BUFFALO, N.Y. - Jack Eichel has been named the Sabres team captain on the day before he begins his fourth professional season. Eichel says he held back emotions when he heard the news.
"[Being named captain was] a really, really humbling moment," he says. "I'm so honored obviously that I'm in the conversation. Just to be a leader in this group."
When Eichel was drafted out of Boston University, he was a can't-miss prospect and the consensus second-best NHL prospect behind Connor McDavid.
"I'm a lot more mature now than I was then," Eichel says. "Back then, I was a skilled player with a lot of aspirations but not too much of a direction. Just extremely happy to be in the position I was. A lot of people say you need to learn how to lose before you learn how to win. I've never been on a losing team before until the last few years. It was something new for me. just trying to get to the bottom of it."
Eichel’s teammates weren’t surprised to hear the news - each player I spoke with says Eichel deserves the captaincy.
"I think everyone's excited for him," says Jason Pominville, who served as Sabres captain over parts of three seasons. "I feel like he's ready for this. I don't think it should be any surprise for anyone about the decision the team made."
"It was great to see," says Kyle Okposo. "He's a young guy and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He's a great guy, and I'm happy for him."
"Naturally, he's become a little bit more vocal and a little bit more comfortable," says linemate Sam Reinhart. "That's his personality, that's the way he is. That's the way he came in from the beginning. He demands that respect with the way he approaches the game and the way he shows up to work every day."
Eichel says his goal as captain is simple - help the Sabres win the Stanley cup. He’ll have plenty of time, since this season is the start of an 8-year contract extension worth $80 million.