Jack Eichel on Connor McDavid, Arizona State hockey and USA vs. Canada (Puck Daddy Interview)
Jack Eichel isn’t concerned with being the next great American hockey hope.
He’s not particularly concerned about being the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, or Connor McDavid, or anything else he has been associated with of late.
“What can’t get lost in all this is that he just turned 18. It’s like parenting,” said Boston University coach David Quinn of his prized freshman. “He’s still 18 years old, and he’s by no means the perfect player, but he wants to be, and that’s the key.”
Eichel has been in the spotlight as the United States’ answer to McDavid and the probable No. 2 pick in the upcoming selection process. But he’s by no means a polished robot, as seems to happen with players in any sport who have been doing interviews since their mid-teens.
He has thoughts and opinions – on his schoolwork, college hockey vs. junior hockey, and why a Northeasterner would ever want to play hockey for Arizona State. And all the answers don’t seem contrived. Eichel generally feels what he says … or at least that’s how it seems.
We caught Eichel via phone on a Thursday afternoon, in the middle of Finals at Boston University, and a couple of weeks before World Juniors to chat about the aforementioned topics and a few others. Enjoy…
Q: What is your finals schedule and how does that jibe with your world juniors schedule?
EICHEL: I’m not the first guy from BU to be going to the world juniors at this time. I have two finals I did on my own. I had a take-home final and an essay that was due last Friday, and then I had to make a proposal yesterday morning. I’m only missing one final, which is next Wednesday, because I have one early Monday morning. So I'll be able to take that final and finish the class...
It hasn’t really been a problem. The teachers have all been really good.
What was your proposal on?
It’s a rhetoric class, argumentative thinking. My proposal was basically how libraries are becoming outdated and more people are using online resources, and I was just making proposals about what we can do to change the library to make it more of a favorite destination for students, and just get more people using it as it once was.
Argumentative thinking? You couldn’t be like, ‘I should be the top pick in the NHL draft and here is why?’
No, the professor decides the topics.
What is the final after the world juniors?
I have a social science final in January.
Are you going to do any studying at the world juniors?
No, I will not be doing any studying. I will be 100-percent focused on helping our team win. I’ll take care of that final when I come back to Boston.
What is your favorite class?
I take a history of Western Civilization class. I wouldn’t say the class itself is super interesting, but I like the way the teacher teaches it. It’s not too difficult, he’s a pretty good guy. But the social science class isn’t bad either. It’s a lot of useful stuff.
What do you learn in Western Civ?
Renaissance, a lot of religious things. The teacher moves pretty quickly.
You’ve probably seen or heard of a lot of these places because you’re so well-traveled because of hockey, no?
A lot of times we’re talking about Rome and Italy. If you start talking about Finland and Sweden I would know a lot more, but some of the places he talks about I haven’t been to.
Why the NCAA route? What about college enticed you? It had to be more than just taking classes?
I grew up in Boston and watching Hockey East and the Beanpot, so it was always my dream to play at a school like BC or BU. I never dreamed of going to Quebec and playing for a team there, so I guess that’s first and foremost is this is my dream to go here. And then looking at the pros, a lot of people say it’s a disadvantage that I’m not playing as many games.
But I can look at it as an advantage of I’m spending more time in the weight room. There’s a lot more emphasis on each game. Everything is a lot more detailed if you’re playing 40 games in comparison to playing 80 to 100. That’s one thing. And I just thought the college game was better for me. I had played a few years of junior and I didn’t think another year of junior was the best route. I felt I needed to go challenge myself again against older, bigger and stronger competition, where it would challenge me night-in, night-out more than I believe the CHL would. I think on top of all that I was able to get the experience of going to college. Living in Boston. This is everything I’ve wanted, so it was kind of a no-brainer.
How do you stay patient on the ice, since you’re probably targeted pretty much every game?
I think that’s pretty important – staying focused on what I want to do, and not letting people take me off my game, because if they’re taking me off my game they’re doing their job and I’m not doing mine. My job is to create offense for our team and help us win. If I’m getting mixed up in the extracurricular things on the ice, I’m not doing my job. But with that being said, I still have to protect myself and stand up for myself. If a guy is giving me a hard time, I don’t have a problem finishing a check or getting in somebody’s face. I don’t shy away from the physical play at all. I think that’s part of it and you need to do it.
Have you ever felt the urge to fight?
Yeah, there’s definitely the urge sometimes to do something. But with it being college, obviously you can’t. Sometimes … I don’t think I’m looking to fight the other team’s fourth-line center. But … I think I like being more physical with their top guys, because that’s who I’m matched up against and I think that makes more of a statement. If I’m physical against them I’m doing my job because I’m shutting them down, and that’s what I try to do.
When all is said and done, and before you go to bed at night, do you ever check the bottom of the standings?
No, I’ll be totally honest, I don’t. It’s so early in the season and so much can happen before the end of the year, so I don’t really check it too much. I don’t really care about what team I go to or what team is there. I would just be thrilled to get drafted in general.
Do you feel being in the United States you’re not under as much of a microscope as Connor McDavid in Canada?
I think I have plenty of pressure on myself playing in the U.S. I’ve gotten a lot of attention. I think there’s pressure on me every night to perform because if I don’t, I think people are pretty quick to jump all over me, but I think I try to do the same thing no matter when and who we’re playing against. But that being said, I think I’m the guy who puts the most pressure on anyone, I think I put the most pressure on myself.
A few games ago, I was going through kind of a skid where I wasn’t getting the bounces and I wasn’t performing or producing as many points as I would have liked to early in the season, and I was talking to my dad after one of the games, and he was saying that I need to relax and stop putting pressure on myself because everything will take care of itself. The next night I just went out there and played and tried to move my feet and keep things simple, and I ended up having a successful night. It’s just keeping things simple, and not putting too much pressure on myself because at the end of the day, everything will probably take care of itself.
Arizona State recently announced they’re going to start a Division I college hockey team. Why would that be enticing to a college hockey player from the north to play in Arizona from a college hockey perspective?
Why would Arizona State be enticing?
You ever see the girls who go to that school? That might help.
I’m serious … the have a lot of advantages with recruiting that a lot of other schools won’t. It’s a really nice climate and kids like to enjoy their social college life and Arizona has a really nice social life. For me, they don’t have the tradition, the history a place like BU or North Dakota would have. I’m sure they’ll do wonderful. I feel it could be tough to get kids to go to Arizona State who are wanting to a place like BC, BU or Michigan, who have all this tradition and rivalry. You’re carrying on a legacy of players who have played before you like Mike Eruzione or Jack O’Callahan or Chris Drury. You take a lot of pride in playing at BU. You’re representing something that means a lot more than you and your team. You’re carrying such a huge legacy. When you walk around BU’s rink and you see the posters of all the players who have played here.
You take a lot of pride in playing here, but I’m sure Arizona State will do everything in their power to get good players to go there and I’m sure will have a special program.
If the program existed during your recruitment, would you have taken a visit?
I committed to BU pretty early, and I was committed to BU before I took an official visit. I took unofficials. But say they were around, and I was uncommitted, I’m sure I wouldn’t have minded heading out to Arizona for a weekend to take an official visit. I’m sure that wouldn’t have been too bad.
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