Eichel -- along with No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid -- has been gaining attention for the possible impact he could make starting in the 2015-16 season since before the Sabres selected the 18-year-old forward in the first round. And with the combine, draft and rookie development camp, it's been a busy summer.
Now the former Boston University standout, Hobey Baker Award winner and native of North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, is finally getting time to enjoy some peace and quiet while focusing on training.
"It’s cooled down a lot and just getting into a daily routine of training and skating, which I’m trying to prepare for training camp," Eichel said. "From the time of the combine until development camp it was definitely pretty hectic. It was quite the media circus and it seemed like everyone was dragging you around to do something, so I really didn’t have the time to settle down somewhere and train. Now that it’s all over it’s been nice to just be able to relax and try to prepare."
Eichel has been spending his days at Edge Performance Systems with nearly 20 other local pro hockey players, including Brian Boyle of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Keith Yandle of the New York Rangers, Jimmy Hayes of the Boston Bruins, Kevin Hayes of the Rangers and Charlie Coyle of the Minnesota Wild.
It’s an intense workout in the morning and it concludes with an on-ice session. EPS owner Brian McDonough has created a competitive environment in which these athletes can push each other during the offseason. It’s this type of atmosphere that’s perfect for Eichel and fellow 2015 first-rounder Noah Hanifin, who was selected No. 5 overall by the Carolina Hurricanes.
"It’s a good place to work out and it’s a great atmosphere, a really good environment," Eichel said. "There are a lot of guys that have played in the league and you learn a lot just being around them every day; how to take care of yourself and how hard they work in the gym and it rubs off on you. This is a great place to train.
"It says something about Brian and his training and this gym. People want to come here and train because they know they’re going to get stronger and they know they’re going to prepare well for the season and that’s what makes it a special place, knowing that this is the top gym to train at in the offseason for athletes like us."
Hanifin, an 18-year-old defenseman from Norwood, Massachusetts, has been training in the offseason with this group since he was 15.
"This is their job and you can tell by how hard they work in the gym every day and it brings the best out of me, it makes me realize how important it is to work hard every day to chase a goal and it’s been a huge privilege over the years," Hanifin said.
When Eichel participated in Buffalo’s development camp last month at First Niagara Center, Sabres fans came out in droves to see the new-look team with Eichel as the center of attention.
"It was crazy to see how many people showed up to development camp for a scrimmage in July," he said. "It just says something about the Sabres’ fans and how passionate they are."
Each organization’s development camp stresses the importance of handling yourself off the ice and how to prepare for the life of a pro athlete.
"Just how to be a pro on a day-to-day basis," Eichel said. "It’s good to have guys that have done it already around every day to actually help you through that."
When Eichel leaves home in less than two weeks, he will attend the NHL’s rookie showcase, rookie orientation and then he’ll participate in the Sabres’ rookie camp before training camp begins.
"We’ll see where it goes," Eichel said.