By JOHN WAWROW (AP Hockey Writer)
McDavid-mania might be in full swing in Edmonton. In Buffalo, Sabres fans have taken a liking to ”Eich.”
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As consolations prizes go, the Sabres landed a player with the potential to make an immediate impact in Jack Eichel, who was drafted second overall behind Connor McDavid.
Both were touted as once-in-a-generation prospects, and they head a deep and talented crop of rookies this season.
Eichel needed only one season at Boston University to establish himself as a budding star. The hard-hitting, play-making center had 26 goals and 45 assists for a nation-leading 71 points, and became only the second freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s MVP.
The 18-year-old is already projected to be a top-line player for the rebuilding Sabres, who are coming off two consecutive last-place seasons. Eichel will be part of a reformed lineup that will include new additions Ryan O’Reilly, who was acquired in a trade with Colorado, and Evander Kane.
Eichel intends to spend the season living in the home of Sabres veteran forward Matt Moulson. And Eichel might not be the only rookie ready to make his NHL debut in Buffalo. The Sabres are hoping Sam Reinhart, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, will be ready to step in after developing his game in the Canadian juniors last year.
Here’s a list of other young players to keep any eye on as teams prepare to open training camp:
Center Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton: The No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft, Draisaitl got a taste of playing at the NHL level last season. He finished with two goals and nine points in 37 games before being demoted to his Canadian junior team on Jan. 4. The Oilers made the move before Draisaitl played his 40th game to prevent him from accruing a year toward free agency. The 19-year-old is expected to play the entire season in Edmonton.
Center Sam Bennett, Calgary: The No. 4 pick in the 2014 draft missed six months after having shoulder surgery, and then earned an assist in his NHL debut in the Flames regular-season finale. Bennett then followed with three goals and an assist in 11 playoff games.
Center Marko Dano, Chicago: The 20-year-old Austrian was acquired by Chicago as part of the trade that sent Brandon Saad to Columbus on June 30. At 5-foot-11, Dano showed play-making potential by scoring eight goals and 13 assists in 35 games with the Blue Jackets last season. He’ll have a shot to make the roster of the retooling Stanley Cup champions.
Forward Max Domi, Arizona: The son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi is in a position to make his professional debut with the rebuilding Coyotes after completing his Canadian junior career with 126 goals and 331 points in 244 games.
Left wing Anthony Duclair, Arizona: The Coyotes have added another young player in Duclair, who was acquired in the trade that sent defenseman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers. Duclair had a goal and six assists in 18 games with the Rangers last year.
Left wing Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg: The 19-year-old Danish-born 2014 first-round draft pick has spent the past two seasons burning up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in Halifax, where he’s combined for 86 goals and 205 points in 114 games over the past two seasons.
Left wing David Pastrnak, Boston: After being drafted 25th overall, the 18-year-old immediately began showing his NHL potential. He had 10 goals and 17 assists in 46 games with the Bruins last season.
Right wing Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas: Though not a rookie, Nichushkin is a youngster to keep tabs on. He had a promising rookie season with 14 goals and 34 points in 2013-14. He then missed 74 games last season because of a hip injury.