Eichel

What does the Jack Eichel injury mean for the Buffalo Sabres?

The Sabres will be without superstar Jack Eichel after he sustained a high-ankle sprain Saturday night in Boston. He went for the puck behind the Bruins net and lost an edge. His legs/knees bent awkwardly underneath him as Bruins’ defender Matt Grzelcyk piled on top of him. Watch the video of the injury here.

In Eichel’s third season he was leading the Sabres in goals (22) and assists (31) for a total of 53 points in 55 games. While the team has severely underachieved this season he was on pace for the best season of his career. He was only two goals and two assists short of tying his career-highs. With 27 games left he was surely going to set career-highs in goals, assists, and points.

The timetable for his return is projected to be four to six weeks barring setbacks.

Even Less Scoring

The Sabres sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in not only points, but also in the goals-for category. They’ve scored 132 goals, which is a league worst, three less than the Arizona Coyotes (135). The Coyotes, experiencing a similar underachieving season, sit at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Eichel

Sabres’ leading goalscorer Jack Eichel. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Buffalo averages only 2.4 goals per game and that number is only expected to decline without Eichel on the ice. He’s accounted for 22 of the teams 132 goals scored, four more than teammate Evander Kane (18). Eichel has scored or assisted on 40 percent of the Sabres’ goals this season, which is an astounding stat.

Not only will they miss his scoring, but they’ll also miss his incredible playmaking abilities. He led the team in assists (31) when he went down on Saturday night. Teammate Kyle Okposo is the next most on the team with 24 assists on the season. Eichel has unbelievable stick skills and is known for making crazy plays/passes that give his teammates chances to score. Without him on the ice expect the playmaking ability of the team to take a significant step back.

Embrace the tank

The team has finished at the bottom or very close the bottom of the NHL over the past few seasons but hasn’t been lucky enough win the draft lottery to secure the first overall pick in the draft. Right now they sit second last in the league with 42 points, ahead of the Coyotes by four points. With Eichel not expected to return until somewhere between March 10th and March 24th, he’ll miss around 14-20 games. Missing their best player on the ice for that many games should help the Sabres lose more games and cement their spot as last in the league. Being dead last in the league gives them the highest percentage to win the draft lottery and secure the number one overall pick.

With the first overall pick the Sabres can draft the unquestioned number one player, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin from Sweden. The team needs a lot of work on defense and by adding another Rasmus to the defensive core, alongside Rasmus Ristolainen, they’ll greatly be improving their team on the back end.

Dahlin took home a silver medal in the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo, NY just a few months ago. He impressed throughout the tournament and the Sabres and their fans would be love to see him return to Buffalo for the long-term.

Trade Kane to a contender

Evander Kane has put together a decent season with 18 goals and 20 assists for 38 points through 56 games. Kane says he’s focused on the Sabres and not the trade deadline as it’s now less than two weeks away. But he has stated that he desires to get his first taste of playoff hockey in the NHL. He isn’t likely to experience it in Buffalo for at least a few more years.

Eichel

Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

The Sabres should be proactive in regards to embracing the tank, as much as fans hate it, and move Kane to a contender for a decent pick in the upcoming draft. By getting rid of their second best offensive piece behind Eichel, they’re further ensuring they reach the bottom of the NHL standings behind the Coyotes. Plus with getting a pick or two for Kane they can add another young player though the draft that will continue to help the rebuild in Buffalo.

Shut Eichel down for the season

There’s no reason to rush Eichel back this season and risk a set back or even another injury. The team has no chance of making the playoffs, they’ll be mathematically eliminated over the next few games. In the best case scenario he returns with 14 games to play, but in all likelihood he won’t be ready until there’s only 10 or less games to play. With the team missing the playoffs and wanting to be in the best position moving forward in regard to the draft and Eichel’s long-term health, they should shut him down for the season.

The longer off-season will ensure that he returns to full health for next season. Without him on the ice for the remaining 27 games they’ll almost certainly finish last in the league.

The 2017-2018 season is already a lost cause and they need to be looking ahead to the 2018-2019 season.

Give the young guns a chance

With the season having already gotten away from them, the Sabres need to give their future talent a chance to shine on the big stage. C.J. Smith, Nick Baptiste, Hudson Fasching, Alexander Nylander, and most notably Casey Mittelstadt, are all names that come to mind.

Eichel

Casey Mittelstadt playing for Team USA. Photo from tipofthetower.com

The group is all current Rochester Americans’ players except Mittelstadt. The Americans’ currently sit in the playoff picture as the season nears the 3/4 mark largely due to these players. While Rochester will want them down the stretch for the playoff push, the Sabres should give them a chance in Buffalo to show off their talent with the chance to continue to play up next season. Mittelstadt mightily impressed in Buffalo during the 2018 World Junior Championships, in college with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and in the USHL.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

College basketball preseason top 25: 20-16

It is the end of October so that means college basketball is right around the corner. What teams should be looked at as the best of the best? This is the second installment in the top 25 rundown. For teams 25-21 click here.

20. St. Mary’s Gaels

College basketball preseason top 25

Jock Landale (Photo by zimbio.com)

St. Mary’s made the big dance for the first time since 2013 last season. There run ended in the round of 32, but it was a big step just to get back to the dance. With most of their scoring returning, the Gaels should make it to the second consecutive NCAA Tournament.

Leading scorer Jock Landale returns after averaging 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He will receive serious consideration for WCC Player of the Year. Calvin Hermanson is the second leading returning scorer and plays on the wing. He lights up the scoreboard, which is a theme for this team.Evan Fitzner is another returning starter in the frontcourt, who will start at power forward, even though he only played 15 minutes a game. He can stretch the floor as a three point shooter. Kyle Clark and Tanner Krebs will provide experience and depth.

Emmett Naar will be the sole point guard this season and brings back a good all around game. Starting at the two guard will be Cullen Neal who is a senior transfer from Ole Miss.This is his third college team as he played for three seasons at New Mexico before becoming a Rebel He has over 1,000 career points already and brings a lot of experience. They aren’t very deep at the guard spots so Jordan Ford, Tommy Kuhse and Kristers Zoriks will need to step up.

The Gaels have a good enough team to beat Gonzaga in the WCC and also do some damage in March.

19. Minnesota Golden Gophers

College basketball preseason top 25

Nate Mason (Photo by kare11.com)

Last season Minnesota was one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball. They had eight wins two seasons ago and last year improved to 24 wins. They did end up losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but with a lot of players returning the Golden Gophers’ future looks bright.

Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch are two great inside players for Richard Pitino. Murphy is more of an inside scorer and rebounder, while Lynch is a great defender who blocks a lot of shots. Lynch was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season. Eric Curry played 19.9 minutes per game as a freshman and will have to eat up a lot of minutes again and be effective. Davonte Fitzgerald had a torn ACL last year, but is figuring to make impact this season.

The backcourt returns a lot of experience. The best player on the team is point guard Nate Mason. He averaged 15.2 points and five assists per game and is a great floor general. Amir Coffey is a lengthy wing who started all 33 games as a freshman and should improve in his second season. Dupree McBrayer is the best three point shooter on the team at 41.6% and played 27.8 minutes per game in his sophomore campaign last year. Not too many other guards play a lot of minutes so those three will need to stay out of foul trouble or the Golden Gophers will have to rely on freshmen.

While they likely won’t beat out Michigan State in the Big Ten, Minnesota will be a really solid team that will make another NCAA Tournament.

18. Louisville Cardinals

College basketball preseason top 25

David Padgett (Photo by thecardinalconnect.com)

Louisville got knocked out in the round of 32 last season, but a lot has happened since. Rick Pitino is out and they lost incoming star prospect Brian Bowen because of the Adidas scandal. The Cardinals still have a lot of good players returning, but David Padgett has a lot of work ahead of him coaching this team.

The Cardinals’ best player is Deng Adel, who is a good wing athlete. He does a little bit of everything for Louisville and will need to be the go to guy this season. Adel needs to improve his three point shooting and if he can, he will be one of the best players in the ACC. Anas Mahmoud and Raymond Spalding are the only returning interior player, who provide some experience, but they won’t wow anyone. They will be asked to defend, make open interior shots and rebound. For depth, their talented freshmen will need to step up. Malik Williams, Jordan Nwora and Lance Thomas need to provide an impact down low, while transfer Dwayne Sutton has to provide depth on the wing.

Quentin Snyder has been at Louisville for what seems like forever. He is the floor general that needs to be the leader of the team as they go through this difficult time. He averaged 12.4 points and 4.1 assists per game, which will need to improve this year. V.J. King was a great recruit who saw some minutes as a freshman, but will need to be a star for the Cardinals for the team to be successful. Depth will be a question as recruits need to step up and make a difference.

The Cardinals may not be eligible for the NCAA Tournament when the FBI investigation is all said and done, but Louisville has a talented roster that is deserving of being ranked.

17. Northwestern Wildcats

College basketball preseason top 25

Bryant McIntosh (photo by indystar.com)

Northwestern finally made the NCAA Tournament in 2017. They also got their first ever win and now are looking for more. The Wildcats return four players who averaged over 30 minutes per game last season and have good veteran leadership to rely on.

Dererk Pardon returns on the inside for Northwestern and with improvement can average a double double, even though he is a little undersized. Barret Benson will see an increased role this season after averaging eight minutes last season. Vic Law is a talented wing that can get to the basket and knock down threes. He also is the teams second leading rebounder. His defense is a game-changer. Gavin Skelly is a senior that will get minutes an help out more on the inside.

Senior point guard Bryant McIntosh can score and set up his teammates with 14.8 points and 5.2 assists per game. He will be flanked by shooting guard Scottie Lindsey. Lindsey will get to the basket and is the second leading returning scorer behind McIntosh. Isiah Brown will be asked to do more as a sophomore as the lone returning depth piece at the guard spot. Anthony Gaines is a freshman that will need to fill in some minutes for the Wildcats.

Back to back NCAA Tournaments is a probability for a team that took so long to get one appearance in the big dance.

16. Purdue Boilermakers

College basketball preseason top 25

Isaac Haas (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Purdue broke through to the Sweet 16 last season. They lost their double-double machine in Caleb Swanigan, but have a lot returning to help them be successful once again. The Boilermakers are coming off a big offseason of representing USA in the World University Games and came away with a silver medal.

The middle of the floor is anchored by Isaac Haas. He hasn’t been the prime time player yet in his Purdue career due to Swanigan and A.J. Hammons getting more minutes in years past. He will have to use his 7’2″ frame to score over shorter defenders and grab all the rebounds lost by the departure of Swanigan. At the four spot Vince Edwards is a very versatile player that can shoot the three and get to the basket. He is the perfect power forward for college basketball and averaged 12.6 points per game last season. Jacquil Taylor was redshirted last year due to injury and will need to provide depth.Matt Haarms is bigger than Haas and will back him up at center, while Eden Ewing and Aaron Wheeler will be asked to step in and provide depth.

Perimeter play is not something Purdue will be lacking. Carson Edwards, P.J. Thompson, Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline all return. Carson Edwards is a great defender that had a good freshman season. Thompson, Mathias and Cline all knock down shots from deep. Mathias adds senior leadership and a good perimeter defender to the team. With these four players, the Boilermakers are in great hands.

The sky is the limit for this Purdue team even without Swanigan. Matt Painter will have this team ready for another run in March.

For teams 15-11: Click here.

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NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in the 2016 Holiday Bowl

The Holiday Bowl features two 8-4 teams that have a couple draft prospects each. Washington State runs the air raid offense, which will mean that scouts will see a lot of reps from the passing game. The scouts will love seeing this, as they like seeing a lot of tape on players. Here are the players they will be watching:

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Mitch Leidner, QB

Projected Draft Range: Sixth round-undrafted free agent.

Leidner had a terrible season and shouldn’t be drafted. With that being said, a lot of teams will see his six foot four 230 pound frame and give him a chance. With seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the season, Leidner will need to make plays in the passing game to impress scouts. If he turns the ball over and doesn’t put up points against a bad pass defense, he will lose any value he may have had.

Jalen Myrick, CB

Projected Draft Range: Fourth round-sixth round

Holiday Bowl

Jalen Myrick (Photo courtesy: zimbio.com)

Myrick will get drafted due to his versatility. He is able to play both outside corner and in the nickel and dime position. He doesn’t have the greatest height at five foot ten inches tall, but he has done a pretty good job against receivers who are bigger than him. In order for his stock to rise, he will have to display speed. He isn’t very fast and doesn’t tackle well, so his positioning will have to be spot on.

Washington State Cougars

Luke Falk, QB

Projected Draft Range: Second round-fourth round

Falk has a lot of reps in the air raid offense, so scouts will have hours of tape to scour through. Their is a stigma against quarterbacks that are in systems like Falk is. He has average arm strength, but good accuracy. His 4,204 yards passing and 37 touchdowns are eye-popping, but the most impressive stat is his completion percentage. His 71% completion percentage is the best thing about him, as he is efficient.

Shalom Luani, S

Projected Draft Range: Fifth round-seventh round

Luani has really come on scouts’ radars recently. He plays hard and downhill, which is a great quality for a strong safety. He has good instincts and has four interceptions on the season. At six feet tall and 198 pounds he will need to add some strength to make it at the NFL level. The biggest thing for Luani to overcome is the fact that he wasn’t on a lot of people’s radars before the season. His play from this season should do a lot of the convincing for him.

Gabe Marks, WR

Projected Draft Range: Third round-fifth round

Holiday Bowl

Gabe Marks (Photo courtesy: seattletimes.com)

Marks has had a great career at Washington State and has a lot of stats to prove it. Because he plays in the air raid system, he will need to prove he can create separation on his own. Some of the passing routes they run at Washington State won’t be available at the NFL level, because of the speed of defenders. Running a good 40 time is crucial to Marks’ draft stock, as he isn’t expected to run faster than a 4.5 second 40 yard dash.

 

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2016 National Funding Holiday Bowl Preview

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will try to stop the high-powered Washington State offense in the 2016 National Funding Holiday Bowl.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Golden Gophers had a great season at 8-4 and even stayed in contention for the Big Ten West Division until the last week of the season. They have good wins over Maryland, Colorado State and Northwestern. They only lost to bowl eligible teams this season.

Holiday Bowl

Mitch Leidner (Photo courtesy: Bleacher report)

Mitch Leidner had a lot of potential coming into the season, but did not play well. He threw for 2,040 yards and seven touchdowns. The problem is he threw 12 interceptions and has a 56% completion percentage. He will need to play better in this game to keep up with the Cougars.

Leidner’s favorite target is Drew Wolitarsky. He has 787 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. No other Minnesota receiver has been overly impressive this season.

The Golden Gophers rely on the running game to move the chains. Running Back Rodney Smith has 1,084 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, while Shannon Brooks has added 599 yards and five touchdowns.

Minnesota has a good rush defense, allowing just 124 yards on the ground per game. The pass defense is just average, giving up 228 yards per game.

Defensive Lineman Hendrick Ekpe has been a standout for the Golden Gophers with 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

Washington State Cougars

The Cougars lost their first two and last two games of the regular season, but won eight in a row between them. They lost to FCS level Eastern Washington, but otherwise lost to good teams. Washington State beat two bowl eligible teams, Idaho and Stanford.

Holiday Bowl

Luke Falk (Photo courtesy: seattletimes.com)

Luke Falk is one of the best quarterbacks in college football and has 4,204 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes. He has only thrown ten interceptions and is completing a whopping 71% of his passes. Falk should be trusted to lead a great passing attack. He will make his decision for the NFL draft after the game.

Falk’s best receiver is Gabe Marks who has 867 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Their second best receiver, River Cracraft, will be out for this game with a torn ACL. The good news for the Cougars is that they have a lot of receivers who produce for them.

Despite being an air raid offense, the Cougars have three running backs who have rushed for over 400 yards. James Williams leads the team in yardage (573), Jamal Morrow leads in yards per carry (6.6) and Gerard Wicks leads in touchdowns (11). All three backs are able to help pick up yardage in the passing game as well.

The run defense is good for Washington State, as they give up only 131 yards per game. The pass defense though, is one of the worst in the country allowing 283 yards per game.

Defensive back Shalom Luani has four interceptions on the season. His defending has been one of the few bright spots for the Cougar pass defense.

Prediction

Minnesota was at one point boycotting this game, but now are playing. This will prove to be too much of a distraction to win this game. Falk will have a great season finale and the Cougars will put up a lot of points.

 

Washington State Cougars 42 Minnesota Golden Gophers 27

 

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