Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone couldn’t hide his excitement to see Jack Eichel practice with full-contact for the first time since undergoing artificial disk replacement surgery on 12th November.
The Golden Knights, 15/2 to win the Stanley Cup, acquired the 25-year-old from the Buffalo Sabres on 4th November and immediately gave the centreman permission to undergo the operation which has never been carried out on an NHL player before.
Eichel was drafted with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft by the Sabres. Prior to getting injured last season, the American scored 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 21 games.
He has not played since 7th March following a disagreement with Buffalo over his course of treatment.
In 375 regular season games with the Sabres, Eichel registered 355 points (139 goals, 216 assists. He scored at least 24 goals in each of his first five NHL seasons, including a career-high 36 in 2019/20.
Talking during the All-Star weekend, 29-year-old Stone described Eichel as "one of the best players on the planet" and whilst no precise date has been set for the debut, his recovery will only add to a team who already hold the Pacific Division lead with a 27-16-3 record.
Stone continued: "Eichel is one of the best skaters I've ever seen, easiest skaters I've ever seen.
"I think he's going to help in pretty much every part of the game, however long it is, a month, two weeks, whatever it is."