SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Jack Eichel era is officially on in Buffalo.
More than two months after learning they would pick second overall in the wake of the NHL Draft Lottery, the Sabres made the Boston University star center their top choice Friday in BB&T Center.
It took just four words from General Manager Tim Murray to make it official: "BUFFALO SELECTS JACK EICHEL."
Eichel, the 18-year-old who became the first freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player since 1993, strode to the stage and donned his white Sabres sweater and blue cap. He put his arms around Murray and owner Terry Pegula for the photo op that will certainly become iconic in franchise history.
Eichel is the most anticipated Sabres draft choice since Pierre Turgeon went No. 1 overall in 1987 and is expected to lead Buffalo out of the depths of the NHL, where it has sat in last place for two consecutive seasons.
"It’s a great feeling to be selected, especially in an organization like this," Eichel said. "There’s so much passion and tradition. You look at the Buffalo community and everyone is really into their hockey and knowledgeable. Even though I hadn’t been selected until today, it seemed like I had been part of the Buffalo Sabres for a while now. To finally put this jersey on, it’s a tremendous feeling."
Eichel again pushed aside questions about turning pro or returning to BU, saying, "We'll see in a few days. Can't let the cat out of the bag."
Eichel's uniform number, like every draftee other than No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid, was 15. Edmonton gave McDavid a No. 97. Will Eichel wear 15 in Buffalo?
"I really hadn't thought about the number choices yet," he said. "Fifteen is a good number. I've worn it before. It's my dad's lucky number, my sister's lucky number and happens to be the year I was drafted. So there's lots of significance with number 15."
The selection of Eichel caps a whirlwind day for the Sabres, after acquiring Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn in a blockbuster trade with Colorado, and Robin Lehner and David Legwand in an earlier deal with Ottawa.
"They’re acquiring a lot of good players, guys that have had success, guys that have been in the league, and I think it says something about the organization and how badly they want success," Eichel said. "It feels tremendous. The feeling of wearing this jersey right now, it really hasn’t sunk in. To be able to talk to my family and my friends that are all here about the fact that I was just selected by the Sabres in the NHL Draft, it’s a dream come true."
Eichel again reiterated he simply wants to fit in with the Sabres. The organization and fan base, of course, look at him as the key piece to returning to NHL prominence. The Sabres have not won a playoff series since 2007 and haven't qualified for the postseason since 2011.
"Buffalo as a city and the Sabres as a team are heading in a great direction," he said. "You look at some of the moves they’ve made and the guys that they’ve acquired, the guys they have in their system and some of the guys they have on their team, there’s a lot of positives. I just want to become a piece of the puzzle. Buffalo wants success and they want success soon. I think that’s what’s going to happen."