Jack Eichel practices with Golden Knights for first time

Jack Eichel Golden Knights
Dec 2, 2019; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) makes his way to the ice before a game against the New Jersey Devils at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel skated Tuesday in his first practice since November spinal surgery.

Eichel, wearing a red non-contact jersey, joined his teammates for the optional morning skate in Las Vegas.

“Nice to see him,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “At the same time, you want to temper your enthusiasm, because this is just the first step.”

Eichel on the ice with Knights

Eichel, 25, had been rehabilitating in Charlotte, N.C., following an artificial disk replacement in his neck.

At the time of his surgery, Eichel said he expected to return within three months and be back at full strength in six months.

Today, he was all smiles with his new teammates and getting closer to returning to action.

“I was actually thinking about suiting up tonight,” Eichel said jokingly. “But they wouldn’t let me go.”

As for his surgery, the 25 year-old said it was straightforward and called the rehab a “smooth process.”

“I was sitting here and I was pinching myself a few times during the rehab process, thinking, ‘I went through all that for this?’” he recalled. “I had surgery and I went out to dinner with my parents that night.”

Eichel happy to be in Vegas

Jack Eichel Golden Knights
Eichel wearing his new team colors (Zak Krill/Vegas Golden Knights)

Eichel was traded to Vegas from Buffalo on Nov. 4 following a lengthy holdout, after he had clashed with Sabres management about his health care. He was adamant about having the artificial disk replacement, while Buffalo wanted him to have fusion surgery to repair his herniated disk.

“It was hard for Eichel to contain how happy he was to put the past year behind him. “I’m in a great place now, and I’m very happy that I stood up for what I believed in,” he said.

Eichel is in the fourth year of an eight-year, $80 million deal. The Golden Knights reportedly absorbed his $10 million cap hit for the current season.

The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2015 out of Boston University, Eichel racked up 139 goals and 355 points in 375 games for the Sabres.

–Field Level Media contributed to this article