Eichel v Matthews.
Matthews v Eichel.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Why the hell is this even an article? And is this going to be a Zack Snyder movie coming to theaters in 2017?”
The answer is pretty simple. I’m a sucker for blistering hot takes. The bravado that goes into them just revs my engines. And no, this won’t be a movie coming out next year.
So what hot take am I referring to? Well it came from an anonymous Canadian team scout in a National Post article earlier this year:
“No disrespect to Eichel, but he couldn’t carry Matthews’ skates to the rink. His impact in the NHL is going to be special.” – Anonymous Canadian team scout
That’s one hell of a quote. If only this scout was confident enough in his claim to put his name to it.
Maybe this was meant to be literal. So I went back and looked at the 2015 NHL Combine numbers to see how well Jack Eichel did on the bench press. Eichel finished 4th at the combine with 16 bench press reps. Now it works differently at the NHL Combine than the more popular NFL Combine. In the NFL, bench press reps are 225lbs. For the NHL Combine, the reps are between 70-80% of the players body weight. Eichel weighed in at the NHL Combine at 196lbs.
So let’s take the lower side of that range. 70% of 196lbs is 137.2lbs.
Now for the actual lifting of Auston Matthews’ skates, we first have to know what skates he is using. The latest skates I’ve seen him wear are the Bauer Vapor 1X’s. The skates weigh 780 grams.
So while we cannot completely debunk the theory that Eichel cannot carry Matthews’ skates, I am highly skeptical of the idea based on test results and equipment used.
Now that we have taken care of the literal side of the quote, we can focus on the other meaning: Matthews is going to be a lot better than Eichel.
Before I get into that, I want to say something to the two fanbases who are likely the most invested in this article.
Maple Leafs Fans: Your top prospect is going to be a very good player in this league.
Sabres Fans: Your top prospect is also going to be a very good player in this league.
Or to phrase it with an aggressive amount of sarcasm: Your players are both pretty.
Back to the blistering hot take. Matthews > Eichel is the general premise. So how does one do an accurate comparison of two players where they have a combined 1 NHL season under their belts?
*Disclaimer* – There is no way to definitively state who will be better. The idea that a scout of a Canadian NHL team would float this claim out there without putting his name to it should be alarming in itself. If there were some statistics to back this claim, then surely the scout would feel confident enough to own up to the quote, right?
Of course it’s always possible that the scout simply wanted to give the fanbase of the team he works for some “red meat” to get them excited about their upcoming draft pick.
As for this upcoming season, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Eichel will statistically have a stronger season than Matthews. Based on my last article, you probably have noticed that I’m a rather big believer in the idea that hockey is a team game. With that, the supporting cast on the Sabres this upcoming season is much stronger than what the Maple Leafs will be putting on the ice. Both teams have their Robins in Sam Reinhart and Mitch Marner to go with the franchises’ Batmans.
See what I did there with the Batman reference?
The turning point for me is the 2nd center for each team. I don’t think you will find too many scouts (anonymous or not) ready to tell you that they think Nazem Kadri is better than Viz’s man crush Ryan O’Reilly.
Since this is a fantasy hockey post, I should probably insert some projections for both Eichel and Matthews. So here. We. Go.
See what I did there?
Ok. But seriously. Here are those projections. (Assuming both players play 82 games).
Eichel: 35G – 45A – 90P – 24PIM – 26PPP – 210 shots
Matthews: 18G – 30A – 48P – 10PIM – 14PPP – 178 shots
I guess we should touch on the whole rivalry part, since you totally read the headline thinking, “Yes! Rivalry! Is it Wednesday night on NBC Sports Network?”
*Turns on NBCSN*
“Blackhawks vs Flyers? What the hell? That’s not a rivalry!”
Back to whether or not Eichel and Matthews will show the immense amounts of hatred towards one another that would make for great television and debate. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s not looking good. Neither player is very vocal, mainly letting their play do the talking. Also, Matthews contacted both Eichel and McJesus (Connor McDavid) for advice going into this season. I watched all 3 hours of Batman v Superman Extended Edition and I don’t recall a scene where Superman called Batman for advice on how to be a superhero. Both Eichel and Matthews are playing on Team North America in the upcoming World Cup, so they’re probably going to be rooting for each other to play well and succeed for a two-week period.
That’s not to say there won’t be a rivalry down the road at some point between these two. The fans in Buffalo and Toronto surely don’t like each other. Actual rivalries are born from multiple playoff series between two teams. *Violently grabs the remote to turn off Blackhawks vs Flyers on NBCSN Rivalry Night* The best example of this is Sidney Crosby v Alex Ovechkin. While the NHL and NBC have beat that rivalry to death, they were probably 5-7 years too early on the storyline. Crosby and Ovechkin have multiple layers in their relationship that would make them better candidates for hatred: They play each other in the playoffs quite often, they play on national television a lot, and they have the inherent Canadian-Russian national rivalry. If you’re not sure what the last part means, go find any quotes by good ole Canadian icon Don Cherry on how he feels regarding Russian hockey players (Warning: He doesn’t have a lot of nice things to say about Russian players).
So for Eichel v Matthews, they haven’t played against each other yet, surely not in any playoff format. They have a whopping 0 nationally televised games against one another in the upcoming season (which makes sense because Chicago and Philly need to be involved with at least 70% of all nationally televised games in the US). The kicker is that they’re both American. While Eichel is from Boston, this isn’t 1979, and Matthews isn’t from Minnesota. Matthews is the product of the Arizona dry heat. Last time I checked, Boston and Arizona are not near the top of the list when it comes to Inter-US hockey rivalries.
So yeah, the title may have been a little misleading based on the ending of the article. I don’t think a rivalry between Eichel and Matthews will be present until they’ve played each other twice in the playoffs. For the sake of both fanbases, I hope that isn’t too far down the road.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the post! I wish I could tell you what my next post will be about, but I just haven’t gotten there yet. Feel free to comment below if you have your own opinion on this topic and I’ll try to respond as quickly as possible.