Jack Eichel hopes he doesn’t have too many chances to represent the United States in the world championships. That’s why he’s jumping at this one.
USA Hockey named the Sabres star to its national team Wednesday. He’ll play for gold next month in Paris and Cologne, Germany.
“Hopefully, there’s not too many more chances for me to play in the world championships because that would mean we’re playing in the playoffs,” Eichel said by phone. “I thoroughly enjoy playing for Team USA and representing them. Every chance I get, I try and jump on it.”
This will be the sixth time Eichel represents the country on an international stage, including his second appearance at the world championships. He played in the spring of 2015 prior to being drafted by the Sabres, putting up two goals and seven points in 10 games.
This year’s team includes Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, Carolina’s Noah Hanifin and Buffalo goaltending prospect Cal Petersen. Former Sabres captain Chris Drury is part of the management group.
“You see the guys that are going over there, some of the management and some of the key pieces with USA Hockey, and you want to be part of it,” Eichel said. “I know for me in my first world championships, it was really nice to get to play with a lot of those guys. You build a relationship with other players around the league, and I think it’s a great event.
“Just looking at some of the guys they’ve already named, there’s some really good players. I’m sure after the first round of the playoffs they’ll add some more guys. I’m looking forward to it.”
Eichel, who missed the start of the NHL season because of an ankle sprain, will spend part of the offseason rebuilding his strength. He feels more than healthy enough to play in the tournament, which runs May 5-21.
“Losing 21 games this year is never fun,” Eichel said. “That’s a quarter of the year. Maybe you’re not as worn down mentally as some other guys and physically.
“For me, it was just about wanting to play hockey. I want to just go and play, and I want to represent our country.”