Jack Eichel may have to wait until next season to taste playoff action

Jack Eichel
Apr 12, 2022; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vegas Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel (9) during warm up prior to a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

This is not what Jack Eichel probably expected when he was finally traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the Vegas Golden Knights.

On November 4, he was moved with a 2023 third-round pick to Vegas for Peyton Krebs, Alex Tuch, a first-round pick in 2022 (top 10 protected), and a third-round selection in 2023.

“I think first it’s just excitement,” Eichel said after being traded. “There’s a lot of emotions involved unless you’ve gone through [being traded] before, which I haven’t. I’m just very relieved and so excited and thankful.”

Eichel, 25, was the No. 2 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft behind Connor McDavid. He is now playing in his seventh NHL season with 404 career regular-season games under his belt but not a single playoff game to his name.

It’s a stat he thought would change this season. However, it’s now very possible that Vegas misses the playoffs.

Jack Eichel may miss the playoffs again

The Golden Knights loss to the New Jersey Devils on Monday keeps them three points behind the L.A. Kings for third-place in the Pacific and four points out of the wild card. Also problematic for Vegas are the wild card holders (Stars and Predators) have a game in hand.

Per MoneyPuck, Jack Eichel and his Golden Knights have just a 19.8% of making the playoffs. Vegas has five games remaining on the schedule.

This is all very stunning considering Vegas was one of the top three teams to win the Stanley Cup coming into this season. Unfortunately, injuries have dogged and derailed them all year long.

The Golden Knights, who have made the playoffs every year since they joined the league in 2018 are on the cusp of missing it for the first time. Something that even Jack Eichel couldn’t imagine happening after being dealt.

“We got to win them all. It’s pretty simple, we got to win them all,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “Circumstances have put us in a situation here where we have no margin of error. That’s a tough way to play.”

NHL

Eichel has been good this season

jack eichel
Mar 19, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) skates against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Eichel hasn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard this season accumulating 12 goals and 21 points in 19 games. While his numbers may not be remarkable, you can’t dismiss what he came back from.

Back in November, he 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.

He returned to practice Jan. 11 and will play his first game of the season on February 16, roughly three months after his procedure.

“It’s good to just get back doing it and, honestly, I was having a pretty fun time out there,” Eichel said. “So, I think there’s some stuff to build on, but it’s a process. I know it’s going to get better.”

Since then, Eichel has been a force on the ice on most nights for Vegas which is a testament to his dedication after missing a year of playing time.

Eichel’s impact off the ice far greater

Eichel was captain of the Sabres, for whom he played six years, before clashing with Buffalo management over his health care. He was adamant that he needed an artificial disk replacement while the Sabres wanted him to have fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk.

After a lengthy holdout, Eichel was traded to Vegas, which agreed to let him undergo his preferred surgical option.

One thing Eichel made clear after his trade is that he wanted his stance on getting his preferred surgery to shed more light on the CBA. “I don’t necessarily agree with the team having full say in medical decisions,” he said. “I think it should be a collaboration.”

This season, Blackhawks forward Tyler Johnson became the second NHL player to have the same artificial disc replacement surgery that Eichel underwent.