Overreactions: All-American Prospects Game
Thursday’s All-American Prospects game at First Niagara Center was nice. It wasn’t great, but it was nice.
The third edition of USA Hockey’s showcase of draft eligible prospects, held in Buffalo for the second time after an affair in Pittsburgh, ended with Team Grier (led by the Sabres legend) defeating Team Olczyk (led by noted horse racing fanatic) by a score of 6-3.
But a couple big name coaches weren’t the story. The story was Jack Eichel, the hotshot prospect who’s going to be the not-so-terrible consolation prize in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes next April.
Eichel, the Boston University freshman who is a sure-fire top-2 pick in next summer’s NHL Draft, was conspicuous throughout the night. Tallying one goal and one assist, the eyes were clearly on him, and not just because he’s a dead ringer for Lindsey Buckingham, notably of Fleetwood Mac.
No, Eichel was the main attraction on the night, and he didn’t disappoint. He was dynamic with the puck, showing great poise and vision, setting up Jeremy Bracco for an early goal, and then a fine finish late in the third to win him the MVP. He’s going to be a fantastic NHL player, and if the Sabres do their job and finish dead last this season, it’ll be alright if it’s not their logo getting pulled out of that envelope belonging to the #1 overall pick.
- It’s great that the Sabres have gotten this event going and will be hosting again next year. Before then, they really need to re-evaluate how they market it. With 16,000 season ticket holders getting free tickets, more being given away and likely tepid individual sales, they announced just over 7,000. I doubt there was that many in the house, and the lower bowl looked so bad that 300 Level ushers were telling fans to move down to the 100 Level. It’s a cool event that should be really interesting. They just don’t seem to know what to do with it.
- One way to engage fans more? Get the players’ junior/college teams involved. Get some awareness for the junior system in the United States. Build the context for the depth of the American game. If you beat people over the head with the fact that Eichel is playing at Boston University or that other top prospect Noah Hanifin is at Boston College, maybe people will make a point to tune in if they’re on television. Build the demand. Even if you’re the Buffalo Sabres, you’re better off if people give a shit about hockey.
- Biggest improvement from the 2012 game to the 2014 game? Uniforms. Game looked clean, players seemed easier to identify than last time. Minor thing, but I noticed it.
- Hanifin is going to be a rock for whatever team that drafts him. Hopefully the Sabres are done and have their guy by the time he’s getting picked, but with some guys, you can just tell. He’s gonna be good.
- It’s really hard to get a good read on players in an event like this. The best stand out. Some guys can surprise. But I’m not gonna act like I know a player’s game from how they look in an all-star event. Gotta see them at the club level.
That’s about it. Gonna have to see when BU will be on television this season.