McDavid, Eichel may be worth being the worst


Brayton Wilson, Contributing Writer

If there were a season to be bad in the National Hockey League, it would be the 2014-15 season.

After finishing the 2013-14 campaign as the worst team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres were expected to be right back in the bottom of the league standings. The Sabres finished last season with a 21-51-10 record with a league-worst 51 points. And even though the team did not win the NHL Draft Lottery, they still picked second overall and took Sam Reinhart.

However, this year’s draft class is different from past draft classes. There are two players in the 2015 draft class that could be franchise-changing players in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.

McDavid, who is currently playing for the Erie Otters Junior Hockey Club in the Ontario Hockey League, was on a record pace to break the all-time OHL scoring record. McDavid injured his hand in a fight on November 11, but had 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points in just 18 games played before the injury.

For Eichel, he is on pace for a stellar freshman year at Boston University. In just 13 games at Boston, Eichel has 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists), and is quickly developing his game further than anyone expected of him in college.

Besides the top two players in the draft class, the 2015 NHL Draft is projected to be one of the deepest draft classes since 2003. From the 2003 class, 22 of the top 30 picks are currently playing in the NHL. Of the 30 players drafted, 27 players have played significant time in the NHL. The 2015 draft class could very well be a similar with plenty of grade-A talent to go around.

So with all the hype of the 2015 draft class, where do the Sabres sit right now in the NHL? Well, not much different from last season. The Sabres currently sit 27th in the league with 18 points in 24 games played.

On November 14, the Sabres were 3-13-2 with eight points and in dead last in the standings. Since then, the Sabres have won five of their last six games.

In the month of November, Buffalo finished with a record of 6-6-1. The Sabres have played a better defensive game, and have also been getting better, quality shots on the opposing team. Buffalo’s goal differential in November was only a minus-10; compared to a minus-23 in October and a minus-91 for the 2013-14 NHL season.

However, the Sabres are still last in the NHL in shots and goals-per-game. Through 24 games this season, the Sabres are only averaging 1.67 goals-per-game, and are only averaging 23.3 shots per game. Buffalo is averaging .33 goals less than the next worst team in the NHL, and 3.1 shots less than the next worst team. Compare those stats to last season and the Sabres are averaging .16 goals less than last year, and three shots less than last season.

Yes, it is still early in the season, but, the Sabres are on pace to have an even worst season statistically this year. Even though the Sabres made moves to improve the team over the offseason, this team is not able to put up the numbers expected of them. Yet again, they are winning more, and are not currently sitting in dead last in the NHL. Will this trend last for the Sabres?

If the Sabres can stay healthy and get competent goaltending, anything is possible. If the Sabres offense can start to shoot the puck 30 or more times in a game, scoring chances are going to continue to increase. The Sabres also have to play discipline hockey and stay out of the penalty box. Buffalo is 20th in the NHL in penalty kill, and 29th in the league on the power play.

The best news is that the Sabres have three first-round picks in the 2015 NHL Draft and could possibly have more if general manager Tim Murray plays his cards right in the trade market. The worst news right now is that the three picks are currently sitting in fourth, 26th, and 27th. But, if the current draft class continues to be as promising as promoted, the Sabres should be in good position come June for the NHL Draft in Florida.