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Jack Eichel Among League Leaders In Defensive Impact

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We dove into it earlier in the season but it’s time to spotlight it again. At this point of the 2023-24 season, Vegas center Jack Eichel has established himself as a confident 200-foot player. Many Golden Knights fans will say they’ve known since that last season, especially after VGK’s successful Stanley Cup run last summer.

However, his performance through 42 games has been balanced, impactful, and pleasantly surprising. As expected, the offensive guru leads the team in points (44), goals (19), power play goals (7) and game-winning goals (5). What wasn’t anticipated was Eichel’s fine defensive on-ice work.

Take for instance last night’s contest against the Boston Bruins. Eichel spent 1:01 on a crucial penalty kill in the latter half of the 3rd period which held the Bruins scoreless through that point of the game. He then followed it up with 1:17 five-on-five shift. Of course, he max-ed out his 3:37 in power play time but also spent 2:18 killing penalties. It hasn’t been the norm for a guy who averaged 0:25 seconds of PK time per 60 before becoming a Golden Knight. Since the addition of Bruce Cassidy in October of 2023, Eichel now averages 1:01 per game.

Eichel’s PK TOI Per Season:

  • 2015-16: 30:27 Total PK Time, 0:23 Per Game
  • 2016-17: 14:41 Total PK Time, 0:14 Per Game
  • 2017-18: 53:11 Total PK Time, 0:48 Per Game
  • 2018-19: 40:55 Total PK Time, 0:32 Per Game
  • 2019-20: 18:53 Total PK Time, 0:17 Per Game
  • 2020-21: 0:56 Total PK Time, 0:03 Per Game *Played 21 Games
  • 2021-22: 1:22 Total PK Time, 0:02 Per Game * Played 34 Games
  • 2022-23: 26:05 Total PK Time, 0:23 Per Game
  • 2023-24: 85:38 Total PK Time, 2:02 Per Game

Since October, Cassidy has consistently sent Eichel over the boards when Vegas is forced to kill off a penalty. Like captain Mark Stone’s usage, VGK’s coach prefers using his stars on the PK instead of depth players. There’s a conversation to be had for that type of PK strategy but we can save it for later. Either side of the coin you’re on, using Eichel on the penalty kill has worked out for the reigning champions.

Coming into last night’s 2-1 overtime win over the Bruins, Eichel led the NHL with 47 takeaways. That’s actually two more than Mark Stone, who has always been lauded as one of the best in the league in that category. The top-line center’s production off the puck might surprise some across the league.

2023-24 NHL Takeaway Leaders

  1. Jack Eichel (47)
  2. Matthew Barzal (46)
  3. Mark Stone (45)
  4. Michael Backlund (39)
  5. Evgeni Malkin (39)

When Cassidy took over, he clearly recognized Eichel’s ability to play in all three zones and situations. So, it only makes sense for the Cup-winning coach to use him as much as possible.

And it’s paid off.

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13 Comments

  1. Pistol Pete

    I love Jack’s point a game offense but nothing has been more rewarding for me when it comes to the $10m guy then speculating when he arrived here the season before last that his defensive play would improve because of his overall skill and athleticism. Then following last year’s championship run I predicted Cassidy would increase his PK time this season and voila how right I was! Last night’s post game he said the group came into the Bruins game to play team defense. He is completely bought in. Are you listening Austin Mathews et. al.?

    • Emmanuel

      Besides takeaways I dont see any evidence of defensive excellence. Usage only tells you theres no one better available. Miss Reilly Ace of Spies yet?

      • Pistol Pete

        I guess you missed or did not understand the impact his defensive play had in the playoffs. All the commentators most of whom are former NHL players kept highlighting it. Eichel has become impactful all around the ice. Probably would not have won the Cup without it.

  2. Pistol Pete

    Interesting how WPG and VAN have zoomed to the top of the league in points. The VGK beat each 4-1 on the road early in the season. Play VAN here and WPG again on the road, both in March. No home game vs. WPG this season. Potential statement win vs. the Bruins.

  3. Pistol Pete

    Yeah a gutsy meaningful win against the Bruins. LT was good, very good but to think we ground out that win without Karlsson and Theo. Time to back it up with a run (in spite of the injuries).

  4. Pistol Pete

    Rangers coming to town next week.

  5. Tim

    Jack Eichel has turned into a nice 200 foot player we need a clone of him. I know he was good in Buffalo but since he’s been here on a winning team he’s excelled not only offensively but defensively. Let’s get that trade going sooner then later I need to get excited again these games are waring me out. My perfect senecio is we score 4 goals a game win or lose and with our talent and adding some offense I don’t think that’s an insurmountable request. This year of 2 goals or less for a majority of games has to go time to step it up.

    • JB

      Skip the games, and if they score your four goals, then watch the highlights. That should satisfy you. You can skip the 2-1 or 3-2 WINS!

      • Tim

        JB, So the 6 games we put up goose eggs is fine with your not counting our outbursts of one or when were really on our game two goals. Take the blinders off we need an infusion of scoring and this team the way it’s made up isn’t going to get it done. One thing your right about is when I see very little effort after about a period and a half it’s movie time and I do check my phone and for the last two months it’s been mostly bad news. You can watch the games and hope but if they have a decent goalie you can chalk up another loss. I wish it wasn’t but it’s been a pattern all year.

        • JB

          A real fan suffers the bad along with enjoying the good! You are a bandwagon jumper. Not a total fan!

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