Jack Eichel is ready for his Vegas debut.
The center will suit up for the Golden Knights at home Wednesday against Colorado, in his first game action since March 7, 2021. Eichel, then with the Buffalo Sabres, suffered a herniated disk in his neck that night, and went through a prolonged disagreement with the Sabres on how to address it. The impasse led to Eichel being traded to Vegas in November, and then finally having the surgery he'd asked for all along.
Before Eichel dons the black and gold for real, we're looking back at his path to Sin City -- the individual highs, the team lows and when Eichel knew it was just time to move on.
Coming soon 👀 pic.twitter.com/aRQnsW4xI1— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 14, 2022
January: Eichel, 16, scores three goals in five games to help Team USA win bronze at the IIHF under-17 challenge.
April: Eichel wins silver at the IIHF's under-18 showcase.
December: At age 17, Eichel is the youngest member playing for Team USA at the world junior championships, where the Americans place fifth.
April: Eichel is the top scorer for Team USA with 10 points in seven games as the U.S. takes home gold at the under-18 championship. When that tournament ends, Eichel signs a letter of intent to play for Boston University.
December: Eichel again appears for Team USA at the world juniors, and the U.S. again places fifth.
April 10: Eichel becomes the second freshman (after Paul Kariya in 1993) to win the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA's top player. He led the country with 26 goals and 71 points in 40 games, and was Hockey East's Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and scoring leader.
Oct. 10: Eichel makes his NHL debut and scores his first NHL goal, becoming the youngest Sabre ever -- at 18 years old -- to do so.
March 7: Scoring his 20th goal of the season, Eichel becomes the youngest player in Buffalo's history -- at 19 years old -- to hit the milestone.
Oct. 3: Eichel signs an eight-year, $80 million contract extension with the Sabres.
Jan. 27-28: Eichel makes his first appearance at the NHL All-Star Weekend.
Oct. 3: Ahead of his fourth season with the team, Buffalo names Eichel -- then just 21 -- as its captain: "It's a huge honor," Eichel said. "Obviously I've shown how invested I am in this city and I'm excited for the future."
March 7: In a collision during Buffalo's game against the New York Islanders, Eichel suffers a herniated disk in his neck. Coach Ralph Krueger says Eichel will be sidelined "for the foreseeable future."
Apr. 14: Buffalo announces Eichel will not return for the remainder of the season due to the disk issue. The two sides are at an impasse on how to treat the problem, too; Eichel wants to undergo disk-replacement surgery, while the Sabres maintain it can be fixed with rehab and time to heal.
May 10: Eichel voices displeasure with how Buffalo is treating his injury. "I've been a bit upset about the way that things have been handled since I've been hurt," he told reporters. "I'd be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. There's been a bit of a disconnect I think from the organization and myself. It's been tough at times."
In the same availability, Eichel leaves doubt about where his future might be -- "Right now for me, I think the most important thing is just trying to get healthy and figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year wherever that might be. I have a lot of thinking to do in this offseason. There's a lot I have to consider."
Sept. 23: The Sabres, having stood firm on not allowing Eichel to have surgery on the disk, strip him of the team's captaincy after he fails a training camp physical and is placed on long-term injured reserve. He has five years remaining on the eight-year contract.
General manager Kevyn Adams says Eichel "is not willing to move forward with what our doctors are suggesting" and hints at a possible trade: "If there's a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres, that's going to help us improve ... we'd be open to it."
Nov. 12: Eichel undergoes disk replacement surgery -- his preferred treatment -- at Rocky Mountain Spine Clinic in Denver. He is the first NHL player to ever have the operation, and was expected to need at least three months of recovery.
Dec. 2: In his first post-surgery practice seen publicly, Eichel takes a light skate in North Carolina. He was reported to be doing some rehabilitation work at the Extreme Ice Center outside Charlotte.
Jan. 11: Eichel participates in his first Golden Knights practice, while wearing a red, no-contact sweater.
"With everything that I've been through, it seems like things are getting back to normal for me," Eichel said after the session. "That's what I wanted all along. The recovery has been pretty smooth ... the last few weeks, it's like, 'Wow, I feel really good now. I almost feel basically back to normal.'"