January 5, 2015 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Sitting Eichel Was Right Move

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

When phenom Jack Eichel sat out Boston University's game Saturday at home against Union, the conspiracy theorists — or, more likely, rabble rousers — came out of the woodwork.

Coming off a loss by Team USA at the World Junior Championship on Friday, in the quarterfinals to Russia, most of the other players whose college teams had games Saturday, played. In particular, Noah Hanifin, Ian McCoshen and Alex Tuch played for rival Boston College in its game against Dartmouth — albeit with goalie Thatcher Demko taking a rest.

Those who wanted to believe that Eichel was going to bolt BU for major junior following the tournament, were spreading rumors online.

Of course, the whole time, Eichel was sitting in an Agganis Arena suite, signing autographs for fans and watching his BU teammates play to a 3-3 tie. He'll be back in the lineup when BU plays at Wisconsin this coming weekend.

BU coach David Quinn was watching Team USA's game against Russia. He knew as soon as it was over that there would be a decision to make. He didn't hesitate at all to decide that Eichel would sit against Union.

Eichel, of course, urged his coach to reconsider — he wanted to play. It wasn't that long of a drive from Montreal back to Boston. There have certainly been crazier stories in the history of the World Juniors, players coming back overnight from Europe to play college hockey games as soon as possible.

But Quinn has experience with the national program as a coach. He understands as well as anyone the hangover effect that players have after returning from the World Juniors. Every year you see cases of players who have a hard time for a few weeks upon returning, let alone the next day, after an emotional loss.

On top of that, Eichel was the captain for Team USA, and a constant center of attention from the media and public in Canada, because of his lofty Draft projection.

Quinn rightly decided that Eichel needed a mental breather more than anything. Missing a game against Union would not be the end of the world for BU's season anyway.

From what I heard, Eichel's parents greatly appreciated the gesture by Quinn, even if Eichel himself was disappointed in not playing. It only confirmed to the entire Eichel family that it made the right choice in picking BU over Eichel's other hockey-playing options.

And this is why Quinn and BU have a bright long-term future, with or without Eichel.

* * *

As an aside, the breakout star of the tournament for Team USA — notwithstanding Michigan's Dylan Larkin and his five goals — was 17-year old wunderkind Auston Matthews. Matthews may not have put up the numbers others did, but watching the games, he dominated large portions of them, in all facets of the game.

Those who pay attention to things like the Under-18 tournament have known Matthews for a while, but for most hockey fans the World Juniors was their first real glimpse of seeing him in action.

Matthews is two days short of being eligible for the 2015 Draft, which makes him an "older 17." He is already being touted as a high draft pick in 2016.

He has also long been No. 1 on our list of incoming recriuts, even though he is still uncommitted.

Matthews is a native of Arizona. So unlike Eichel, he has no tie to a college hockey-playing area. He's a year too soon for Arizona State's fledgling program, though he could theoretically choose to play there next year during its transition season. But more likely, it means he will end up in major junior for one year before going to the NHL.

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