Jack Eichel will have to wait until training camp to learn who his linemates will be with the Sabres. He wasted no time finding companions in Buffalo.
Eichel toured the city Thursday, one day after joining the Sabres with a three-year contract. Most of the stops were at the home of team sponsors, including First Niagara, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, New Era Cap Co. and Labatt USA. Eichel also hula-hooped at Larkinville and ate lunch at Chef's.
The big stop was at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The 18-year-old played video games with the children of Carly's Club in the Companions in Courage Lion's Den, a recreation area funded by the charity of former Sabres captain Pat LaFontaine. Kids too ill to leave their beds gave Eichel handmade cards when he visited their rooms.
"This young man has an exciting future ahead of him, and what a tremendous way to launch his career - by meeting some of his biggest fans and bringing cheer to our patients and families just when they most need a boost," said Candace S. Johnson, president and CEO of Roswell Park.
Next to what number he'll will wear (still not announced), the most frequently asked question of Eichel is where he will be in the lineup. He'll center the second line, but his wingers are undecided. The choices on the left side are Evander Kane and Matt Moulson, while the right side is anchored by Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta and, possibly, Zemgus Girgensons.
"I've written on a scrap piece of paper numerous things," coach Dan Bylsma said. "We'll see different lines in training camp. We'll see different lineups in exhibition games. Some of that will play itself out."
One trick will be finding a player who can keep up with Eichel. Bylsma marveled at the wheels shown by the center at the world championships.
"I just know the speed at which he can skate is head turning," the coach said. "Guys shake their heads. NHL players can't really quite believe how good and how fast he can skate, so he's special in that regard.
"That's an exciting thing to have that opportunity to see that on our ice in Buffalo."
The two fastest wingers are Ennis and Kane.
"Evander Kane skates at an elite level, and you think about putting speed together," Bylsma said. "I also think Evander wants to have the puck and Jack wants to have the puck. There's only one puck on the ice. The speed aspect might work, but both wanting the puck and having the puck on their stick wouldn't work."
Bylsma has watched video with Eichel, showing him how players like Sidney Crosby move without the puck. The coach says learning that trait can make Eichel a star.
"There are areas he needs to get better at," Bylsma said. "Skating's not one of them, but skating away from the puck is. When you're blessed with such great skating ability, he needs to use it to his advantage a lot more, both offensively and defensively."