Friday, March 26, 2021

Mailbag: Is Jack Eichel overrated? Plus Tim Peel thoughts, a retro deadline blockbuster, and more

We’re two weeks from the deadline, the Sabres are imploding, games are being cancelled, and there’s an officiating scandal. Other than that, slow week. Let’s get to the mailbag.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity.

Is Jack Eichel overrated?

I was looking at the number one centers for various teams recently and there are at least 11 teams where I would take their guy over Eichel for the next one to three years. I’d take the top center from Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Islanders, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Florida, Tampa, Colorado, LA, and St. Louis before Eichel right now. I might even put Washington and maybe Dallas on that list.

How can he be valued so highly if he isn’t even in the top 10 among first-line centers in the league?

Am I overrating the above centers? Am I underrating Eichel? – Michael G.

Hoo boy. Let’s really twist the knife on Sabres fans, those people have been riding high for too long.

First things first, from your list of teams I think the only ones where you absolutely put the top center ahead of Eichel without even thinking about it would be Edmonton, Colorado, Toronto and probably still Pittsburgh. The rest are varying degrees of borderline. (Also, I’m going to choose to believe that Michael left the Bruins off his list just because he’s trying to make Jack Edwards cry, and the Canucks because he wants to see my car set on fire.)

So we end up with Eichel being a guy who’s likely somewhere in the back half of the top ten, maybe just outside it if you want to be negative, maybe borderline top five if you want the glass to be half full. That’s… a pretty valuable player, right? An elite center is pretty much the most important piece an NHL contender can have, and Eichel’s at least in the conversation.

And that’s if we’re only looking at your timeline of the next three years. That’s reasonable, because that’s as far as most GMs are ever looking, but we have to factor in that Eichel is still just 24 and has a lot of runway left. If you reset the league and held a draft today, he goes ahead of anyone who’s already over 30, which moves him up your list. (When we did our everything draft in the offseason, Eichel was the ninth player and fifth center taken.)

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