Eichel, Ovechkin, and the Kraken answered some big questions this season; what’s next?

The NHL’s 2021-22 season is in full swing. Prior to the opening face-off a multitude of great storylines and questions needed to be answered.

From the inaugural season of the Seattle Kraken to Alex Ovechkin’s hunt for immortality in the NHL record books. And of course, the Jack Eichel saga with the Buffalo Sabres.

Clarity has come for all three, but for every question answered a new one emerges.

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Jack Eichel situation resolved; can he come back to full strength?

It took a long time, but Jack Eichel was not only traded by the Buffalo Sabres, he also had successful artificial disc replacement surgery.

The 25 year-old became the first NHL player ever to undergo an artificial disk replacement, and the star center experienced no complications, according to the Golden Knights in a statement.

Jack Eichel underwent disk replacement surgery today that his doctor described as successful and without complications. He is expected to make a full recovery. We will provide additional updates on the anticipated timing of his return to the ice when appropriate.

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Jan 9, 2020; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) waits for a face off during the third period against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The operation was done last Friday at a spine clinic in the Denver area.

Eichel spoke with ESPN’s John Buccigross and told him that the disc that was removed from his neck was a mess. “I honestly feel really good,” he said afterwards. “I just went for a walk. I’m more motivated than ever.

Now, Eichel and the Golden Knights will need to answer the next set of questions:

  • Can Eichel return to form and be the dominant player everyone believes he can be?
  • Will the trade be worth it?

Answers will come some time in February or March.

Can Ovechkin catch Wayne Gretzky? Apparently yes!

Ovechkin collected 42 points (team-leading 24 goals, 18 assists) in 45 games in 2020-21. After he signed his 5 year extension in the offseason, many questioned if the 36 year-old had enough left in the tank to get it done.

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Nov 8, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) shoots the puck against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s gonna be tough but you never know,” Ovechkin said about chasing down Wayne Gretzky. I just want to do my best to be in history. I just want to put myself on the top of the list and we will see what’s going to happen.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind he has a great chance to do it,” Wayne Gretzky said back in April.

When the season started I noted that it would take at least an average of 32.8 goals per season over the course of this new 5-year contract to make it happen.

Well, Ovechkin has certainly silenced any doubters by scoring 12 goals in his first 15 games. His ridiculous pace of 65 goals is above the needed average. If he can keep scoring at this pace, it’s not a question of if he will pass Gretzky’s mark of 894 goals, but when?

The Seattle Kraken are not the Vegas Golden Knights

When the Kraken hit the ice on Oct. 12 against the Vegas Golden Knights, it was not only their debut game but the continuation of endless comparisons. That game in Las Vegas represented the closest thing they had to an expansion cousin, and a team whose first-season exploits will — unfairly or not — be the standard by which the Kraken will be judged.

After all, the Golden Knights boasted the greatest debut season for an expansion team in North American sports history by going to the Stanley Cup final. They lost to the Washington Capitals, but turned Vegas into an overnight sensation.

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Nov 4, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol (top right) watches play against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Now it is time to be fair and end any further comparisons.

After 15 games, Seattle is 4-10-1 and dead last in the Pacific Division. The only real question for Seattle is when do they start trading some of their older players for future assets?

-Field Level Media contributed to this article.