Eichel on making All-Star Game: “It’s special”

FILE - In this March 7, 2017, file photo, Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel (15) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Buffalo, N.Y. Connor McDavid's eight-year, $100 million contract is the latest and most eye-popping example of a shift in priority by NHL teams intent on locking up their young stars. The expectation is for Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine to also start cashing in over the next few years. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Jack Eichel is one of the most talented players on the ice when he touches the puck.  During All-Star Weekend in Tampa later this month, he’ll get a chance to show off.

“I always liked the skills competition,” the Sabres star center said on Thursday.  “Just as a fan of it.  It was always cool to see those guys.”

“First of many for him,” winger Kyle Okposo added ahead of their game against the Blue Jackets.  “It’s a great experience. Definitely a highlight of my career just going there with the NHL 100 especially. I’m just going to tell him to enjoy it.”

Named to his first All-Star team, Eichel is the lone representative for the Blue and Gold.  He leads the team with 17 goals and 22 assists and caught fire before the end of the year.

After a sluggish start in which he managed just 19 total points (7 G, 12 A) in the first two months, Eichel was the hottest player on the club with eight goals and eight assists in December.  He has four points in five games to start 2018.

“Earlier in the year maybe I wasn’t getting breaks or getting my shots,” he said.  “Statistically it wasn’t showing but ,you’re just trying to work shift in and shift out. It’s a simple game if you think about it. Maybe these few games it’s been a little more simple for me. Just trying to get close to the net and create chances.”

The festivities in Tampa begin Jan. 27 with the skills competition following by the 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 28.

“An event and a weekend I’ve always paid close attention to,” said Eichel.  “Being able to do it for the first time it’s special. I’m fortunate for all the guys in the room here, the coaches and everybody that also helped me get there.  I wouldn’t have this opportunity if it wasn’t for the guys I’ve played with this year and guys pushing me in practice.”

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