Jack Eichel skates with new Golden Knights teammates for first time

The Vegas Golden Knights’ big trade acquisition has finally joined the team.

Jack Eichel, acquired back in early November of this season, hit the ice for the first time with his new teammates on Tuesday.

Earlier, the 25-year-old centre was the first NHL player to undergo artificial disk replacement surgery, to repair an ongoing neck injury. The surgery was initially denied by the Buffalo Sabres, and the disagreement on a medical solution ended up being the major reason why the former second-overall pick left Buffalo.

Sidelined since March of 2021, Eichel has been slowly making his way back to full health, skating with trainers during the off-hours. But Tuesday was a big moment for both the player and his new club.

"Nice to see him," Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. "At the same time, you want to temper your enthusiasm, because this is just the first step."

But there is good reason to be enthusiastic if you’re the Knights. Through 375 NHL games so far, the still-young centre has scored 139 goals and 355 points on a Sabres team that usually finishes towards the bottom of the league standings. Now, imagine that ability on a contender.

"Every team is going to welcome with open arms a game-changing type player like that," DeBoer said. "I think everyone in our room understands we're there to try and win a Stanley Cup and you need guys like that in order to win a Stanley Cup. I'm excited to see how he fits in and what he's able to do here down the stretch for us."

Eichel was acquired for top forward prospect Peyton Krebs, winger Alex Tuch, a 2022 top-10 protected first-round pick, and a 2023 second-round pick. With the win-now mode that Vegas has put itself into, the top centre only helps — and he's slowly making his way back step by step.

Golden Knights' Jack Eichel skated with his new teammates for the first time. (Getty)
Golden Knights' Jack Eichel skated with his new teammates for the first time. (Getty)

"For me with what he's gone through, it's just all about contact," DeBoer said about a possible return to play for Eichel. "I don't think it's going to be about minutes. The way this guy skates, he's one of those fluid, natural skaters that can skate all day. I don't think it's going to be a matter of him not being able to play 17-20 minutes a night. It's just going to be about when he gets the green light that he can have full contact and take a hit, take a cross check and go to the front of the net and get in those battles that these players get in every night, and then everybody feels comfortable about doing it."

The Golden Knights are in Toronto to face the Leafs on Tuesday, and then return home to face the Penguins, after a long break, on Monday.

Though DeBoer is trying to keep enthusiasm in check, NHL fans didn't hold back their excitement to see Eichel back on the ice.

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