Edmonton Oilers
Destiny fulfilled: McDavid, Eichel go 1-2 in NHL Entry Draft
Edmonton Oilers

Destiny fulfilled: McDavid, Eichel go 1-2 in NHL Entry Draft

Published Jun. 26, 2015 10:15 p.m. ET

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Line drives. Snakes. Alligators. Jet skiing.

Perhaps the only low-risk action this week at the NHL draft was the Edmonton Oilers' choice of Connor McDavid as top pick, followed by the Buffalo Sabres' selection of Jack Eichel.

Since the NHL regular season ended in April, there was little doubt cast on which top prospects would go first and second in June. When the Oilers won the draft lottery, it simply solidified where Erie's McDavid and Boston University's Eichel would land.

Then it was just a matter of formalities Friday night.


"I waited a little bit longer, and they had to introduce everyone and all the teams and the role call," McDavid said. "It just felt like it was going by so slowly, and all I wanted to do was just have that pick called, and it was absolutely a dream come true."

Sabres general manager Tim Murray needed just four words -- "Buffalo selects Jack Eichel" -- to make the predictions official.

"Everyone pegged us together for a while, and we'll finally be drafted," Eichel said. "Everyone seemed like they had the order. Nothing was really set in stone until the two general managers went up and said our names, and then obviously we're part of our respective organizations."

The Arizona Coyotes, who were rumored to be fielding several offers for the No. 3 pick, instead held on to it and drafted center Dylan Strome. The Toronto Maple Leafs followed by selecting pivot Mitchell Marner.

Boston College standout Noah Hanifin became the first defenseman chosen, by the Carolina Hurricanes, to round out the top five.

Leading up to Friday's event, the NHL hosted top prospects in South Florida, which included a trip to Marlins Park for batting practice with the Miami Marlins and a tour of the Florida Everglades, complete with up-close encounters with snakes and alligators.

Friday morning, McDavid cleared his mind by jet skiing in the Atlantic before officially being crowned the NHL's "Next One."

"I can see him trying to find a way to get his mind off everything that is going on," said Sherry Bassin, general manager of the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters, McDavid's junior team. "Whatever Connor McDavid does, he has a quiet intensity to be the best he can be at."

It's been a year of constant pressure for the center, who has been touted as a generational player. Wayne Gretzky told the Edmonton Journal that McDavid is the best player to enter the NHL in 30 years. Adding to expectations is the desire to turn around a franchise that, despite selecting first overall from 2010 to 2012, is mired in a nine-year playoff drought.

And then there were also the quiet rumors McDavid never really wanted to go to Edmonton after the Oilers jumped from fourth to first in the lottery. Memories of Eric Lindros shunning the Quebec Nordiques in 1991 sprung to mind.

McDavid settled the speculation immediately Friday night, saying his shock look after the draft lottery was "unfortunate."

"Someone took my picture at a bad time," McDavid said. "They got my bad side, I guess. But it was nothing like I was upset or anything like that. It was never that, never, ever. It was just shock.

"Now that it's finally happened and I'm an Edmonton Oiler, I couldn't be more proud."

Bassin said despite the building pressure, McDavid's character never wavered.

"I often say I've had a lot of players who had a lot of ability who I wish had more character. I've had a lot of players who had a lot of character who I wish had more ability. You put them both together, you get a Connor McDavid."

Eichel, this year's Hobey Baker winner as college hockey's top player, has expectations to fill as well. But leading up to his selection -- and immediately after -- the pivot found himself next to several new teammates on paper.

After Eichel's selection, the Sabres announced a trade with the Colorado Avalanche that netted Buffalo pivot Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn. Earlier in the day, the Sabres acquired goaltender Robin Lehner and veteran David Legwand.

"In terms of the guys they've acquired, obviously they're acquiring a lot of good players, guys that have had success, guys that have been in the league," Eichel said. "I think it says something about the organization and how badly they want success."

For Edmonton and Buffalo, their straightforward selections are the first step in doing so.

You can follow Erin Brown on Twitter @rinkside or email her at erinbrownfla@gmail.com.


Get more from Edmonton Oilers Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more