The season couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start for the Golden Knights. They’re leading the West in points (14), the Pacific in goals allowed (16), and are top three in the conference goals scored (29). The Misfits are hot, goaltending has been consistent and captain Mark Stone looks like his old self. Most importantly, the team hasn’t suffered any significant injuries through nine games. All is well in Golden Knights world except for one slight concern, Jack Eichel.
In 156 minutes played, the $10 million center has eight points (3G/5A) in nine games for 0.88 points per game average. Not bad. In fact, Eichel’s eight points are tied for a team-best with Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson. So, why is Eichel’s production being brought up? Simple, he’s not doing enough when you consider his importance, salary, and talent. Especially, when you compare Eichel to other players in his tax bracket.
Points By Top Highest Paid Forwards
Connor McDavid: 15 Points (8 Goals, 7 Assists)
Artemi Panarin: 12 Points (4 Goals, 8 Assists)
Auston Matthews: 7 Points (2 Goals, 5 Assists)
John Tavares: 10 Points (3 Goals, 6 Assists)
Mitch Marner: 7 Points (2 Goals, 5 Assists)
Jonathan Toews: 5 Points (4 Goals, 1 Assist)
Aleksander Barkov: 5 Points (5 Assists)
Anze Kopitar: 7 Points (1 Goal, 6 Assists)
Jack Eichel: 8 Points (3 Goals, 5 Assists)
Tyler Seguin: 6 Points (2 Goals, 4 Assists)
Johnny Gaudreau: 8 Points (5 Points, 3 Assists)
Matthew Tkachuk: 9 Points (4 Goals, 5 Assists)
Eichel is right in the middle of his peers in points and assists but he’s on the lower end of goals and one statistic that many find a good evaluation of a player’s offensive impact. While primary assists tend to get lost in statistical blenders, they should be weighted heavier than a secondary helper. Eichel has the same amount of first assists (2) as Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud. Chandler Stephenson on the other hand has four assists and they are all primary. Let’s not forget he’s tied for the most points and second amount of minutes played for a forward. In a sense, Eichel’s stat line should look more like Stephenson’s.
Sure, it’s nit-picking, but compare Eichel’s first assists with the league leaders.
NHL Primary Assist Leaders
Leon Draisaitl: 9 PA
Jesper Brat: 8 PA
Kevin Hayes: 7 PA
Connor McDavid: 6 PA
Matthew Barzal: 6 PA
Nikita Kucherov: 6 PA
Roope Hintz: 5 PA
John Tavares: 5 PA
Sebastian Aho: 5 PA
Martin Necas: 5 PA
Mikko Rantanen: 5 PA
David Pastranak: 5 PA
Jack Eichel: 2 PA
Not only do the offensive stars above have more A-1s than Eichel, but they’ve also collected more points. There’s no sugar-coating it, for Vegas to be a legitimate threat, #9 will have to be on that list by the season’s end. Primary assists are a sign of a true playmaker and the focal point of their team’s offense. For those reasons alone, the front office made a blockbuster trade for Eichel. Expectations were high when Vegas made the move for him and will remain high until his current contract expires. Unfortunately, Eichel has produced more like a third or fourth option for Vegas. There’s no argument, Stephenson, Stone and all three Misfits have been more dangerous through nine games.
VGK Offensive Threats
Chandler Stephenson: 4 Goals, 4 Primary Assists
William Karlsson: 4 Goals, 3 Primary Assists
Reilly Smith: 2 Goals, 3 Primary Assists
Jonathan Marchessault: 5 Goals, 1 Primary Assist
Mark Stone: 2 Goals, 2 Primary Assists
Jack Eichel: 3 Goals, 2 Primary Assists
By the way, Eichel isn’t the only Golden Knight coming up short in the playmaking statistical department. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has one primary assist in 210:38 TOI. He finished fourth in that category last season. Same goes for Shea Theodore, who finished the season with 22 first assists. Like Eichel, in due time I expect both d-men to start creating more scoring chances for their teammates. The birthday boy averages 0.30 per game over his career, this season he is down to 0.22 primary assists per 60. That’s a difference of seven extra first assists. In an entire 82 game season, those scoring connections could make a difference in playoff seeding or making the playoffs at all.
Maybe, I’m getting ahead of myself as it clearly hasn’t impacted the team’s ability to win games in the least, but if the Golden Knights want to fulfill the Creator’s prophecy, two primary assists in nine games for the $10 million man ain’t gonna get it done.