There were maybe 3,000 people in the Sabres' arena when Jack Eichel first showed what all the fuss is about, but it's certainly the type of event that will grow throughout through the years. A decade or so from now, Sabres fans will ask each other, "Where you there that September night when Eichel scored his first goal in Buffalo, the electrifying game-winner?"
"Of course," will come the reply. "And how about that pass to get the team to overtime in the first place?"
Most of the people will be lying, but so what? Eichel is already the stuff of legends, and Buffalo sports fans will be eager and wise to attach themselves to his tale.
"He's a true diamond," Sabres defenseman Brycen Martin said Monday, "and Buffalo's going to be really happy with him."
Eichel set up the tying goal with 5:47 left and buried the winner with 37 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Sabres a 3-2 victory over Boston in First Niagara Center. Sure, it was just a prospects game, a lightly attended event that would normally fade from memory before the next weekend arrived. Eichel made it special.
The No. 2 overall draft pick threaded a perfect cross-ice pass to Martin to make sure the Sabres didn't go down without a fight, tying the game at 2-all late in the third period.
"He can make plays that some pros can't," Martin said. "A player like that is going to make that pass. I had faith."
The crowd, officially announced at 3,537, had faith anytime Eichel touched the puck. The decibel level continually rose, along with expectations, as the end neared. Folks were on their feet when he delivered the win in scintillating fashion.
Despite being clearly winded after playing what seemed like 15 of the final 16 minutes, Eichel found another gear. He beat a Bruins defender for a loose puck near center ice, then pulled away with every powerful stride. He got near the net and sent a laser into the top corner (the video is here), drawing all of his teammates off the bench in a jubilant celebration.
When it was over, a red-cheeked Eichel let out a long exhale.
"I really wanted to score in Buffalo," said the 18-year-old, who was blanked in July's development camp and Friday's tournament opener. "I was on the bench after a long shift, and coach asked me if I had anything left. I figured I could go out there and see what I can do."
Again, it was just a prospects game, but it appears Eichel can do it all.
"It's the manner in which he does it," Cunneyworth said. "There's calm. There's poise. It's thought out beforehand. It's pure ability."