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The Truth About Jack Eichel

November 13, 2014, 1:49 PM ET [6 Comments]
Julie Robenhymer
Ask anyone that has seen Jack Eichel play hockey the past couple years and the first thing they'll say is, "He's just such a great player."

Ask anyone that has played with him and the first thing they'll say is, "He's just such a great person."

For the 6'2, 200 pound, just turned 18-year-old, potential first overall selection at the NHL Draft and freshman forward at Boston University, it would be easy to have a better-than-you attitude - because he is - but he doesn't. Far from it.

"The greatest thing about this whole situation is that you probably have the most scrutinized freshman to play college hockey - ever - just because of how times have changed with all the media," said BU head coach, David Quinn. "And you also probably have the most humble and down-to-earth and your everyday-kind-of-guy that there is, which makes the whole situation that much better. It's not a surprise if you know his parents."

It's true. Anne and Bob Eichel raised their son not to be the best or better than anyone else, but rather the best that he could be. Just because you might be better than someone else, in one way or another, doesn't mean you've reached your full potential and they always taught him to strive for his personal best. While that life lesson is certainly highlighted by his superior skills as an elite hockey player, it also extends well beyond that and it hasn't gone unnoticed by his new teammates at BU.

"He likes to have a good time with the guys and everyone just likes being around him. He takes his hockey very seriously and works really hard when he's at the rink, but he's also an awesome guy to hang out with outside of the rink," said senior Cason Hohmann.

"He's a great kid off the ice. All the guys have enjoyed having him come here," said junior captain Matt Grzelcyk. "Everyone knows how highly touted he is, but he's not a cocky guy. He's very personable and just a great guy to be around. He know's he's good, but he also knows he doesn't have to prove it to you."

This is also true. He let's his skills talk for him. In seven games wearing the scarlet and white, Eichel has notched five goals and eight assists for 13 points, just one point away from tops in the country even though the person ahead of him has played three more games at this point in the season. Concerned about his defensive game? Don't be. He leads the country in plus/minus with a +13.

"When he's on the ice….He just has talents that no one else has. He can turn it on at the flip of a switch and can be a one-man breakout and definitely helps us out as defenseman. He's not a bad second option to have and plays great defensively as well," said Grzelcyk, who is also amazed by how effortless a skater Eichel is. "I think that's probably the most frustrating thing about him. We're all out there working our butts off and then Jack steps on the ice, barely breaking a sweat, and the next thing you know he just flies right by you and there's just nothing you can do about it."

"The unique part of his game is that he does everything at a high pace. The puck does not slow him down, if anything he gets faster with it. His vision, his thought process…if you're out there with him, you better be ready. That puck can come to you at any time and even if you think he won't be able to get it to you, well guess what? He can," explained Quinn. "He shoots the puck like an NHLer. His accuracy with his shot is on an NHL level. His physical strength is off the charts. When you combine all that, you have a guy who could be the number one pick in the NHL draft and he deserves it. He's worked hard for it."

"He has everything you'd want in a hockey player - size, speed, vision, stick handling….he's just got everything. I don't see how he couldn't go first overall next summer. He's so hard to knock off the puck when you're playing against him and then when you're out there with him, you know you want to get the puck to him to give yourself the best chance to score as a unit. I'm just glad he's on our team and not on another one," said Hohmann. "Just playing with him is unbelievable. He could have literally played anywhere he wanted and for him to come here in the summer and be committed to BU shows a lot about his character and how much he wants to be a BU Terrier and we are very happy to have him on our team and in our locker room."

Yet another true statement. After spending two seasons with the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor and earning both a silver and a gold medal at the IIHF U18 World Championships in 2013 and 2014 respectively, as well as being the youngest player on the 2014 USA World Junior Championship team, Eichel had the pick of the litter when it came to choosing the next step in his career and he whole-heartedly chose BU.

"I committed to BU at the end of my freshman year of high school in 2012," he explained. "I toured a bunch of schools and narrowed it down to BC and BU pretty quickly. I grew up a BC fan, but started liking BU more and more and saw myself fitting in more here and felt that this was more my type of place. I wanted to be in the city and have a city campus and I think this was just more my style than BC. Yes, they were having more success on the ice at the time, but that didn't factor into my decision. I was just waiting to get that feeling in my stomach that told me I wanted to go somewhere. I didn't get that feeling for awhile, but when I finally got it, it told me I wanted to go to BU and here I am. Since I made that decision, I've never regretted it. I'm really happy here."

"You hear all the rumors - and every program goes through this when you have a high profile player coming in - Is he going to stay or is he going to play major junior? That's just the way things are now," said Quinn. "But I never worried. Not once. I never thought he wasn't coming. After I got the job and he came home from Ann Arbor, he and his parents were right here the next Friday morning and we sat here for two hours and we talked about everything and by the time they left, you could just tell that they were all serious about Jack coming to school here and playing for BU. Even in our conversations throughout last year, when we were struggling, he kept saying, 'I wish I could be there right now.' Plus, you don't accelerate and do what he did taking extra classes in the summer to go play in the Quebec League. His commitment to play for BU happened well before this summer. So other people might have been surprised that he kept his commitment, but I wasn't. I never got nervous. I never thought he wasn't coming. Jack wanted to be a BU hockey player and now he is."

"Sure, I considered the Q. I knew it was an option and I think it's smart to consider all your options before making a decision, but I've always wanted to play college hockey. I felt it was the better route for me, playing against older, bigger, stronger players and getting in more time in the weight room. All of that went into my decision and after playing up the past couple years and finding success, why change it? Why not continue to challenge myself against older players? It was time for me to move on from juniors and I think this was the proper step for me to take in my development as a hockey player and as a person," Eichel said. "I committed to this school and I'm a man of my word. I said I was going to play here and there was never a doubt in my mind that I wasn't going to honor that commitment. I wanted to play at BU and if I didn't want that I wouldn't have committed here. I wanted to play college hockey and I wanted to be a Terrier, after that decision was made, the Q was never a consideration. People keep asking, but I just can't find a better way to say it than I'm very happy here. I always wanted to go to college and be a student and enjoy the social life and go to class and play in Hockey East. I've just always wanted to play college hockey. This is even better than I expected. I'm so happy with my decision."

As Quinn mentioned, Eichel's commitment to play college hockey happened well before he stepped foot on campus to train and take classes with the team this summer. It started two years ago when he started taking online classes to be able to finish high school in three years.

"When I accepted the invitation to play in Ann Arbor as a sophomore, my mom did the math and knew I'd have no where to play my senior year and wanted me to have the option of going to college a year early. It was probably a little selfish on her part because she knew it meant I'd be closer to home for the first time in two years," he said with a grin. "But I'm ok with that! I love my family and I love being closer to them. She always made sure I had everything turned in on time and helped me find a tutor if I needed it since a lot of this work you have to do on your own without a teacher. I took classes in the summer, and during the season as well, and actually took my last final exam on the last day of school. If it weren't for her planning ahead and helping me out with all this, I'd probably be in the Q right now, so I give her a lot of credit on that one…Thanks, mom!"

After spending the summer on Commonwealth Avenue working out with his teammates, taking classes to lighten his course load, partaking in some off-ice team bonding activities and going home every Sunday so his mom could do his laundry, Eichel's attention is now focused on helping the Terriers return to prominence on the national level. With his hot start that earned him Rookie of the Month honors in Hockey East as well as nationally with the Hockey Commissioners' Association, Eichel is doing just that as Boston University is currently ranked #3 in the country and have left many asking themselves just how good a freshman has to be in order to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. The last - and the only - to do it was Paul Kariya at Maine in 1993 after scoring 100 points (25 G, 75 A) in 39 games helping the Black Bears to win a Hockey East Championship and a National Title in the process.

So while the hockey world speculates as to just what he can do this season, his goals are a bit more simplistic.

"I want to win a National Championship and I want to prepare myself to play in the NHL," he said matter-of-factly. "Any other awards or honors would be great and definitely appreciated, but my goal is to help my team win hockey games and improve as a player every day. If I do that, everything else will fall into place."

"My job is not to make him the best player on this team or in Hockey East or even in college hockey," said Quinn. "My job is to help him become the best player he can be. I'm not trying to prepare him to take on the best of what Merrimack or any other team in this league has to offer. I'm here to challenge him to be better every day - even after he's scored 2 and 2 the night before - and prepare him to go up against guys like Perry and Getzlaf and Crosby and Malkin. That's my job and he knows it and is ready to be challenged in that way. It would be irresponsible of me not to."

"I always set my expectations really high and I think Coach Quinn has the same for me," Eichel explained. "I think if I set my expectations anywhere else that I'd be letting myself down. It's a big year for me and a big year for our team. I think we have a lot of expectations for our team in general and we have a lot of hope and we're really exited. It's obvious how tough things were last season and I want to be part of changing that around and that requires me to push myself and get better every day. I'm really happy I get to play for Coach Quinn. I know he's going to be really hard on me, but that's what I need. I need a coach that's not just going to let me cruise by. I want him to be hard on me and I want him to push me on the ice and in the weight room and make sure that I'm getting better and I know that he will do that. I'm very excited to play for him."

Rest assured the feeling is mutual.

"Everyone's been talking about Jack since he was 13 years old and for some people it's hard to live up to the hype, but Jack has always been able to live up to it and sometimes even exceeds it," said Quinn. "You have no idea how excited I am to have a player of his caliber on my team, but even more so a person of his character in my locker room. He's simply outstanding."


Eichel and his 5-1-1 Terriers face Maine (3-6-1) tomorrow night at Alfond Arena and will air on Fox College Sports at 7:30pm ET.

He also looks to lead Team USA at this year's World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto. USA's Selection Camp is just over a month away with the puck dropping on USA's opening game against the defending champions, Finland, in just six weeks.


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