The Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes came out of nowhere last week when they announced that Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner was traded to Buffalo.
Sabres GM Jason Botterill has kept his promise of making major changes to the organization, and has been true to his word on adding speed & skill to the wings.
When the Sabres acquired Conor Sheary from Pittsburgh, he immediately became the number one LW on the team but now, I think there should be no doubt that Jeff Skinner takes the top spot on a line with Jack Eichel.
While some may call for Skinner to play with Mittelstadt to help insulate him, I believe that Sheary is still good enough to support Mittelstadt as he adjusts to the NHL. So Skinner doesn’t have to play on the second-line, especially if he and Jack Eichel can do damage together.
If you look at the careers of Skinner and Eichel, there is a lot of similarities between the two players.
Both have been on underachieving teams, with little to no supporting cast and both have been tasked at being the driving force behind their team’s respective turnarounds.
While both Skinner and Eichel haven’t been able to lead their team’s to the playoffs, both have been very good players on some very bad teams. And the numbers help prove that.
Skinner is a three time 30-goal scorer, drives possession every time he’s out on the ice. He shoots the puck at will, and puts up most of his offence while at even-strength.
Here is a quick look at some of Skinner’s metrics throughout his career:
CF% – 57.4
Shots Through% (amount of his shot attempts that make it on net) – 56
EVS Goals – 155 (204 career goals)
*provided by hockey reference
Skinner has never played with an elite playmaking center, and already has some very good numbers (on a weak Carolina team). Pairing him up with Jack Eichel should help Skinner get closer to his 37-goal form from 2016-17.
On the flip side, if you look at Eichel’s metrics from his first three years they are as follows:
CF% – 55
Shots Through% – 56
EVS Goals – 53 (73 career goals)
EVS Assists – 58 (104 career assists)
*provided by hockey reference
Their numbers are very similar, but the kicker here is Eichel’s EVS assists have suffered. This can be attributed in part, to his lack of supporting cast.
Pairing a proven EVS goal scorer like Jeff Skinner with Eichel should help Eichel’s EVS scoring, and the Sabres EVS scoring increase.
The two could be a match made in heaven, Skinner has the best scoring ability of any winger that Eichel has had in the NHL, and Eichel blows away any of the centers that Skinner has had recently in Carolina.
Jeff Skinner’s Scoring Ability
Skinner has 204 goals in his career, and that’s largely due to his combination of skating and shooting ability.
He has the ability to score from anywhere in the offensive zone, and score on a good percentage of his shots.
Skinner has a career shooting percentage of 10.7% and has fired 1909 pucks on net during his 8-year career.
Below are just a few examples of Skinner’s abilities in the offensive zone:
For the most part of his career Skinner has played with centers like Jordan Staal, Victor Rask or Derek Ryan. While he has played with some quality NHL centers, Skinner has never played with the likes of Jack Eichel.
With Skinner’s scoring ability, playing with an all-star center like Jack Eichel should do wonders for him, and it wouldn’t be unjustified to expect big things from him in 2018-19.
Jack Eichel’s Playmaking Ability
Jack Eichel has logged 104 career assists in his three seasons in the NHL. He has established himself as one of the elite passers in the league, and is easily the best passing forward in the Sabres organization.
He hasn’t had the advantage of playing with a three time 30-goal scorer like Skinner, and for the most part has been playing with wingers who can’t keep up with him.
Evander Kane was the best winger that Eichel has played with, and when they did play together Eichel was able to use his patience, and passing ability to help create offence.
While this may look like a simple play, I can assure it’s not. Eichel uses a quick hesitation to freeze the defending player and allow Kane to catch up to him. He then feathers a beautiful pass and Kane is able to capitalize.
Now that Kane is gone, Skinner will be able to step into that role and have similar if not more success.
Another thing that makes Eichel a dominant playmaker is his rare combination of vision, strength and creativity. Many times last year he had to create something out of nothing because he didn’t have anyone highly skilled to play with.
If you look closely at this play you can see that no one is really moving to give Jack an outlet. He had to hold onto the puck, put a great move on Saad and wait for Pominville to open up before he could get rid of the puck.
Plays like this showcase just how good Eichel can be, and if you add a highly skilled scoring winger like Skinner to his arsenal then Eichel’s potential skyrockets even more.
There’s no debating that Eichel does make players around him better, he has played with the likes of Zemgus Girgensons, Jordan Nolan and others who have no business being on his line.
But everyone needs help, Ovechkin has Kuznetsov, Crosby had Sheary for a few seasons, now Eichel has the chance to play with Skinner.
Next Year & Beyond
Skinner waived a NTC to come to Buffalo, so it’s safe to say that he has interest in being here beyond next season.
The Sabres are desperate for a #1 scoring winger to play with Jack for years to come, Eichel and Skinner have the potential to be that dynamic duo the Sabres need.
While there haven’t been any talks about a possible extension, what better way to show Skinner, and Eichel that this team is serious about winning then locking up Skinner long-term and placing him on Eichel’s wing for the rest of their Sabres’ careers.
The Sabres haven’t had a scoring winger like Skinner since Vanek left, and they haven’t had a playmaker anywhere near Eichel’s ability (Briere is probably the closest) but now with 9 and 53 here for 2018-19 Botterill has the early workins of the next great Sabres scoring duo.