Pacific Division Weekly: Welcome to the Jack Eichel Division

The Pacific is looking at a tighter race than expected when it comes to making the postseason.

While we were all sleeping last night, Jack Eichel got traded to the Pacific Division.

We knew from the ESPN intermission broadcast during the San Jose Sharks game against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday that it was down to the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights as to who would win the Eichel sweepstakes.

The struggling Golden Knights ultimately pulled through in the end to acquire Eichel (and a conditional third-round pick in 2023), sending forwards Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, a first-round pick in 2022 and a second-round pick in 2023 back to Buffalo. All three picks involved are protected and will slide to the next draft if Vegas selects within the top-10 in 2022.

Now Vegas just has to figure out how to make the cap work when Eichel is health enough to play. The good news of the whole thing is that he’ll finally be able to get the surgery he should have gotten months ago. If the Sabres weren’t winning right now, there’d be larger scrutiny of the team holding a player’s health hostage and putting profit over a young man’s career and ultimately, quality of life.

Now that Eichel Watch 2021 is over, here’s everything else you missed in the division this week:

Anaheim Ducks (4-4-3)

The Ducks are chugging along, earning at least a point in each of their four games this week. In back-to-back games (with travel, no less) they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and 5-4 in a shootout against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday. Two points out of the series wasn’t bad, though letting Vegas get two points wasn’t ideal.

Back at Honda Center, Anaheim went on to put up two more consecutive four-goal performances, with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday and 4-0 shutout of the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. With six points out of a possible eight, the Ducks are now fourth in the division and fans are wondering if this team is bound to sneak into the playoffs.

Goaltender John Gibson has been an absolute star for the team, supporting the high-powered offense where the somewhat lackluster defense won’t. Starting the last two games, he saved 44 of 46 shots, a .957 save percentage (SV%).

Good news on the injury front: forward Mason McTavish will join the San Diego Gulls for an AHL conditioning assignment, putting him one step closer to returning. Bad news, they’re gonna need him, as Rickard Rakell has been put on injured reserve and Jakob Silfverberg landed on COVID Protocol.

Calgary Flames (6-1-2)

Something about the Calgary Flames being good doesn’t sit right in my soul. They too have earned at least a point in every game this week. First, they put up consecutive 4-0 shutouts against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Next came the Nashville Predators, who served Calgary a rare loss, 3-2 in overtime.

The game against the Flyers marked the beginning of a five-game homestand that will end next week against the Sharks. They’ve got an opportunity to build up a nice cushion in the standings. At least they lost out on the Jack Eichel sweepstakes?

Brett Ritchie is day-to-day after sustaining an injury against the Predators. The winger is scoreless over nine games. Johnny Hockey Gaudreau (2 goals, 9 assists) and Elias Lindholm (7 goals, 4 assists) lead the team in scoring.

Edmonton Oilers (8-1-0)

Speaking of things that don’t sit right in my soul, the Oilers are still leading the Pacific Division, with only one loss under their belts nine games into the season. They won 2-1 over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, before two 5-2 wins over the Seattle Kraken and Nashville Predators. Leon Draisaitl scored 2 goals and 1 assist in both victories. Kailer Yamamoto, who had been in a scoring drought, also had a goal in both games.

Goaltender Mike Smith remains day-to-day with a leg injury suffered on Oct. 19 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Oil aren’t just topping the division these days. They’re first in the league in average goals per game (4.22), first in power play goals (13), first in power play percentage (46.4), first in shooting percentage (13.0), fifth in penalty kill percentage (88.9), eighth in save percentage (.930) and 11th in goals against per game (2.56). Draisaitl leads the league in points and goals, while the top three assist leaders in the league are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (13), Connor McDavid (12) and Draisaitl (11). They might be a one-line team, but that line is the best line in hockey right now.

Los Angeles Kings (4-5-1)

Don’t look now, but the Kings are clawing back into the race, quietly going on a three-game win streak this week. They returned to Staples Center last Thursday, and lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets, bringing their losing streak to six.

It ended there, though. LA beat Montreal 5-2 on Saturday, before taking down Buffalo 3-2 on Sunday. Last night, the St. Louis Blues took them all the way to a shootout, where the Kings secured another victory.

Anze Kopitar is leading the team with 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists), but the Kings are largely getting it done by committee, with just five players currently scoreless after 10 games. Drew Doughty, who only played in four games before an injury sidelined him for eight weeks, still ranks third in points (1 goal, 6 assists) because scoring is so spread out among the Kings’ skaters.

Seattle Kraken (3-6-1)

The Kraken are doing what an expansion team is supposed to be doing: losing. Still, it kind of sucks to watch because we all like them more than we ever liked Vegas. The Kraken, a creature who lives in the deepest darkest parts of the sea, should find no surprise at its place at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean Division.

The Kraken’s last win came a week ago, 4-1 at Climate Pledge Arena over the Minnesota Wild. On Sunday, they closed out the homestand with a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers, before heading to Edmonton for a 5-2 loss on Monday.

Center Mason Appleton was placed on injured reserve on Sunday with a lower-body injury. Appleton notched 1 apple in seven games.

There is one thing the Kraken are leading the league in, but it’s not something they want to brag about: they’ve taken a league-leading 134 penalty minutes. Five players have double digit penalty minutes.

Vancouver Canucks (4-5-1)

The Canucks can’t buy a goal right now. They lost to both the Flyers and Oilers last week, notching one goal in each game. It looked like they would escape this week with three losses and two goals for, but the Rangers fell apart in the third period on Tuesday and the Canucks fought back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime. J.T. Miller scored twice, including the game winner, giving him three goals on the week.

Still, there are only five teams who rank below the Canucks in average goals-for per game (2.40). On the defensive side of things, they’re about league-average in goals against (26) and save percentage (.922), but their penalty kill is fourth-worst, getting scored on 30 percent of the time.

Vegas Golden Knights (4-5-0)

Okay, so maybe Vegas gets Jack Eichel in time for the playoffs, when everything is made up and the cap doesn’t matter, but at seventh place in the division, are playoffs on the table?

Of course they are, we’re barely 10 games into the season, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the Golden Knights aren’t so shiny anymore. Vegas had just two games this week, giving up a loser point to the Ducks in Thursday’s 5-4 shootout win before losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs, shut out 4-0, on Tuesday. What a start to their four-game road trip through Ontario, ending in Detroit on Sunday.

Injuries to Mark Stone (lower-body) and William Karlsson (broken foot) will test Vegas’ forward depth in the coming weeks. Defender Zach Whitecloud was placed on injured reserve last week and will be eligible to return on Friday.

Vegas is one of those five teams with a goals per game average lower than the Canucks (2.22, fourth-worst). They’d probably like Eichel’s talents sooner rather than later.