Jack Eichel deflects notion that he's the future of the Buffalo Sabres

Kevin Hoffman / USA TODAY Sports

Jack Eichel can finally wear No. 15 with pride.

The 18-year-old rookie was officially named to the Buffalo Sabres opening night roster, and will switch from his training camp jersey to his preferred number, an act he swore not to do until head coach Dan Bylsma made his final decision.

Drafted second overall this past June, Eichel is without question a key piece of the building process in Buffalo. From his point of view, however, he alone does not represent the future of the franchise.

"There’s nobody that’s above the team," he told reporters Tuesday, according to John Vogl of the Buffalo News. "That’s one of the most important things in a hockey locker room. There’s stars on this team, but we’re a team and that’s how we’re going to be good.

"I think the fans can look to a lot of people."

Eichel pointed to teammates Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Zach Bogosian, and Sam Reinhart - all of whom are under 25 - as a core group ready to lead the club forward.

"We’re the future," Eichel said.

It's a mature attitude for a first-year pro, especially one of Eichel's immense talent. And while he's certain to put up points in bunches, he wants to be a force at both ends of the ice, another sign of a true team player.

"There’s a lot to improve on," he said. "Coach (Dan) Bylsma’s been on me about playing away from the puck, and I’ve been better about playing away from the puck in the preseason games. I think that’s one of the most important things at this level. In order to be good you’ve got to be the hardest worker away from the puck."

Eichel's NHL debut is set for Thursday in Ottawa.

Jack Eichel deflects notion that he's the future of the Buffalo Sabres
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