Jack Eichel getting closer to return after full contact practice

jack eichel
January 26, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Atlantic Division forward Jack Eichel (9) of Buffalo Sabres in the 2019 NHL All Star Game at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Jack Eichel was traded to Vegas from Buffalo on Nov. 4 after a long and public battle over his neck injury. He was adamant about having the artificial disk replacement, while Buffalo wanted him to have fusion surgery to repair his herniated disk.

Eichel is in the fourth year of an eight-year, $80 million deal and is getting closer to playing an actual game with his new team.

Eichel a full participant at practice

Center Jack Eichel practiced in full with the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday.

“He’s been cleared for contact,” head coach Peter DeBoer said. “That’s the first day of full contact he’s had, is it 17 or 18 months or something like that? So now it’s a matter of, how does he respond? Do a little bit more the next day, a little bit more the next day. Hope for no setbacks.”

Eichel skated at the beginning of January in Charlotte, N.C. for the first time since his Nov. 12 spinal surgery. He had his first non-contact skate with the Knights on January 11, and DeBoer said he was still a month or two away.

There is still no definitive timetable per the Golden Knights, but we are now in the advanced stages of his eventual return.

Eichel a game changer

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

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.

His teammates are already impressed with what he’s shown them at practice.

“He’s one of the best skaters I’ve ever seen, easiest skaters I’ve ever seen,” captain Mark Stone said. “You’re adding one of the best centermen in the world into your lineup.”

Vegas is battling for first place in the Pacific Division, but more importantly they want to bring the franchise its first Stanley Cup. With Eichel in tow, they believe he can help get them there.

“I think he can just come in and do his thing,” DeBoer said via NHL.com. “He doesn’t have the pressure to carry a team, and I talked to him the other day. He’s never played an NHL playoff game yet, and I know that’s exciting for him. That’s a whole different level of hockey when you get to that time of year. So I’m excited for him because I think he’s going to excel in that type of game and I know he’s excited about the opportunity to play playoff hockey.”