“We’ve got a lot of fresh faces that don’t really have the sour taste of last season and the two seasons before with them,” the 21-year-old center told The Athletic in a story published Thursday.
The Sabres (25-45-12) had 62 points last season, fewest in the NHL.
But they won the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery and selected defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft.
Buffalo then acquired forward Conor Sheary and defenseman Matt Hunwick in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 27 for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft; forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft in a trade with the St. Louis Blues for center Ryan O’Reilly on July 1; and forward Jeff Skinner in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on Aug. 2 for forward prospect Cliff Pu, a second-round pick in the 2019 draft, and third- and sixth-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft.
“I think it needed to happen,” Eichel said. “Whenever you have as little success as we did last year, changes are bound to happen and I think it’s a good thing.
“You add a guy like Conor Sheary, he has won a couple [Stanley] Cups, played with two of the best players in the world (centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin). Then Skinner, he had almost 40 goals two years ago, and I think he brings a creative and skill element to our team that we haven’t had. So obviously two huge additions and very excited to have them.”
Eichel, who had NHL career highs in goals (25), assists (39) and points (64) in 67 games last season, could play center with Sheary and Skinner on the top line this season.
“Both of them can skate, both of them have speed, and I think that’s something we needed to add,” Eichel said. “They’ve got skill. They can make a lot of plays.”
Eichel also praised the other acquisitions for their leadership.
“Berglund, Sobotka, they’ve been around for a while and I think that could bring a good element to our team,” he said. “And you bring some young guys in, and they’re excited about their roles, I’m sure.”
The No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel said he’d help Dahlin handle the pressure and expectations that come with being a high draft pick.
“The hockey part, obviously, will be a bit of an adjustment,” Eichel said of Dahlin, who played last season with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. “Somebody with his talent and somebody who cares about hockey the way I think he does, I think that side of things will happen naturally for him. … We’re so lucky to have him, and there will be a lot of people helping him out.”