly help Jack with his development into a premier player in the NHL.

    Next: Buffalo Sabres Roster: What The Goaltending Is Missing

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