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Sabres name Jack Eichel as new captain

The Buffalo Sabres have named Jack Eichel as their new captain.

The team tweeted the announcement shortly after practice ended Wednesday in KeyBank Center. Coach Phil Housley gathered the players at center ice and, although his words were not audible to the media, it was clear he was talking about Eichel.

The players briefly cheered and several tapped Eichel with their sticks while others playfully patted him on the head. The team than sent out a second tweet showing Eichel holding his new No. 9 jersey with the captain's 'C' on it -- and announcing that Kyle Okposo and Zach Bogosian have been named alternate captains.

Eichel, 21, is entering his fourth season in the NHL and starting an eight-year, $80 million contract extension. He told reporters in the dressing room a few minutes after practice that he was cooking dinner in his waterfront townhouse Monday night when he received a call from Housley asking him to drive back to the arena for a meeting.

When Eichel arrived, he was greeted by Housley, General Manager Jason Botterill and owner Terry Pegula, and they gave him the news.

"It was a really cool moment," Eichel said. "I'm very thankful and honored to be the captain of this franchise."

"It's exciting not only for me and our players and our coaching staff but our city," Housley said. "I think he represents everything we want as far as our organization goes and it was just a great intimate moment for him to accept the captaincy in front of the general manager and the owner and myself.

"There were some really good strong conversations about expectations and the way he's got to lead, but we feel very confident about having Jack as our captain."

Speculation about Eichel becoming the captain has swirled for a year, since he signed his extension the night before last season's opener. The Sabres start this season Thursday night here against the Boston Bruins.

"It's an incredible honor,' Eichel said. "And I don't think I would have been given this opportunity it it wasn't for the other leaders in this room that have pushed me to be better and taught me a lot about myself. It's an unbelievable feeling and I'm just excited about the season. More than anything, it's more or less me trying to be myself and continuing the things that make me the person that I am."

The Sabres did not have a captain last season, instead relying on a leadership group of four players that included Eichel. Before the Eichel announcement, the Sabres were one of eight teams in the NHL without a captain. That list is now reduced to seven and includes the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Detroit, Ottawa, Vegas, Toronto and Vancouver.

"We felt Jack has made the right steps in his maturity and he's the right captain to lead our franchise," Housley said.

Brian Gionta, who officially retired last week, was the last Sabres' captain from the start of the 2014-2015 season through the end of the 2016-17 season.

Mike Harrington: It's still about how far Jack Eichel can take Sabres

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