So after his first year in Buffalo, what would Jack Eichel tell someone about playing for the Sabres?
He had a quick answer today when asked by The News what kind of sales pitch he would use with close friend Jimmy Vesey, the Harvard winger who was named the Hobey Baker Award winner Friday night -- and will be an unrestricted free agent come Aug. 15 after opting against signing with the Nashville Predators.
Said Eichel: "It's a great future here. It's a great city to play in. It's a great team to be a part of. We have a young group that's headed in the right direction. It's definitely a hockey city. People care about you here. People would love to have you and it's a great place to play."
Vesey, Nashville's third-round pick in 2012, is still technically Predators property so teams can't negotiate with him until his UFA period starts. Eichel and Vesey played together with Team USA at last year's World Championships in the Czech Republic and work out together in the Boston area during the summer.
"I talked to Jimmy last night quickly. Nothing about free agency," said Eichel, who beat out Vesey for last year's Hobey. "I know he's going through a lot right now. I just shot him a quick text congratulating him on the Hobey Baker. This is definitely somewhere that would be a great place to play for him. I'll see him plenty this summer. I don't have to bug him about it. I'm sure everyone else is and I know he's going through a lot right now from what he said."
Nashville management assailed Vesey and his representatives (one of whom is Eichel's agent, Peter Fish) for not signing when they felt he had made assurances he would after the season. The Predators even said they worked the trade deadline on the assumption Vesey would be in their lineup for the playoffs.
Rumors have abounded that Vesey, 22, would be off to Boston or Toronto, where his father was hired last year as a scout and his younger brother, Nolan, was a 2014 pick of the Leafs. But speaking Friday night in Tampa at the Hobey Baker presentation, Jimmy Vesey Sr. said he would prefer his son not go to Boston because of the scrutiny and pressure of being a hometown player. He also said his role with the Leafs would have no bearing on the sweepstakes as well.
The 6-foot-1 Vesey had 80 goals in four years for Harvard. He had 24 goals and 46 points in 33 games this season and was beaten out by Eichel for the Hobey last year when he had 32 goals and 58 points in 37 games.
Also speaking Friday in Tampa, Vesey scoffed at a Boston Herald report that he would be signing with the Bruins.
"I don't know where that's coming from," he said. "I'm not allowed to talk to any team until Aug. 15. There are 29 teams I can look at and I'll find the best fit for me."